IBM Watson Health
A start up inside IBM
Work done for Watson for Genomics

Role: Senior Design Manager. Team: Astrid Chow, Design Lead. Jenny Cheuk, researcher. Jen Hou, UX designer. We ran up against a deadline where I had to change the direction of the project after we were suppose to have the NYC Oncology team take the project over. After headcount issues, we were not able to hand things off, so I had to finish the project by myself.

The Problem: Watson for Genomics had 20+ institutions around the US and Japan using the pilot. They were having issues with the product scaling and easily accomplishing tasks. My team was brought in to help make it easier to find samples, creating a case, adding notes, and we also revamped the PDF report.

Original look and feel

We had the Watson for Genomics (will refer to it as WFG now on) team lead, SME's and developers for a design thinking workshop to find out what we really needed to build. I had the team do user interviews, comparative analysis, user flows to find out what we really needed to do for the users. We were bound by 1 section of the product as the report section was created by a different development team, and as of May 2017, we are working on the other section.

We were brought in initially for mostly some UI work. That isn't how I work, so I had the team work though the product heuristically. Formally there was a side tree decision navigation and a lot of the features were hidden by right-click menus. The navigation was alphabetical, so once you uploaded something, you couldn't tell where it was if you had lots of folders. If the file had any errors, you had to go find the file it was under first. There were plenty of other issues that we felt that we would able to solve with a new layout and structure.

Old Case, everything was a pop up

The Process:

Genomics was an interesting challenge for a young team. Had the entire team do the research for their perspective parts of the project. Research, interaction and visual design all did comparative analysis. We had an interesting time finding out who was the actual users, which is still debated to this day by the Genomics team. Luckily we had SME’s right there in the same building with Oncologists, Cancer Biologists and bioinformaticians.


After an initial Design Thinking workshop, and our research and analysis, the team started sketching and wireframing. The first task was what they called the “portal”, which is actually the side navigation, top navigation and creating a case, uploading a sample and anything that doesn’t have to do with the report it creates. We created a sprint cycle, a daily board for who was doing what and when, and I had the design lead, Astrid Chow, create tasks in Trello.


While the team started working though the wires, I had them work on different sections. The portal, annotations for evidence, a batch upload and the PDF which needed an update format-wise.

I worked with stakeholders, the marketing firm and development. For our firm, I created presentations to help solidify the job, and SOW. For the development group, I created presentations each sprint for work done, timelines, ecosystem maps and design pattern advice. Project is not completed.

Over time, the annotations and the batch upload were put on hold. Astrid Chow worked on the PDF formatting, and the other members were slowly pulled away to other projects. That left Astrid and myself for awhile and then I had to put her on another project too. They were wanting to get things wrapped up for development and of course a conference deadline, so I took on the rest of the project and changed the way it worked and did all the visual design. I did try to follow our branding (I am also in charge of the design pattern library) so I used our colors and other elements I was suppose to utilize from Watson Core.

How we are measuring success:

We continue to make iterations all the time. Along with that, the product just went live in March of 2017, so now we can do some usability testing. We also have some new partners to make it a end to end solution. The product owner kept telling me how much the users were telling her they liked it. Saying “It is easy enough for my 5 year old to use” but I couldn’t take that for granted, I needed to do some real testing. So far, I’ve been handing off the product to the Oncology team in New York. We’ve done one test and have many more lined up.

Project Details