Labor and Industries Prevailing Wage Sites (2020)
Washington’s Public Works, part of the Department Labor & Industries, tracks and manages public money, and sets the prevailing wage rates for state contractors.
For this project, the department wanted a proof of concept for a redesign of their prevailing wage search pages for both public intents and affidavits, and their wage rate lookup tool.
- visual design, UX design, user testing, UI development, front-end development, unit test writing
Search and Results Pages
The biggest challenge with this part of the project was organizing the considerable amount of data that it contained. The search tool has over 20 input fields, making search filtering granular but intimidating to use. Furthermore, there were two different search tools on the same page, but its distinct functions were not clear.
The search results themselves were poorly organized in a sprawling table format that was not easy to use on mobile devices, and the project detail page was laid out with inelegant key-value pairs.
The details of the project structure were presented in a confusing table that required the user to cross-reference row IDs and match them to contractors on the project, which was not intuitive in the least.
To redesign the search page, I interviewed stakeholders to understand which fields people were likely to use. With this information, I created a more streamlined experience, hiding most of the unpopular text inputs behind an “advanced search” widget.
Next I tackled the search results, breaking down the table into more of a Google-style results format. The biggest benefits to the new layout are that it’s easier to process, and that the results are responsive and can more naturally shrink down to fit a mobile context.
After that, I redesigned the project dashboard that appears when someone clicks through to one of the results. My intent here was to take the page out of “database mode” where every bit of data is presented with a key and a value. Instead, I used design principles to create a natural context. For example, the project title doesn’t need to have the words “project title,” it just has to look like the project’s title in the design.
Another way to increase context was to use icons. For contractor statuses, I used stop and go “lights” to communicate statuses instead of explicitly stating yes or no for each one. This allows users to easily see which contractors are legally allowed to work on projects.
I also took the project structure section and broke it out of its table to match it to a more robust internal tool. No cross-referencing is necessary; the user can simply expand the boxes to see which subcontractors were hired by which parties.
Wage Lookup Tool
The second part of the project was to redesign L&I’s public wage lookup tool.
The biggest issue with the original design was the use of multi-select form fields. In testing, the vast majority of users don’t understand how these inputs work, so I implemented a dropdown pattern with check boxes instead. This clarifies how to select multiple counties or trade filters.
Once again, search results were populated in a tabular format, and I redesigned it in order to make the tool responsive and usable on a mobile device. And because the whole point of this tool is to look up wage rates, I emphasized those rates in the results, making them unmistakable at a glance.
Another strange quirk of the original design was a small link for switching between the apprentice wages and journey-level wages that looked like it was part of the lookup tool. I addressed this issue by building the new tool in a tabbed format, making it more obvious which tool you were using, and how to switch between the two.
This was a proof of concept for the tool’s redesign. We did one round of usability studies on it and found that users were able to complete most tasks more easily than before, and some additional improvements were made afterwards, as well. This year the project team is moving forward with the new design and submitted their funding request to have the tool developed.