PAM Squared

Role: UX Designer

Time frame: Fall 2018

Client: Research Center (name unavailable) 

An interdisciplinary research center utilized a local hard drive system to house all of their data. Supervisory staff expected that researchers would keep current information on the shared drive under a standardized naming convention, and researchers were expected to house their data on the drive. Supervisory staff indicated that they had trouble with ensuring that researchers incorporated their information onto the hard drive and in turn the archive. 

The Challenge

Investigate information use in specific real-world contexts and conduct field research to inform the design of a workflow, process, app, product, service, or program.

The Process


Contextual  Inquiry


Observing Work Practices

Synthesizing Qualitative Data

Affinity Wall 

Focus Areas 

Employee Entrance/Exit Practices

What information is being conveyed to researchers upon entering and exiting the center in regards to the hard drive system, and how might that information be influencing their usage? 

Storage Solutions, Accessibility, Interfaces

What are the existing storage practices with the hard drive? 

Data Management Systems/ Research Data Management 

What are the different types of data stored on the hard drive?

What are the best practices for different types of data?

Additional Questions: 

What are supervisory staff's goals for the CSS, and how does a data storage/archiving system fit into that?

How is the current system helping or hindering job goals, and what kinds of changes would make things easier?

What is researchers’ relationship with the current data management system? How and why do they interact with it


After the initial client meeting, I completed a background research report on the best practices and emerging trends for the areas above. I conducted interviews of three supervisory staff members and three researchers at the research center. At the conclusion of the interviews, qualitative data analysis was used to identify themes that would help guide recommendations for the center. 


The Solution


There is a lack of communication between administrative staff and researchers

Researchers are unaware of supervisory staff’s needs and expectations, leading to disorganized research folders from the very beginning.  With the lack of communication comes the undue burden on individuals to hold on to the institutional knowledge of the two most senior supervisory staff members. 



The hard drive's current organization  does not suit the research center's needs

The organization system does not promote findability and may not fit student researchers’ needs. While supervisory staff had a recommened naming system, interviews showed that this was not actually practiced by researchers. It was also revealed that the suggested  naming system  discouraged collaboration amongst researchers. 



The remote connectivity does not work well for the researcher's needs. 

Researchers appreciated that they are able to connect to the hard drive remotely; however, most of them use local resources and cloud-based storage for their research and either regularly or occasionally back up to the local hard drive. This indicated, that the shared drive is often not up to date with researchers’ current progress and that researchers are not accustomed to the idea that their research must “live” on the hard drive for both administrative  purposes and to facilitate collaboration. 






To improve communication utilize project management tools such as Slack 

User-friendly on-boarding documentation 

Physical reminders of folder structure posted near workstations 

Incentivizing proper folder maintenance for recommendation letter requests 

Organizing folders by project name instead of researcher name to facilitate collaboration 

To increase findability, download an extension to tag filed through Tagspaces 

Utilizing a version control system via GitHub