Case Study: Colorado Climate Action Website

Building momentum for climate action across Colorado.

This website compiles climate action goals, projects, programs, and resources across Colorado so that local leaders can get the information they need to make progress on climate action. I was the UX researcher on a small-but-mighty team from The Bridge Studio that researched, architected, designed, and developed this website with support from a team from the State of Colorado.

State of Colorado

Drupal Website

Jan 2021 - March 2021

UX Researcher, responsible for creating, conducting, analyzing, and providing recommendations for user interviews and usability tests.

The Problem: Many tools, no toolshed.

The State of Colorado team identified a problem: when local decision makers (like county sustainability officers and city council members) decide to take climate action, they are faced with a winding tangle of agency websites and forced to cobble together best practices, research, and planning guidance. State resources for comprehensive action already exist, but the tools were scattered across many websites and organizations. The client wanted a website that would aggregate all of these climate action tools into one toolshed.

My Role

As a proud Coloradan, introverted activist, and the friend that can answer just about any Can I recycle this? question, I jumped at the chance to work on this project.

Our team had three main roles: project manager, UX researcher, and UX/UI designer. This particular team had a fun advantage—we all had a background in visual design and brand strategy. This foundation in design gave us the ability to easily bounce ideas off each other, anticipate issues, and distribute the task load.

My role as the UX researcher was to interview local sustainability leaders across the state to assess their wants, needs, and frustrations, and to conduct usability tests in order to validate hypotheses, test design layouts, and deliver analysis and recommendations along the way. The UX research process evolved into a team effort with the project manager. Together we iterated on the test scripts, alternated taking notes, and (most importantly) quickly debriefed after each session to discuss user responses and identify developing patterns.


Step 1

Frame the project goals and scope.

Some of the most vital work of a project team is defining and distilling a projects Why. Ive found that Simon Sineks Golden Circle method helps teams clarify overarching project goals and define success. It acts as a North Star throughout the project.


WHY are we doing this? 

To build momentum around statewide climate action in Colorado.

HOW are we going to achieve the why? 

By supporting and encouraging local leaders to take action by making it easy to find the information they need. (e.g., resources, funding, experts they can contact)

WHAT are we doing to achieve the how? 

A clear and tangible starting point for a statewide website on climate change to grow from, that provides a comprehensive list of existing resources.

Step 2 : Strategize

Define the target audience.

With a topic as big as climate action, choosing a target demographic for this project was challenging but necessary. A survey conducted by the State of CO team, along with the Golden Circle exercise, helped us hone in on our primary audience for the initial rollout: local decision makers.


Step 3

Plan the research.

With the project goals and audience defined, we could plan the research process. We wanted to better understand what would make this site most helpful for local decision makers, and how/when they might use it.

Research Phases

We planned three phases of research for our three-month timeline: User interviews, usability testing on wireframes, and usability testing on designed layouts. This plan was made to be adaptable to changes in scope, timing, and other unexpected variables.

Research Methodology

For this project, we opted to conduct moderated tests with a limited number of participants in order to fit the timeline and budget.

Moderated tests allow the participant and facilitator to establish rapport and the facilitator to ask clarifying questions to get to the heart of an issue. (Also, after almost a year of quarantining from Covid, I think we were all craving new people to talk to!) In total, we held 16 sessions at 30-45 min each.


When recruiting participants, it was important for us to gather a diverse pool of local decision makers in order to form a well-rounded perspective. We recruited for diversity in gender, ethnicity, financial resources, and region. Talking to participants from both rural and urban areas was especially important in this study, because local decision makers in rural areas confront very different sets of economic and land management issues than those in urban areas.

Step 4

User Interviews

Before starting this project, the State of Colorado team had performed a survey to gauge user wants and needs. It gave us a great foundation, so we briefly considered dropping the user interview phase and adding another usability test. Ultimately, the group decided to conduct initial user interviews, and Im so glad we did.

Through a series of interviews, we found that local decision makers wanted to see the States top priorities clearly defined. These participants helped us understand the big pain point: local decision makers involved in sustainability efforts have have limited time and budget to distribute among a mountain of competing priorities from a range of stakeholders. They want to weigh their priorities against the states goals, so they can make more informed recommendations to their stakeholders.


This insight led us to visualize a primary user flow as a pyramid, leading with the broad goals and expanding to action and examples.


We created four personas that represented the goals and pain points of our target audience, so we could keep their issues top-of-mind.

After a series of iterations, the sitemap reflected the interview findings: a simple structure, with the resource library as the backbone and the overarching goals framing the storyline.

Step 5

Usability Tests

During our usability tests, we focused on two primary phases in a typical users process: 

  • Planning Phase: There many projects that I want to implement in my community. How can the states goals help me prioritize?
  • Action Phase: I know what I want to accomplish. Where can I find resources to help me move forward?

These sessions allowed us to see if the elements that we had created up to this point (the sitemap, workflows, page layouts, and labels) supported the user through these phases.

Usability Test 1

Through testing the wireframe layouts, we found that, overall, the simple site architecture was easy to understand. (Yay!) But there was also plenty of room for improvement. We were reminded that our participants know this issue well; they dont need to be convinced to take climate action, and they want to get straight to the point. Participants let us know which page content was most helpful and least helpful. In response, we rearranged and reprioritized helpful sections and removed content that was causing clutter. 

Results: Clear headlines are key.

Our most consistent feedback was that the headline copy and button labels were too ambiguous. This website covers a broad range of information, from greenhouse gas mitigation to equitable transition, so users needed clear indicators in order to quickly find the information they were looking for.

Small changes made a big difference. For example, the Resources section is the backbone of this site, but we found that research participants often didnt click on the Resources link in the main navigation. When they did click on it, they were surprised and excited to see an extensive list of results. They hadnt expected a robust database to be behind the word resources. To increase the likelihood of people finding this page, we modified several elements: changed the label to Resource Library, moved the link to a more prominent position in the navigation, and added a panel on the homepage to drive users to the page.

We made small tweaks on many headlines and labels on the wireframes, and we saw an uptick in comprehension and task completion on the second usability test.

Usability Test 2

Because our first usability test led to a number of changes on the wireframes, we decided to perform our final test on the revised wireframe layouts in order to verify our findings before designing a high fidelity layout. Our research questions were similar to the first test, so we could compare the updates against the benchmark. We found that the majority of participants could more easily navigate the site with the updated wireframes, and 75% of participants were able to quickly find information about the States goals.

Step 6

UI Design

The UX/UI designer (Lorena Fox of Matika Studios) added color and life to the wireframes while carefully adhering to the States brand standards. Photo banners that break the frame provide depth and dynamism, and custom icons give the homepage a unique and memorable personality.



The website is currently in development and is scheduled to launch in the coming months.


What Went Well

  • We decided to conduct intial user interviews to validate and expand upon the survey that the client provided us at the beginning of the project. This analysis led us to deeper insights about the user’s pain points and helped us structure the site based on what our target audience needed. 
  • People are so familiar with video conferencing that there were few technical issues during the research sessions.
  • The project manager Michelle had a great idea to put the research questions into a Google Form. This allowed for easy note-taking during sessions, and it expedited analysis.


  • Recruiting participants and setting times on peoples calendars was a challenge. In the future, if there is a limited pool of people, Id suggest recruiting by phone instead of email in order to make a more personal connection and speed up the process.
  • The sessions that lasted 30 minutes instead of 45 often felt rushed, or we werent able to complete the full test. Although we prioritized test questions, this led to incomplete results for low-priority questions. 


  • This project was the first phase of an ongoing, growing website. The research participants from the local decision-maker user group gave us great insight about what they would like to see in the future, like legislation schedules, resources for homeowners, and tools for understanding how local actions can systemically affect statewide actions. To maintain the sites vision and longevity, I would recommend that this site remain true to its primary value as the source of truth for statewide goals and a hub for individual tools and resources.


Michelle Fox of The Bridge Studio
Lorena Fox of Matika Studios