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Building an MVP for with human-centered design

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

We did a fast-paced collaboration to submit deliverables in just 8 days, winning the design challenge to help CMS improve the customer experience of their websites.

Design mock-up of the Medicare website, produced by our team for the design challenge.Prototype design of a re-vamped Medicare Part D that we created for the design challenge.

45 M

Americans using this Medicare service


days to complete MVP redesign


steps in simplified application process

"The Offeror’s Solutioning Exercise exceeded several requirements … This gives the Government confidence the Offeror will exceed most contract objectives as well. The overall rating for this factor is Excellent."

CMS Design Challenge Selection Committee

The challenge

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) help millions of people every year find and enroll in health care programs. Planning a large-scale web and content management project to improve the customer experience of their multiple websites, the agency launched a design challenge for the vendors that were finalists for the contract.

We did a fast-paced collaboration with our partners Fearless and KPMG to submit deliverables in just 8 business days (including page designs, content recommendations, an API, and a clickable prototype with a smart chatbot). Our team won the challenge because the agency saw we could help them achieve their goal to better serve Medicare beneficiaries.

Client goal

The task was to redesign the Medicare Part D section of the website, which helps people understand insurance options for their medication needs. For all their digital platforms, CMS needs to:

  • Meet public expectation for easily navigable online services
  • Securely manage personal info and transactions for millions of beneficiaries
  • Provide friendly online experience for people facing stressful health situations
  • Serve diverse groups of users with competing wants and priorities
  • Support agency staff in publishing clear and accurate public-facing content


  • Agile Methodologies
  • User Research
  • Heuristic Evaluation
  • Persona & Scenario Design
  • Information Architecture
  • Content Strategy
  • Workflow & Interaction Design
  • Prototype Development & Testing
  • Visual Design
  • Mobile Optimization
  • API Design & Deployment

Tools and technologies

  • Sketch
  • Invision
  • Mural
  • Chatbot AI
  • Gitlab
  • Drupal
  • Pa11y
  • Solr
  • AWS Kubernetes

Our approach

Within the time constraint for this compressed agile design sprint, we conducted lean versions of the activities we would normally do to make sure the site was effective for Medicare recipients. Daily collaboration among all team members, from Design to DevOps to Developers, allowed us to quickly test and iterate on every step.

We used Drupal as our preferred open source platform and the CMS design system, which builds on the U.S. Web Design System. Together, these tools provide a solid foundation for accessible government websites — a key goal for agencies like CMS that serve diverse and aging populations.

Human Centered Design played a critical role in our process of building a site that would be intuitive and useful to older Americans seeking information about their drug coverage options.

Understand the needs

We talked to real Medicare beneficiaries to understand the challenges they faced in navigating the site. Based on what they said, we created a key persona to drive our scenario-based approach — ensuring that our work solved real problems and created value for users. We also evaluated the existing site to see how well it met standards for usability.

Graphic of a "key persona" that we made to help us understand the needs of real Medicare beneficiaries.
Our key persona "Sam" reflected what real Medicare users think and feel as they use the site.

Offer customized guidance

To help visitors feel comfortable navigating complex information about benefits coverage, we created several experience options for them to choose from. They could explore the site on their own, use the guidance wizard, or ask questions of the interactive chat bot. We also improved the Search function to deliver more relevant results.

Sticky notes showing the needs of users, to help us prioritize the work.
User research revealed what was working well and what could be improved.

Clear the path to success

We focused on removing obstacles to help more people successfully find the information they needed. This was done through intuitive navigation and labels, scannable and actionable content, and a refreshed, accessible design. We tested our solutions with users and iterated based on their feedback.

Diagram showing how Medicare beneficiaries get to the various services they need.
We focused on removing obstacles so beneficiaries could easily find important and relevant information.

Key outcomes

Research-based solution

Because we spoke to Medicare recipients and validated our proposed solutions with them, CMS knows that real user needs will be met with the redesigned site, helping people access benefits more easily.

Consistent online experience visitors deserve a consistent experience across all parts of the site, on any device. Our design uses a mobile-first approach and a color palette that provides smooth transitions between pages.

Accessible healthcare services

The prototype is compliant with Section 508, using intuitive design and clear language to make complex medical insurance information easily accessible by the broadest possible representation of the public.

Data to help others

Doctors, app developers, health information curators, and others can pull valuable Medicare data for their own use through the API integration we created using the JSON:API that is part of Drupal core.

Simplified content management

The prototype showed how CMS staff can more easily get the right information to the right people using templates and workflows in Drupal, customized for the agency’s various departments and content needs.

Efficient and reliable technology

We built the prototype using the same Agile and DevOps practices that we would on a larger scale — with streamlined workflows that allow us to build, test, and deploy new code quickly and securely.

Let’s build a public success story.

Get in touch to start.