Catherine Harrell
User Experience Designer

UX Lead
Understanding user behavior

Amazon Web Services provides many powerful tools for developers and IT administrators. To design the best user experience, a good first step is to identify how we expect people to use the system.

Simple diagrams like these can clarify what a feature is trying to achieve. What behaviors do we want to encourage? What pain points can we improve?
Optimizing complex flows

Before building anything, it's important to plan your approach and know what you're getting into.

Flowcharts like this one show the total footprint of a product or service. By taking inventory of key screens, we can make sure all paths are accounted for in the final design.

Details have been abstracted away for confidentiality.
Feature planning

Once the vision has been defined, the work should proceed in a logical sequence.

In this example, we planned a major redesign in three phases, targeting a few improvements at a time.

Some details have been removed for confidentiality.

Visual re-skinning

The later stages of a project involve polishing up the visual details. Applying common patterns is important for consistency and branding.

This example is from the Identity and Access Management console. We streamlined a cluttered landing page into an actionable checklist.

UX Lead

The Product

Amazon WorkDocs (formerly Amazon Zocalo) is a file storage service for the workplace, launched in July 2014. As the UX Lead and sole designer, my job was to make sure the product was clean, simple, and easy to use.

Video prepared by the AWS Marketing team to showcase the capabilities of Amazon WorkDocs.

Project Schedule

With a small team and a fast-paced delivery schedule, it was essential to keep the UX process on track right from the beginning. This calendar of design milestones was a helpful communication tool. For each three-week sprint, feature specifications had to be delivered, reviewed, and finalized on time.


Our first task was to define the problems we intended to solve. We knew we wanted to tackle productivity in the workplace, and I ran a series of brainstorms to clarify our vision.

Storyboards provide a good structure to talk about features and walk through design plans. This one outlines our target use case of collaborating on a business document.

Look and Feel

Another important part of the design process was setting a visual direction. Detailed specifications were prepared in order to maintain a clean and consistent look throughout the app.

The goal was to create a unique brand identity for Amazon WorkDocs, while still fitting nicely into the Amazon product family.


Here's where the fun starts: designing and optimizing all of the user actions, from start to finish.

One of our key features was lightweight markup. We wanted our app to be the fastest tool around for making comments on a document. I chose a simple one-click interaction for selecting areas and highlighting lines of text. No toolbars, no buttons, just click and type.

Responsive Design

Amazon WorkDocs was designed with a fluid layout for viewing on multiple devices, plus native apps for iPhone and Android. The three-panel layout made our navigation mobile-friendly for feedback on the go.

Senior UX Designer / Researcher

Exploring user needs

I got my start as a researcher on the AutoCAD UX team. We conducted a set of contextual inquiries to understand how people interact with our products in the real world.

This affinity diagram contains observations from a study targeting students and novice users. We identified ten key areas for improvement, and worked with the design team to plan solutions.

Defining customer segments

To make better software, it's important to understand who your users are, and what they are trying to accomplish.

We shadowed a team of Disney Imagineers to understand their work process, and combined those findings with our archive of research results to produce a set of user profiles.

Some details have been removed for confidentiality.

Writing specs

With the findings from our research, we were equipped to make tangible improvements to the AutoCAD experience.

Here are some of my design specifications for improving visual feedback cues in the product. Each improvement was outlined in detail to ensure correct implementation.

Usability testing

Design improvements were put to the test in the usability lab. We ran a series of usability studies (individual and co-discovery sessions) to identify problems and correct them quickly.

Measuring impact

To share results, the research team needed a way to showcase their studies and publish reports.

I designed and built a SharePoint dashboard to track all of our studies. The dashboard became a valuable platform for sharing knowledge across the company.

Interaction Design and Prototyping
Graduate course in industry trends and techniques for user experience design.
Lecture series at the University of Washington.
April - June 2015

A Visual Guide to Puppet
Explaining a cloud configuration management tool to nontechnical users.
Puppet Camp Silicon Valley and Puppet Camp Seattle.
May 2015

Bridging the Gap
Case studies from Amazon Web Services on designing for complex technical systems.
Amazon Internal Design Forum.
July 2014

Designing for Complexity
Techniques for breaking down complex design problems for a streamlined user experience.
Bay Area Software Engineers at Microsoft San Francisco.
December 2013


The following patent applications pertain to my UI design work for Amazon Zocalo. They have been submitted for review.

PM6942-US (0097749-126US0)
Forming a Document Collection in a Document Management and Collaboration System
Submitted for Review

P6946-US (097749-129US0)
Homogeneous Insertion of Interactions into Documents
Submitted for Review

PM6944-US (0097749-127US0)
Developer Based Document Collaboration
Submitted for Review

PM6940-US (0097749-124US0)
Access Control for a Document Management and Collaboration System
Submitted for Review