IBM: Watson for Drug Discovery redesigned for
intended user

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Watson for Drug Discovery was highlighted on the Discovery Channels This is A.I. documentary. Fast forward to 1:09 to see the incredible outcomes of the team project.


The product team had been building the suite of applications without design or user understanding, my position was to turn that set of disjointed tools into a product for microbiologist doing discovery work.


When the design team joined product team we were asked to start making design recommendations. Instead of tackling the low hanging fruit the UI by completing a heuristic I decided that we needed to evaluate the product with users and understand the problem space.

After stakeholder conversations and product/business walk through the design team completed a user evaluation of the business model and current product. This lead to the conclusion that users desired a tool to do discovery and prediction did but that the product itself was unusable.

To ensure that the team was aligned to a single mission the design team led the cross-functional product team through a Design Thinking workshop. The outcome of the workshop was a product direction and plan that would ensure that the product was useful and usable.

The product direction was made concrete by story telling the user journey and iterating on wireframes. These artifacts gave the product team something to iterate on and feedback from users quickly.

Once the direction was concrete and aligned to the product team broke the work down and sprinted for the release.

The project took a little over 10 months from beginning to end. During that time we spent roughly 6 weeks understanding the existing product and user, learning complex microbiology and evaluating the product with users. Once the team was aligned and understood what and whom they were making for the team spent another 6 weeks iterating on the product concepts within the team and with users. They spent the remaining 7 months sprinting to implement.


I initial lead the design team through the initial understanding and defining phases of the project. I then transitioned into a management roll where I guided the new design team lead in completing the project.


Ten months of foundational rebuilding and modifying most of the existing project the product launched and immediately sold. The results of users and experts working with the tool has resulted in the discovery of over 6 genes never thought involved with diseases such as Cancer, Parkinson and MS.


Web Application


Project Plan, Research Plan, Design Thinking Workshops, Playbacks to align the team, Storyboards, Persona, Information Architecture, Sketches, Wireframes, High-Fidelity Visual Designs


Competitive Analysis, Interviews, Workflow Diagrams, Storyboards, Scenario, Use Cases, Sketching, Iterative Wireframes


The search experience was the initial experience every user had with the product. The initial experience was confusing and had several extra steps include a canonicalization steps few users found valuable.

The document viewer before was noisy, and inaccessible to the color blind. After the improvements the document viewer was a simple experience that the user could control.

Exploring entities was a confusing and disjointed experience adding cognitive load to user to remember what they saw in on view and connect that information with what they saw in other views. The improved version had all the information a user needed about a single or multiple entities.

The secret sauce of the product was the ability to do prediction, it was hidden in an inaccessible experience that was impossible to understand and work with. By working with the scientist to understand the workflow and goal of the user the improved experience is much more useful and usable.