Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Improving vaccine ordering and management software

Photo by CDC from Pexels


Clients: Scientific Technologies Corporation (STC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Sector: Public Health / Government

My Role: Project lead, research and interaction design

Methods: Ethnographic research, prototyping, formative usability testing

Project Timeline: November 2015 – March 2016

STC VOMS application redesigned screen
VOMS application redesigned screen

Every day, thousands of healthcare providers across the United States order and manage inventory for state- and federally-supplied vaccines using the Vaccine Ordering and Management System (VOMS). In 2015, Scientific Technologies Corporation was awarded a contract from the CDC to improve the user experience of this software. My team was brought in to conduct research with VOMS users and participate in the product redesign effort.

The Challenge

STC knew users were experiencing problems with the software but didn’t have systematic processes in place to conduct research with users. STC and CDC stakeholders wanted to know why these problems existed and what could be done to fix them.

The Approach

Working closely with a research colleague and STC’s product owner, I conducted ethnographic studies to learn from the people who use VOMS everyday. By observing and talking to users, we discovered root causes of the issues they were having.

Field visits with Vaccine Coordinators
By understanding how Vaccine Coordinators use VOMS in the context of their daily work, we were able to recommend ways to improve the software that would solve their problems.

Remote contextual interviews with State Administrators
State Administrators are expert users of the system who interact with VOMS for hours a day. They know the software inside and out, so we asked them to teach us how to do their jobs. As they shared their screens and walked us through their main tasks, we could see areas where they experienced problems working quickly and efficiently.

Analysis and Insights
Once user’s problems were defined, the team and I got to work synthesizing our research findings into user personas, mental models, and task analysis. These tools provided a framework for understanding the users and aligning on the problems we needed to solve before moving into design.

Prototyping & Usability Testing

I led a collaborative effort to utilize the research insights and design potential solutions that could be quickly tested using low-fidelity prototypes. Through multiple rounds of usability testing and iterative prototyping, we quickly learned which designs solved users’ problems by testing flows, content, and interactions.

STC VOMS software before redesign
Baseline usability test of VOMS before redesign
VOMS prototype Approve Orders screen
Axure prototype for formative usability testing

When stakeholders were confident we’d arrived at a solution that achieved the organizational goals and solved users’ problems, STC’s designers and engineers used our research findings and prototypes to implement improvements to the software. 

The Result

In the end, my work enabled STC to shorten its expected development timeline for VOMS and deploy software updates with the highest level of confidence they’d ever had. Medical providers and state administrators across the U.S. are now using the new-and-improved VOMS.  

  • A consistent and intuitive experience     
  • Efficient workflows that match users’ mental models and expectations     
  • Reduced the number of user errors     
  • Increased user confidence and reduced support calls

STC and the CDC were grateful we included their teams in the UX research process: planning, conducting, analyzing, and generating actionable insights. Their teams now have an appreciation for the importance of doing UX research and are better able to balance complex user and organizational needs. 

Read my interview with STC’s product owner about this project.

“Sixth Man Marketing was an excellent partner for us. Their willingness to learn the use cases, go out into the field to interview end users, perform usability testing and collaborate on workflow design moved our product a long way ahead when it comes to user experience.”

Matt Halloran
VOMS Product Owner, Scientific Technologies Corporation

Tine Reese

Call: (509) 844-3044