User Experience Design Case Studies

Case Study 02
Project Brief
Project Date: November 2012 - February 2019
STAR Associate Recognition Program
A platform to recognize and reward associates for going above and beyond the expectations of their roles.

Red-carpet recognition for those that go above and beyond

The STAR Program was started in 2013 as a means of recognizing the extraordinary accomplishments of associates within the Services group of CDK and built around the premise of associates nominating other associates for special recognition when they go above and beyond.

I was personally invited into the project by the VP of Services and served as a founding committee member in the planning and development of the program. I also pitched, designed, and developed a web application to innovate on the nomination and voting processes, executing on an ambitious user experience plan as principal product designer and engineer, and also designed all logos, program branding, and collateral design materials. I was a key figure in the program for the duration of its lifecycle until it was sunset in 2019 and was the only individual apart from the VP of Services to be involved continuously from beginning to end.

  • User Experience
  • Visual Design
  • Prototyping
  • User Research
  • User Testing
  • Information Architecture
  • Front-end Engineering
  • Full-stack Development
  • Project Management

The Challenge

Creating a platform where associates can be recognized for extraordinary achievements. Easy nominations, easy follow-up.

In order for the program to be successful the web interface needed to make the nomination process as simple and intuitive as possible to promote user engagement. A poor user experience would deter people from submitting nominations, therefore the key requirements for a great user experience were:

  • Allow associates to easily look up the person they wish to nominate via search
  • Allow associates to submit a text nomination targeting the selected associate for a qualifying action or event
  • Allow administrators to review, filter, and modify all submitted nominations in a back-end CMS
  • Allow administrators to collect nominations into a ballot and send to registered committee members through an automated workflow
  • Allow a committee to privately vote on ballots to determine winning nominations with votes and results tracked securely in a back-end database
  • Display winning nominations and results of voting campaigns on front-end UI for associate review
  • Allow associates to view all past winners and nominations

The Solution

The STAR web application was presented as a hub for all STAR-related activity, with voting results and associate profile pages accessible on the front-end. The homepage served as a dashboard displaying the results of the most recent awards broken down by the Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual award tiers.

The application also served as an archive of past STAR activity, with sections displaying all past winners as well as all nominees, in addition to the current roster of STAR Committee members and executive leaders. A photo gallery was created to host photos and videos from the various STAR events, such as the monthly award presentations and the prestigious annual event, a year-end red carpet dinner ceremony where the overall annual winner was presented.

The Nomination Process

As the cornerstone of the STAR Program, the nomination process needed to be minimal, straight-forward, and intuitive. A prominent call-to-action button in the header of the web application led to an intake form where the associate could author their nomination after performing a live autocomplete search via Active Directory for the associate they wanted to nominate. This step was key to not only simplifying the nomination process, but for automating it as well. Helper text accompanying the nomination form guided associates through the process, asking for a short description of the qualifying event in which the nominee exceeded expectations in a remarkable way. Nominations were saved to a database upon submission, which could then be viewed, edited, and approved through a back-end admin-only portal.

The application was built using PHP for dynamic content, leveraging baked in LDAP functions to allow connectivity to the company's instance of Active Directory. This allowed for the creation of custom functions that would retrieve and display associate details, which were then fed into a search function to filter for the associate that the submitter wanted to nominate.


The STAR Program web application was a very satisfying project to work on. It was particularly interesting because it was not a customer-facing product nor a tool that directly affected our services or products, but an entirely internal application aimed at the amplification of the associate experience. The Program elevated the company culture and significantly affected associate performance and their drive to go above and beyond, injecting a new energy into their day to day routine.