New York City Economic Development Corporation

Waterfront Navigator

  • Prototyping
  • UI Design
  • UX Design
  • Wireframing

The Waterfront Navigator project is a new online resource to guide users through applying for a permit to develop along New York City's waterfront.

Visit Waterfront Navigator
  • Prototyping
  • UI Design
  • UX Design
  • Wireframing


Obtaining a permit to build on the waterfront of New York City is a complicated task, requiring the approval of five agencies at the city, state and federal levels. These agencies, working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, saw immense value in creating a “one-stop” resource, where all information relevant to waterfront permitting could reside in one easy-to-navigate website. Denials to permits are often due to incompleteness of the application. This website sought to guide the applicants and optimize agency processing.

In my capacity as Art Director and Designer, I created an information-rich site that combines clean design and thoughtful logic to streamline the permitting process for development along the shores of New York City.

The Challenge

The Waterfront Navigator’s challenge was not only in design, but in its taxonomy and terms. The struggle to align the language and regulatory goals of five agencies to one another translated to how successfully the site could help the layman user decode the process and submit a complete and correct permit application.

This site provides an entirely new resource, compiling the requirements and guides of the most common development projects of all the issuing agencies in one place.

The Process

Working with an information architect and writer, the team met with the agency representatives and end users to gather feedback on their needs and the current process.

I developed clickable wireframes that emphasized the most common projects, questions, and an overview of the process. We condensed material from many sources and eliminated agency specific jargon in favor of simple, direct language.

I designed interactive tools and timelines to help applicants better understand the permitting process and what an application for their project might require. I added lists of easily scannable titles for the user to find their specific projects.

The Outcome

The Waterfront Navigator is ambitious in scope and fulfills an important need for consolidated material. It’s a resource that balances the interest of both regulatory accuracy and the need for an understandable public resource. It has been met with great enthusiasm and relief by its users, praised for its comprehensive information and ease of use.

“This is well beyond what people expect from city government site.”

– An Environmental Engineer

“The design is very powerfully simple…good, clear and concise. ”

– A Director of Government Relations with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

“This is so great because you clearly see these nice titles…and make a decision about

where to go to what interests me at that point in time.”

– A Planner with the Hudson River Park Trust

I added flat designs to the clickable wireframes to serve as a testable prototype. We had an array of potential users, from development organizations to a ferry boat captain, test and give us extensive and valuable feedback. After testing, I responded to the feedback with an amended design: rearranged tiles, clarified language, and simplified dense sections to include more scannable information.

I designed a library of icons to add visual cues to the information, and developed a typographic system with large and clear titles, and gave the denser information plenty of breathing room for better comprehension.