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UNEP (UN Environmental programme) - Cobsea digital platform - GPML

I was tasked to design the user experience for a web app aimed at globally tackling plastic pollution. The web platform of the Regional Node provides stakeholders in the East Asian Seas region with access to knowledge, resources and networking services on marine litter and plastic pollution for informed action.



UNEP through Akvo


2022 - 2  weeks project


Solo project, in contact with the product manager at UNEP - COBSEA Region

Project type

UX research, design and prototyping


UX Researcher / Product Designer


User research through depth interviews with Scientists in the Asia Region, Stakeholder interviews, Personas (created by UNEP), sketching, wireframing, prototyping, usability testing for validation

Overview &  Problem

For this project, the client is an antenna of the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) - GPML (Global Partnership on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter). The COBSEA node (Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia) needed a digital web app which is aimed to provide access to knowledge management and networking services on marine litter, including a knowledge library with policies, tools, and resources, and a map of good practices; the Regional Research Database with access to data from over 700 peer-reviewed publications in languages from the region; and a learning centre with training resources and events.

The project was passed on to me on a last-minute notice, I was not involved with the client to define the scope for this project and was given a one-pager with a list describing the high-level structure collected by the technical manager as well as the COBSEA branding guidelines handbook. I had 2  weeks to reach the goal of delivering a set of implementable wireframes with the basic of this web platform, alongside a fully clickable mockup prototype that the product manager wanted to test with their stakeholders for validation.

Initial "discussion"

My initial step in the project was to set up a call with the COBSEA product manager. Given the very tight timeframe allocated to design in this project. I wanted to not only understand better the goals, context and behaviours of the intended audience but to also be very specific and concrete on what are the most pressing areas to design and iterate around. 

Initially, I wanted to get a grasp of the information architecture to extract a sitemap, then prioritise getting all the content and copy in as soon as possible.

From our initial call, I started working on the landing page immediately, the goal of the landing page was to give an overview of what the web app will provide, and how a scientist or person working closely to issues related to plastic littering can get involved and start engaging.

Initial pragmatic design work, working on the IA and sitemap

After the discussion with the UNEP product manager, 3 areas of the web app were clearly extracted, what they called the 3 pillars: Marine litter policy and management,  Marine litter science &Marine litter capacity building.

These needed to be clearly informed on the landing page and reflected in the primary navigation. I had to crack on immediately on the landing page and the navigation. I need to not only inform my design with the notes from my discussion but deliver these immediately on brand.
I decided to craft a fullscreen overlay navigation menu that will also serve as a sitemap. It was quickly approved from the COBSEA product manager.

Screenshot 2023-06-29 at 16.19.13.png

Moving on to landing page

Following their branding guidelines and preferences, I crafted 4 slightly different landing pages meeting the requirements. Again, compromises had to be made and I worked straight away in Figma.

Featured design workflow: Adding content to the web app.

Once a user a signed in, each user of the platform can add their work to it to share knowledge with the full GPML user database. The content types are complex, and knowing in which category of content your work should be placed can be tedious, so the workflow to add content and their admin and contributors needed to be highly simplified:

I covered all sections within the 3 pillars. Then worked on a prototype, the goal of the prototype was to navigate through all sections smoothly.


I delivered the clickable prototype timely. The round of testing went fine and the client was happy. Unfortunately my figma files were tampered with and the prototype is not available anymore.

Screenshot 2023-06-29 at 20.04.58.png


After completing my part as a UX designer, I handed over the project files to our frontend developer. We were fortunate to have an existing frontend framework and design system in place, as we had been collaborating with UNEP on other projects. However, it's important to note that only a fraction of the work I had accomplished was implemented due to project logistic constraints. The remaining tasks and features will need to be implemented by the development team in 2023.


No projects are perfect. There will always be tradeoffs. The perfect solution won’t be the one that gets implemented. The process will never be as linear and sequential as the one stated in any of the UX design bibles. It’s part of what we do.

Negotiating trade-offs and reaching the right balance between innovation and technical viability, between a long and thorough user research project and the time available, between the perfect solution and the budget… It’s all part of the job.

As UX designers, we need to know how to navigate these tradeoffs and make decisions that balance competing factors. 

In the end, I delivered the best solution I could within the time allocated, the information and access to the data I was given.

Was it a perfect solution? No 
Could I have done it better? Probably Yes, since I based my designs, on my own assumptions, which I could not validate.

Overall, that experience has emphasised the realities of working on projects as a UX designer, including tradeoffs, non-linearity, and the need for balancing various factors. Despite the challenges, I was able to deliver "a" solution within the given limitations. 
This experience reinforced the fundamental importance of research in UX and without it, we end up gambling on every decision we make, by basing our design work on unverified assumptions with all the guesswork and personal biases that come with it. Nailing it out of the gate is unrealistic.

PS: Despite not being my best work, It was important for me to feature this project because I did learn a lot about myself in the process. 

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