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Starbucks Employee Portal Redesign

Persistent research and asking the right questions to uncover the root of a (not so) obvious problem.

Role: UX/UI Designer


Starbucks approached Mentor Creative Agency with a clear and distinct problem: Their employee portal (known as the Partner Hub) was being misused and underutilized.

As the central source for all employee related information from shift scheduling to training manuals, Starbucks realized that their employees were having a hard time navigating the Partner Hub and were therefore using ineffective alternatives to access vital information.

Of the 157,000 Starbucks employees around the world, less than 15% of them were accessing the Partner Hub on a weekly basis.

Through Mentors initial audit and heuristic analysis of the Hub, the source of the problem became quickly obvious: clutter. The site lacked any sort of clear hierarchy, and certain elements were confusing which resulted in poor navigation. In order to further understand the information architecture of the hub, the following tests and interviews were conducted with Starbucks employees:

1) Navigation tests were conducted by asking employees to complete specific tasks (such as finding a specific piece of information) and then interviewing them about their approach to the task and problems they encountered.

2) Card sorting activities were conducted in order to understand how to group certain elements, and the hierarchy of needs throughout the site.

3) Interviews with Starbucks stakeholders to identify the various positions at Starbucks, and how use of the Hub would differ between employees.


After the first round of interviews with Starbucks employees we ran into a problem that we eventually would understand as the root of most confusion and clutter within the Partner Hub:

Identified Root Problem - The Partner hub was one central location that served multiple functions for two different audiences, both of whom had different needs and expectations.

With this newfound understanding, we now had clear goals to work towards:

UX Goals- declutter the Partner Hub by creating two separate portals for each of the two types of users (Starbucks corporate employees and Starbucks baristas).

Business Goals- Our business goals were made clear by Starbucks: increase usage of the Partner Hub for both baristas and corporate employees.

Success metrics- Success was measured by the percentage increase of usage by both types of Starbucks employees.


First and foremost we needed to understand specifically which sections of the Hub were pertinent to baristas and/or corporate employees, and the specific information that existed within each of these sections. We approached this problem through a card sorting exercise by having multiple Starbucks employees group pages and categories of the Hub into specific themes. The results of this exercise were then clearly diagrammed in a site map shown below.

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Once our findings from the card sorting exercise were demonstrated and approved by Starbucks Stakeholders, we moved on to the design and discovery phase to further understand the pain points within specific sections of the Hub. This process consisted of three steps:

1) We started by continuing to conduct user research interviews with more of a focus on the specific use cases for the Hub. We knew about the hierarchy of needs from both the baristas and corporate employees and now wanted to understand exactly how they intended to use each of the major functions.

2) Next, we worked alongside our team to create mockups that demonstrated the updated functions and user flows inspired by our research findings.

3) Finally, these mockups were turned into digital prototypes for usability tests with Starbucks employees in order to improve the interaction design.

These three steps were repeated through multiple iterations until we landed on a user flow and design that Starbucks employees were comfortable with. Below are a few examples of the fully redesigned Partner Hub that today is used by Starbucks employees around the world:

Key Takeaways:

1) This project taught me that underneath the initial problem presented by the client is usually a greater issue that is often unclear right off the bat. I learned which tools I should use and the paths to pursue in order to clearly identify the core of a client's problem. 

2) I learned about the process of decluttering content in order to further understand the information architecture of a product. By focusing more on the micro level, I was able to break down content into smaller pieces, regroup this content and then build it back up into a site map. 

3) Finally, the redesign taught me about the process of working with a client and how to balance their requests and requirements with our professional opinions. Starbucks would often advise a change that didn’t follow standard UI/UX protocol leaving it up to us to propose a solution that met their needs and functioned properly.