Intern Spotlight: UX Design and the Vertica Forum Relaunch

Posted August 20, 2019 by Julia Avila

My name is Julia Avila and I am a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, studying English with concentrations in Technical Communications and Digital Humanities. I have a deep interest in User Experience Design (UXD) and I am passionate about creating innovative web content. This past summer, I joined the Information Development team to redesign the Vertica Forum using various UX design principles.


My summer project involved improving the usability of the Vertica Forum. I used a model called the Double Diamond Methodology which emphasizes four phases of design; discover, define, develop, and deliver.

The discovery phase is all about research, so I spent a few weeks conducting user testing sessions, distributing a survey, and collecting information about the previous forum design.

To define the issues at hand and narrow in on the problems that needed to be solved, I analyzed the qualitative and quantitative date I had collected. I also created five user personas to promote customer empathy and created a Prioritization Matrix that organized the project’s goals according to value and feasibility.

In the development phase, I created wireframes and mock layouts for the new forum. Then, I spent a few weeks customizing the website. I worked alongside representatives from our hosting tool, Vanilla Forums, as well as Linchpin Design Services to achieve the desired results.

Finally, to deliver a solution, I migrated the new forum design from the staging site to the production site. The results are now live on the Vertica Forum.

The internship program at Vertica culminated in a final presentation consisting of a lighting talk and a poster fair. I was so excited to have the opportunity to share my hard work with other company members and I am very pleased with the response my project received.


Deb Chatigny, manager of the Information Development team, was an attentive and supportive mentor to me this summer. She consistently challenged me to think critically about how I was making choices as a designer. Deb encouraged me to ground my decisions in our research findings and to keep user needs at the heart of my project.

My mentor’s guidance was a welcomed presence throughout my project. We cultivated a cooperative and enjoyable working relationship and I will always value the emphasis she placed on my learning while I was at Vertica.

Three women posed in front of posters made by the summer's interns

From left to right: Yashika Issrani, Deb Chatigny, Julia Avila.

Outings and Group Activities

The intern program at Vertica was highly enriching both during and after work. Throughout the summer there were a variety of outings and activities available to interns and company members. These included kayaking, bowling, hiking, and more. I particularly enjoyed our group trip to Kimball Farms at the end of the summer. It was a great opportunity to connect with my peers and coworkers outside of the office.

A group of interns standing outside an old country storeVertica Interns at Kimball Farms

Learnings, Growth, and Reflection

Looking back, I really enjoyed my project because it gave me the opportunity to touch upon every aspect of the design process; from research, to prototyping, to development. I was able to see a design through from end-to-end and as I come away from my internship, I have a greater appreciation for the multifaceted work of a UX Designer.

This summer I also learned about the iterative process of user research and the importance of customer empathy. I discovered that design is primarily informed by the needs of our users, not necessarily the intuition of an individual designer.

I will have very fond memories of my internship at Vertica! The experience I’ve gained has helped prepare me for a future career, and I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to learn from such a dynamic team.

Make sure you check out the Vertica Forum to view the product of my hard work and comment below to let us know what you think of the results!