Making volunteering for causes fun
Duration: 1 week (Oct 2017)
Tools: Paper & Pencil, Sketch & Marvel
The purpose of this project was to help the United Nations come up with a way to encourage youth to help tackle real-world problems. Over a one-week design spring, we designed, tested and proposed an app that aims to solve it.
We created ‘Cause Hero’ — A gamified experience for iPhone that motivates people to contribute to causes. It encourages them to volunteer in exchange for (virtual) rewards, allowing them to share accomplishments and compete among peers.
- Helped the team in problem identification and ideating the solution
- Created a gamification framework that relies on extrinsic motivation factors to engage users
- Designed the app UI governed by a consistent style guide that aims to invoke warmth and goodwill among users
We started the sprint by defining the problem to solve. Then, we interviewed students on-campus to understand our users better. This gave us useful insights that would inform our design decisions.
Next, we brainstormed our solution over several paper sketches that eventually evolved into a high-fidelity prototype that we tested. On the final day, presented our solution and outcome to a panel where we discussed opportunities for future improvements.
Our team of 4 split into 2 pairs and started off in parallel with short, unstructured user interviews. By asking general questions around the theme of social causes and volunteering, we wanted to get a feel for our audience first. Then, we grouped back to discuss our findings. This led to informed decisions over what kind of questions we want to be asking in specific.
Next, we prepared a standard set of 3 questions to ask and continued with interviewing.
- What cause(s) do you care about?
- Have you taken any efforts towards contributing?
- What would get you /others to take action?
The common, recurring answer that we found amongst everyone was that people did care about various causes. They had specific causes that they care about most. But they weren’t actively doing anything about it. They were held back because of peer influence. They would help if their friends did and if volunteering was something fun and a trendy thing to do.
- People are willing to volunteer if their friends will join too
- People expect a tangible reward for their efforts
- Majority users are not motivated
Students care about causes but don’t have the motivation to do something about it. Lack of motivation was the real problem to solve.
Problems to address
We started off with each team member proposing a solution. We pitted our ideas against each other. With an amalgam of ideas along with our initial user research we identified solutions that could and could not work.
We proposed the following features for the app, based on Contextual Inquiry and ideation:
- Gamification — to help with motivation and engagement
- Social media integration — boost peer involvement
- Events posting — help people find events nearby
- Volunteer-only events (no donations) — keeping in mind financial constraints for students
From our personas, we knew that they would volunteer if it was something ‘fun’ to do. The biggest concern that we tried to address was — How do we get users to invest in something fun? For that, we created a story with the user at its center. We created a hook for people by telling them about the problems of the world.
We wanted users to invest in the journey of a virtual hero. That would help users engage with the hero’s story which is closely tied to users participating in causes real-time.
The UI reflects simplicity that allows typography and imagery to shine. The color palette consists of a single tone that signifies warmth. Brand color was used sparingly to bring attention to certain parts of the UI.
The Gamified System
- Volunteer for a cause — by going on ‘Missions’
- Reward System — Points & Badges
- Grow your Hero — Level up by participating in Missions
- Leaderboards — Encourage competition
My team and I discussed the goals we wanted to measure in the user testing phase. We decided upon certain flows and tasks that we wanted users to perform and test the same. This would reveal to us if our design work or whether it needs improvement. The tasks that were tested are:
- How would you join a mission?
- Once you’ve joined a mission, what do you do next?
- How would you know more about your current avatar (hero)?
- Where to see how you’re doing against your friends?
User Testing Results
- It is essential to mock-up the interface early
- Respect users mental models
- You can never be too sure about your assumptions
- Have a goal for User Testing
- Sync achievements with LinkedIn
- Partner with local places to reward users (as opposed to virtual rewards)
- Integrate with calendar — for upcoming events
- Maps navigation to volunteering venue