Snapshot into Venmo4Change

The (Dream) Team

Jo, Michael, Myself

I had the pleasure of working with these two gentlemen: Joseph Ash Sakula and Michael DeGothseir. Both are extremely talented end-to-end eXperience designers. Our team contained all the necessary and creative ingredients to build exceptional product. If I had to summarize the Venmo4Change Team in one word: fearless.

Scope & Idea

We had two weeks to engineer our concept. Our idea was to integrate a feature for Venmo users to seamlessly and effortlessly donate without breaking the bank whilst creating a social impact and strengthening the Venmo brand via corporate social responsibility. We wanted to empower our users to bring about change by donating their change.

Product Lifecycle

Okay. Now that we had an idea. How did we begin?

Research, Research, Research

It was imperative that we got to know the Venmo user base, their relationship with the app, and whether or not they donated or even had the desire to donate…so we did that.

We got our hands dirty right away. We collectively organized a survey and sent it to current Venmo users. We got some pretty interesting feedback:

  • 50% of Venmo users engage with the app at least once a week

Huge opportunity with such an active user base

  • 70% of users like donate via change jars

The majority of our users like to donate…as long as they aren’t putting a dent in their wallet

  • 70% would round up to the nearest dollar if they knew their change was going to a good cause

Users would replicate donating to change jars digitally

  • 95% of users trust Venmo

This fact was particularly important. Venmo is leading the P2P charge- our team had a feeling this number was a big reason why. We had to keep this factor in our head each time we went to the drawing board.

Getting Psyched

Next step was to get into our user’s psych. We wanted to learn how they interact, what drives them to donate, and why they use Venmo.

User Interviews & Psychological Research
We interviewed ~20 users. We learned a few useful stats. To summarize:

“I don’t always seek out charitable opportunities, but if 
 something is placed in front of me it’s nice to contribute.”
“I research a charity before donating. I like to know
 my money is being used well.”
“It was offered at a point of transaction in a store 
 (donate a dollar) and I just did it.”

We then jumped into a bit of research behind the mentality of donating learning a bit more about the psychological tendencies of our user base. Through a study by William Harbaugh we learned that individuals donate to be seen as generous and feel good about themselves.

Key Takeaways

Our users like to donate in small amounts
They want it to be easy
Users want to know where charities are allocating their money
Social status / recognition plays a role

Business Talk

As a business minded product manager I knew the importance of transparency and trust. With that said, we hopped on the phone with the head of UX & Research at Venmo HQ, NYC. This phone call gave us business direction and a design push:

Social proof is key with Venmo. Users trust Venmo. How do you create an add-on without tampering with that trust and at the same time make an impact?
How will we onboard? We learned that notifications have to be essentially non-existent. We can’t deter the user in any way.
Any design iteration would have to be nearly invisible. Venmo is P2P numero uno because of its frictionless user flow. We had to be frictionless.

Ideation & Design

First step was to synthesize all of this data visually, so we hit the whiteboard in a design studio.

Us “hitting the whiteboard”

The studio was extremely helpful. Once we got all of our ideas out we concept mapped and brainstormed the key features, functions & design necessities. We collectively concluded to integrate a feature that benefited all parties (Venmo, individual users, charities) our design would not only allow users who were paying to “round up” to a charity, but also allow users who were requesting to “round down” to a charity.

From Studio to Paper

From our design studio we moved to paper. Since we weren’t redesigning Venmo’s UI or Visual, we immediately wanted to put our flow to the test. We were confident that a few tests would quickly validate our user flow and we would be able to move to final prototyping…only in a perfect world -_-

Paper prototyping exposed a challenge we didn’t anticipate: our users weren’t understanding the concept.

Paper to Digital

We continued to build, test, and iterate. We collected enough data to go digital. We put our initial flows into Sketch and Invision.

We immediately received valuable feedback, once again exposing challenges we weren’t anticipating: not only were users still not understanding the concept, now they didn’t notice it. So we asked ourselves, “Is our design too invisible?”

***Remember our user research and call to Venmo HQ? Users trust the current design and flow / we have to design frictionlessly***

First Round Takeaways- Foundations

The sequence wasn’t right- specifically where our feature was implemented in the user flow was unrecognized & cumbersome
The placement of our “donate” button wasn’t being recognized
The visuals didn’t catch our users attention- they flew through it — it was invisible

Test, Reiterate, Test, Reiterate, Test…

Testing, learning, and reiterating was the name of the game. Our team went through several rounds of testing, ultimately we reached a design which met both our users and business goals.

A Few Screens From The Final Prototype

Product Takeaways

Good design is invisible, but simple design isn’t simple
Venmo users love ease of use — specifically minimal clicks
Users weren’t grasping the concept due to language, placement, and sequence
Adding a feature to a current successful and trusted product is far more difficult than the idea itself- Venmo users are conditioned and learned to naturally progress through the current flow without question or thought

Next Steps

During the UX process, we learned a lot about Venmo. We learned what works and what doesn’t work. Our immediate next step would be to work with the marketing team. Testing revealed that users (new and existing) often times clicked the incorrect button. It would be crucially beneficial to look over the data of the time spent on those screens along with the bounce rate. If Venmo is losing users because of ambiguity and unclear UI, it would be a simple and lucrative fix
Not all Venmo users donate in micro-amounts- we want to incorporate a simple fix to allow users who want to make larger donations to easily and accessibly do so
Lastly, we all know there is a tax break in making donations. With that said, we are incorporating an export feature (located in settings) which allow our users to simply export their tax info for their donations

Special Thanks

Huge thank you to Michael DeGothseir and Joseph Ash Sakula. The two of these guys are extremely talented UX and UI Designers, Researchers, Engineers. If you are looking for a team who works hards, plays hard, than works harder you have their contact info.