Game app for aligning awareness of climate change

A UX case study

Cindy Brummer
10 min readFeb 25, 2020


User research found that millennials cared about and were motivated to take action to positively impact climate change, but they felt uninformed and isolated. I created a concept for an online game that would both educate players as well as encourage additional play that would eventually fund a non-profit to lobby at the national and international level for change.

So what is the problem?

I initially began this project to understand if the negative carbon effects of air travel could be mitigated or reversed in some way through technology.

I had recently traveled from Austin to Hawaii, and I learned that air travel is environmentally destructive. Even a short flight emits a large amount of carbon dioxide — more than people do in a year.

I wanted to learn if there is a way to offset the effects of flying.

“I feel like we should be more aware of it especially since we’re the generation that’s going to be more affected by it and our kids and we just aren’t really educated on it.” — User study participant

The audience

The target audience for this project was millennials, ages 24 to 38, with a disposable income that allows them to be able to travel, making greater than $55,000 per year in income as a professional.

My role

This project was a graduate-level class project, where we worked individually. I led the empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing of the project. Throughout, I received feedback from collaborators from my professional workplace, a UX design agency.

Scope & Constraints

This project had to be completed in weekly sprints over 7 weeks.

It was unique in that the only prompt was that the project be connected to social good. This was a freedom as well as a constraint. The hypothetical nature of the project meant that there was no stakeholder or business case to work with.

Additionally, as a solo designer, I was constrained by the limitations of an “ideation of one.” And with no team members to support me, the app could not be developed beyond the prototype phase.


Proto persona

Research and proto persona
I started by researching awareness of climate change through articles at the Pew Research Center. This led me to focus on millennials, who are more likely than older generations to be worried about climate change and accepting of the science behind it. Research by Pew also showed that climate change beliefs had a largely political bias, and millennial Republicans were more likely to accept climate change as fact than older Republicans.

I developed a proto persona of the target user, focusing on travel. The millenial user “Lauren” would have a job that allowed her enough disposable income to travel.

Interviewing Millennials

I scheduled formative, remote and in-person interviews with six individuals who met the criteria for the study.

What I wanted to understand was whether they actually did care about climate change and whether they would see a purpose in offsetting climate change. I assumed that there would be a way to offset carbon emitted from jet engines.

The interviews took place over 4 days in February 2020, and I uploaded the recordings into for transcription. I synthesized the results using an affinity diagram.


Affinity diagram

In my analysis, I found that while millennials care about the environment, they are less likely to change their travel habits. I also uncovered that they craved more education about the issue and felt that change couldn’t happen solely at the individual level.

“I think things are not really going to change no matter how much we recycle or use unless there’s like a big shift in policy.” — Study Participant

This did not validate my assumptions. Instead, I had to look for the actual need to solve for.

Reframing the problem

Based on what the data told me, users cared, but they do not believe an individual’s impact would be enough. They are frustrated by their own lack of knowledge around the subject of climate change. And they feel isolated from older generations in their concern and frustrated by lack of action; however, they are not frustrated enough to do more than personal actions.

The question now became how to amplify the user’s voice so that actions could impact government action around climate change.

Developing empathy for “Lauren”

Empathy Map

I updated the persona to reflect my new knowledge of the target audience. I also created an empathy map to understand their deeper feelings, pains and gains around the topic.

Ideating on a Solution

I created a point of view statements for “Lauren”:
“Lauren needs a way to align her understanding of climate change with her peers so that their collective voices can make an impact on government action around climate change.”

This evolved into “How might we” statements:

1) How might we create a way for Lauren to align her knowledge of climate change with her peers?

2) How might we provide a way to amplify Lauren’s voice so that her actions can impact government action around climate change?

I used a method of ideation using rapid fire brainstorming. By time-boxing my ideas, I generated more than a dozen sticky notes with ideas to solve the problem.

Choosing a game

The most interesting and promising idea to come out of ideation was that of a game. This game would teach about climate change in a fun way so that the users did not know they were learning. It would also provide opportunities to pay for extras. These extras would go to a non-profit that would lobby for climate action in Washington D.C.

Designing a Game
I focused on designing a game that would be easy to use and alluring enough to keep users engaged over time.

I story-boarded how the users would find and use the game. I decided to create an app, because the target audience is rarely without their phones.

I focused my user flow on what happens once the user downloaded the app. The flow needed to be easy to enter, with the core of the app on the game itself.

I designed a sitemap to think through all of the screens needed to complete the user flow. I planned out screens that would be part of a later release, and not part of an MVP. These included climate tips, an about page, and the screens allowing players to pay for additional levels.

I built out the wireframes to illustrate the main flow of the game and tested the flow on my own using powerpoint. I wanted to make sure the flow would not break with the users and ensure I had all the necessary screens.


To build the testable prototype, I started with a style tile so that the look and feel would be consistent throughout the app.

My high-fidelity screens were built using Figma. Rather than using the Figma prototyping tools, I decided to prototype the app using Invision. This would allow me to make edits to the high-fis without affecting the testing.

Testing the App

It was time to evaluate the app. Would participants be able to play the game? Would they understand how the sharing works? Would it interest them to play more than once?

Usability testing

I tested the app’s usability on six individuals in the millennial generation with a similar occupation to my persona. All of the testing was conducted either remotely using Zoom or in person. All of the sessions were recorded.

After all of the testing was complete, I analyzed the data by reviewing the video and transcripts from each of the testing sessions.

Refining the Design

Overall, the feedback was positive from testing, where users commented on the ease of using the app and the clean design.

  • Users commented on the overall look and feel and how much they appreciated it. They liked the artwork and said it made it feel playful and calming.
  • Users knew where to start and walked through each onboarding screen with ease.

“It looks clean and inviting. And the colors are calming. I like that.”

  • All users were clear on how to initiate a game through both the bottom navigation and the home screen.
  • Once users understood the directions, they quickly completed the level and landed on the next screen.
  • Participants quickly spotted where to tap and share the game with others.
  • Participants’ feedback indicated that they would share to Facebook Messenger and via text message, primarily.
  • All participants indicated that the game was intriguing, and they would be interested in playing more than once.
  • Participants also seemed enthusiastic about asking for additional features, such as climate tips, an impact statement for how sharing would help, and more information about the lobbying efforts.

“More information of the state of climate change today and just information on that whole topic. And then also what I can do you know, how I can do my part to fix it.”

Improvements needed

  • Tested users identified weak spots in the game flow and recommended an additional flow that would increase engagement.
  • The majority of tested participants also wanted to know more about how playing would help impact climate change. They asked for additional information during onboarding that would provide a clue.

“I would like to know a little bit more about how what I’m doing is actually affecting it.”

  • The instructions on how to play were unclear. Users tried to drag or move the blocks, based on the instructions. They suggested providing the ability to move and connect squares. They also needed additional indicators that the polar bear needed to reach the seal.
  • Participants also varied on their motivations for sharing. One would be motivated to invite others to the game. Another wanted to share her progress. Another wanted to be able to compete directly against her friends.

Some of the additional features were already planned on the product roadmap; however, feedback from users indicated some of the features may need to be prioritized for the MVP in order to encourage ongoing play.

User testing found that users needed additional information about impact and how to play the game, as well as additional tools for engagement.Users wanted more information in the app that explains how the game makes an impact, so I added more language during onboarding to explain how funds from game extras would go toward a non-profit that supports lobbying efforts.

In the future, this information will also go on an About page. This page was not added at this stage in order to keep the app simple.

Users did not understand that “Your Level” and “Your Impact” were clickable, and they felt that the body/header style were too similar to the link style to be able to distinguish interactivity. So I rearranged two clickable areas on the dashboard with links.

They wanted an easy way to see how they could do more, so I moved “Tips” to the bottom toolbar and the Share functionality up.

Users weren’t sure how to manipulate the ice blocks in the game prototype, so I adjusted the instructions. I also added an error mode to show users where not to tap.

Users indicated that when they do share, it may not be Facebook, but text message. Not all users like to share on Facebook. I added text messaging, which I had not considered before the users recommended it. Future integrations also plan for additional sharing services.

Finally, users looked for the ability to either share or play another level from this screen. New links were added to this screen to provide users with the ability to continue play or share. Additionally, the background was changed to improve accessibility and the text content was broken up to create the ability to skim.

“If I’m sharing, trying to reach a goal and I know how close it is, I’m gonna continue sharing, but sharing just for the sake of sharing…. I don’t think it’s as effective. So I would like to see, ‘share it with 10 friends and if everyone shares it with 10 friends, this is the global impact’ or something.”

Final Invision prototype:

Outcomes & Lessons Learned

This app remains in the prototype stage and ready to be developed. Early feedback indicates that millennials would be interested in playing the game, but this needs validation from a slightly larger set of users.

In hindsight, I would have tested my wireframes on users as well as my high-fis. This might have helped me identify areas where additional screens were needed earlier in the process.

I would also have preferred to test more than 6 individuals in each user study. I believe testing 8–12 would have provided a more firm foundation of results.

Cindy Brummer is the Creative Director and Founder of Standard Beagle, a UX design and development agency headquartered in Austin, Texas. Learn more at or



Cindy Brummer

I'm a UX designer, design thinker, and creative director, running a UX agency and mentoring and teaching UX design to newcomers.