Project 1 — Diving into Rapid Prototyping

A Retrospective

Project Scope: For my first project as a UX Design student at General Assembly, we had to design a website or mobile app that solves our partner’s problem and create a paper prototype of the user interface.

My Role: User Researcher and UX Designer

Tools: Sketchpad, pens, pencil

Duration: 3 days

The Problem: Amin loves giving back to his community and has done a lot of volunteer work for organizations he’s passionate about. Since moving away after college, he’s gotten busy and hasn’t had the time to look for volunteer work or new organizations in his area.

The Solution: Create an app that learns the user’s passions and donates recurring micro-payments to organizations the user is passionate. The app also allows the user find volunteer events happening nearby based on his interests, RSVP, and save events.

The Process:

User Research: I interviewed Amin and discovered that volunteering is a huge part of his life. To explore this topic and learn more about his motivations, I asked him how, when, where, with who, and why volunteering was important to him. By asking the right questions, I was able to empathize with the value he sees in community service and understand his needs.

Key Findings:

  • Needs to feel passionate about the organizations he’s a part of
  • Would rather donate to these organizations than volunteer → feels it is easier with his busy schedule
  • Would only donate small amounts because of financial constraints
  • Would forget to donate if app wasn’t automated

Competitive Analysis: Based on my findings, I decided to research existing apps that support charity for some inspiration. I found apps that connect users to local volunteering opportunities based on location and interest. It was interesting that many charity apps allow users to donate very small amounts, as little as 50 cents. Drawing inspiration from that concept, I started conceptualizing an app that lets users donate micro-amounts to organizations they’re passionate about, in addition to helping them find local events.

Comparative Analysis: During our class workshop, a classmate suggested that I check out Acorn, an app that lets users invest their spare change in a diversified portfolio. What I drew my attention was that it allows you to set recurring daily, weekly, or monthly investment amounts, which automatically deducts from your bank account, making the app very easy to use. I wanted to incorporate that concept to differentiate my app.


I started to sketch out the user flow and design the user interface. I showed my initial sketch to Gordon and he suggested that I think through my flows and make sure the order makes sense. We came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be intuitive to put the bank login page first. It gives off a negative perception that the app just wants people’s money, instead of encouraging people to make a difference in the world for things they’re passionate about.

User Feedback: Based on Gordon’s feedback, I tweaked the design and showed it to my partner. Amin really liked the concept and gave me some insight into what adjustments I should make and if the flow made sense to him.

More User Feedback: The next day, I showed my design to five prospective users in a “speed dating” setting, where we each had 5 minutes to explain our idea and design. I got a lot of really enlightening feedback, such as adding a profile page so users can track how much and where they are making a difference. People also wanted a collective community page, where they can view ratings and recommendations of organizations and events from other users, as well as make recommendations of their own.

Final Preparation: After considering feedback from my partner and the five prospective users, I sketched out a final paper prototype. I decided to add a profile page but didn’t add a community page, since Amin doesn’t use social media and isn’t swayed by other people’s opinion.

The Final Design:

When the user opens the app for the first time, he has to create a new account. The app will prompt the user to select topics he’s passionate about. Based on the user’s preference, a list of organizations will pop up. The user can select organizations to follow and/or donate to. After that, the user can set up recurring donations from 1 cent to $25, and choose the frequency in which he wants to donate. The user can then link his bank account to the app.

After completing setup, the home page will pop up. The section at the top summarizes the total amount he’s donated. Below that, the home page is split up into three sections. The first section is “News & Updates”, which updates the user on organizations he’s contributing to. The second section is “Events Near You”, which helps him find events nearby based on his interests. The last section is “Discover”, which helps him learn about new organizations and campaigns. There’s a menu in the upper left hand corner, which leads to the user’s profile page. The profile page tracks how much the user has donated and topics he cares about. It also shows events the user has saved and possibly wants to attend.

Result: I showed my final design to Amin and he was really enthusiastic about the app. He was surprised I was able to get to the root of his problem and conceptualize it in three days. I was pretty surprised myself ☺️.

Next Steps: I’m curious to see if this app would be meaningful and useful to other people, not only Amin. I would love to do more user research and usability testing on a wider and more diverse group of people. I also want to explore the idea of a “community page”. The idea that users can connect to like-minded people who share the same passion is really appealing, and I would love to see what impact it would have.

Self-reflection: Writing this retrospective made me realize how important my own design process is. I wish I had been more aware of the entire design process from the beginning and taken notes on WHERE I got my epiphanies and HOW I connected the dots. I need to be aware of my own observations and each step I take to get to the final prototype. For future projects, I will pay more attention to my thought process and make sure I notate everything so I can internalize it. The following are questions I will explore as I start honing in on my own design process:

  • Where am I seeking inspiration? Why did it resonate with me?
  • Where did I get this epiphany?
  • Why am I exploring this opportunity?
  • How am I connecting the dots?
  • Why am I changing this? Why am I making this adjustment?

And I’ll be writing down EVERY answer and observation in the next project. I’m learning that it’s how I come up with the design that’s the key to my success, not just the design itself.

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