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the objective – making the volunteering experience more meaningful for volunteers and more impactful for the causes that matter to them.

my role – UX researcher, interaction designer & visual designer. In a team of 3 for research, solo designer afterwards (class project).

tools – Otter, Sketch, InVision.


Speakable are doing very cool things in the social action space. They use technology to promote civic engagement. For instance, their Action Button allows publication readers to instantly take action right from an article they’re reading. 

As part of one of my classes at Parsons, my assignment was to create a new product in line with their mission. I started in a team of 3, for user research and initial ideation. From there, we came up with a product with 3 key features (targeting donating and volunteering).

We were then tasked to each work on one feature individually. Mine focused on volunteering (more below!).

Initial ideation

Once we had identified our target audience, we got started as a team with an initial ideation session. What should be revisited about the volunteering and donating experiences? What will it look like in the next few years?

A few ideas we generated as a team are:

  • potential volunteers might be worried about lack of direction and uncertainty on what to do and where to go when attending a volunteering event. Leveraging Augmented Reality to support volunteers as they are heading to an event (e.g. where to go, who to look for / speak to in context) could be an element of solution for this.
  • gamifying personal impact to incentivize involvement: the more you donate and volunteer, the more you gain in status within a built-in community.
  • not knowing what happens with the money we donate can be a major drawback. If people could see clearly what their money is going towards and the specific impact it’s making, they might become more likely to donate.
  • in the same vein, could people benefit from a way to track their personal impact through their donations and volunteering records?

Below are some of my sketches from this brainstorming phase.

Identifying the gap

First, I had to understand Speakable’s audience’s current experience with volunteering and donating. How did they go about it? What motivated them? What were some of their thoughts right before or after giving their time or money? My 2 teammates and I conducted user interviews. We recorded and transcribed them using Otter for later reference. From there, we leveraged empathy maps to capture, categorize and prioritize user needs. 

Direction refinement

After synthesizing, we got together as a team and debriefed.

The research validated some of our initial hunches:

  • tracking the impact of donations is both valuable and insufficiently done at the moment- allowing users to navigate by “cause”, as on the sketches above (not by NGO) was a good call- we had noted that donation forms might be too long, tedious, repetitive – and that indeed appeared in the research. The overall process of making a donation or signing up to volunteer online is cumbersome
  • the ego/self-satisfaction element from making an impact is present
    It also highlighted areas we hadn’t considered / incorrectly assessed:- if a feeling of accord between one’s skills and their tasks when volunteering, how about a platform that matches volunteers with events based on their skills and interests?
  • volunteering events needs facilitation on the organizer’s side as well- gamification might not be a priority in terms of target user needs- giving volunteers direction during events shouldn’t mean they are micro-managed.

Resulting features

The key needs that our research revealed were:- Clear visibility over how donations are used and the impact that they make.

  • More alignment between volunteering opportunities and volunteers. It’s much more motivating and exciting to go volunteer when you know that it: 1) supports a cause that is important to you, 2) your specific skillset is needed (versus just anyone with a pulse), right? It also makes it less tempting for the volunteers to bail on their commitment.
  • To enable the previous point, NGOs need a way to specify what they need : be it certain skills for volunteering events, or target amounts of money for donations.

As a result, we made these our features and each picked one to design. Mine was the second: a matching system between potential volunteers, causes they are passionate about, and volunteering opportunities.

User profiles and resulting design decisions 


The empathy maps helped me outline user profiles to refer to through ideation and design. To support that, chose to go for a layout that would communicate the essence of each at a glance. 

Resulting design decisions

Navigation by cause, not NGO – interviewees proved to be much more attached to causes dear to them than to specific NGOs.

Match between volunteers’ tasks and their skills and interests – when volunteering, feeling like the volunteers’ interests and expertise align with their tasks is a major factor of satisfaction. This would also give them the room and confidence to show leadership in their tasks (as opposed to being “micro-managed”).

Highlight personal impact and ROI  – one of the biggest pain points expressed was doubting how much of an impact donating their time would have, how much it would matter.

Designing the solution

With good starting points from the interviews, I make some quick iterations sketching by hand. As they stabilized, I moved them to Sketch and iterated on interaction, and how the different components would work together.

I then got started on a style guide. Speakable’s current product, Action Button uses a bright blue, a hot pink (highlighting the action and impact oriented focus) and a conversational but straightforward tone. 

I used their primary colors and tone as starting points to create a visual brand that feels like the Action Button’s sister: related, but different.

After applying the new styling to my wireframes, and adjusting where necessary, I finalized the key screens of the flow.

I created a clickable prototype and GIFs to easily communicate the product’s flow and value. 

I then presented my work to Speakable’s CEO Jordan Hewson – she had amazing feedback to share (e.g. the donation tracker is a great idea but how about times when donations go towards NGO’s running costs? Will users get the same feeling of making a difference than if the money had gone towards buying blankets for the homeless people of NY? ) and really picked up on the skills –> people <– causes matching. You can have a peek at them below.

My classmates and I all shared our artifacts and recommendations with her and her team for reference in future ideations. I’m looking forward to seeing what other products they come up with in the near future!