Cause Hero

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 createdCause 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.

Suleiman Ali Shakir, Arya M Das, Pavan Purohit & Pooja Gurudatt.

  • 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


Process followed over the 1-week design sprint

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.

  1. What cause(s) do you care about?
  2. Have you taken any efforts towards contributing?
  3. What would get you /others to take action?
Performing user interviews — Rutgers, NJ

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.


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.

Individual member’s idea proposal and discussions

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
We took the best parts from an amalgam of ideas and finally created one single concept.
We opted for a simple Bottom Tabs based navigation, globally accessible from the home screen.

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.

We attempted to tell this story via our app’s onboarding. It also serves as an opportunity to tell users what the app is about, what you can do, what do ‘Missions’ mean and more.
Simple design rules created to achieve a singular branding experience

Final Designs

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.

  • Volunteer for a cause — by going on ‘Missions’
  • Reward System — Points & Badges
  • Grow your Hero — Level up by participating in Missions
  • Leaderboards — Encourage competition

User Testing

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:

  1. How would you join a mission?
  2. Once you’ve joined a mission, what do you do next?
  3. How would you know more about your current avatar (hero)?
  4. Where to see how you’re doing against your friends?


Key Takeaways

  • 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

Experience designer, developer & self-taught artist | Product Design @BuzzFeed |

Experience designer, developer & self-taught artist | Product Design @BuzzFeed |