About: Bonbids is an online fundraising platform and was created by Monique Giroux in 2016 for people who are passionate about social responsibility. Users raise money to support causes they care about in a way that’s rewarding and addictive while also winning cool things for themselves.
Goal: Our main objective was to increase transparency by showing users where their donations go and simplify the rules of the game. As a result, we streamlined the end-to-end Bonbids experience and users felt excited about outbidding each other because they knew exactly where their money was going and which cause they were supporting.
We wanted to get users to fall in love with Bonbids and make them excited about outbidding each other to support the causes they care about. For the business side, the goal is to always raise three times the value of every item in the auction and increase social shares. They also need to attract more non-profits to the site.
Process: Our design process was a fusion of Google Ventures’ 5-day Design Sprint model and IDEO’s phases of Design Thinking. We did intensive research to figure out what users need, ideate outside of the obvious, created prototypes and tied it all together to tell a compelling story.
My role: Focused on UX research (usability testing, competitive analyses, user interviewing), sketched wireframes and documented the project to keep client engaged throughout the process. Collaborated with Victoria Honey, William Man, and Elexa St. John-Saaltink.
Time frame: November – December 2016. Project is complete.
“Riri is a very engaged and engaging person. She pours what seems to be limitless energy into any project she is committed to. She used her deep understanding of UX research methodologies to pinpoint problems and streamline the end-to-end Bonbids experience. She collected both quantitative and qualitative data throughout and communicated how to best translate them into solutions.
What I appreciate most about her is that she sought to understand beyond my users’ pain points. I’m extremely passionate about supporting causes that are close to my heart, which is why I founded Bonbids and wanted to create an addictive way for people to fundraise for organizations they care about. She went out of her way to understand where my users get their drive and commitment to support causes.
Riri writes for her own enjoyment and went so far as to document the UX process in a live case study. Her writing is vivid and gave me a strong sense of the work that happens behind the scenes to get to the final product. I absolutely recommend her superior research skills as well as her ability to write a compelling story.”
– Monique Giroux, Founder of Bonbids
Background & contextual research
Bonbids launched in 2016 to make supporting causes fun and addicting and eliminate the need to hold in-person auctions. Since auctions are expensive to host and only reach a limited group of users, Monique wanted to bring that outdated experience online where users around the world could collectively participate in fundraisers at any time to support causes they care about.
How it works: Bonbids users raise money for causes by bidding on items they like to try win and them. Each bid is worth $1.00 and they can choose from prizes like gift cards, spa vouchers, popular electronic devices and so on. The catch is, they might be outbid by their friends, who also want to support causes and win items, so users would have to continue bidding until time runs out.
So, what’s currently not working?
- The rules aren’t self-explanatory (good UX should be). The goal is to eliminate the “How it Works” page.
- Monique refers to Bonbids as a game to evoke excitement and did so intentionally because she didn’t want users to think of this like an online penny auction, which has a negative connotation.
- The user groups are kind of unclear.
- There is too much text everywhere. Content overload = cognitive burden.
- The “Terms and Policies” link doesn’t work and users can’t trust websites that have dysfunctional URLs. Anything that breaks rapport with users is not good.
- The home page doesn’t say anything about what the company is about and the heading image doesn’t imply supporting causes.
- There are many features of the game that seem to be useful. They were included to add a sense of competition and excitement but haven’t been tested for its effects.
Competitive analysis: The Bonbids experience can be broken up into (1) fundraising/deals, (2) gaming and (3) social engagement. I looked into products and services with well-designed experience so I could gain insight on how to make it work and find inspiration for the Bonbids redesign.
Fundraising & deals:
Services like GoFundMe, Kickstarter and Crowdrise do an excellent job communicating their value propositions and getting users excited about supporting causes through vibrant interfaces, easy-to-grasp copy and seamless onboarding.
Candy Crush, Pokemon Go and Angry Bird are notoriously addicting. Why? They’re simple and easy to play – the rules aren’t overly complicated but intricate enough to keep users engaged.
Reviewing articles and podcasts on The Psychology of Games was incredibly helpful to hack the human brain and why people do what they do and how that relates to gaming (especially Using Psychology to Craft User Experiences).
There are many social media platforms and ways for people to engage online. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, BuzzFeed, 9GAG, Reddit and LinkedIn are among many. They have sophisticated systems for gathering people with similar interests together.
Nir Eyal’s book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products has a lot of applicable wisdom on the psychology of addictive products that was used in this project.
Users are the protagonists of the Bonbids story. Therefore, understanding their wants and needs was a huge priority.
We started off on the assumption that the two main Bonbids users are the (1) deal seeker and the (2) cause supporter. Monique’s vision of her typical user is:
“A typical Bonbids user is fundraising for a cause they are intimately involved in because that cause affects his/her life. The cause is intimately involved in their lives and has an emotional connection to them. Fundraising is a badge of honor. Community involvement is in the DNA of a Bonbids user. The messaging that Bonbids wants to use is about community giving and a new way of fundraising. Deals, getting stuff cheap is the cherry on the sundae.”
In order to in/validate our assumptions and Monique’s vision, Will and I, as the team’s UX researchers, interviewed a few people that fit into these user groups to understand why they do what they do and how this service would fit into the context of their lives. We also tested the current site to look for their triggers and to identifying their exact points of frustration in the website’s flow.
The questions we asked include:
- How important is it for you to donate to causes?
- How do you find these causes that you donate to?
- What motivates you to donate to a cause?
- How do you feel about sharing your donating activity on social media?
- Can you tell me about the last time you donated to a cause?
- Could you share any frustrating experiences you’ve had when donating?
We also asked them to complete specific tasks on the website to find the usability hiccups. They were to (1) create an account, (2) look for an item they like and try to bid on it and (3) outbid a competitor who is also trying to win that item. Here’s the feedback:
- Users loved the concept of “win-win” situations. Even if they don’t win the item, they can rest assured that their money goes to supporting a good cause.
- “It’s fun to frustrate another person. If I were playing with friends, I can see that it would be fun to outbid them at the last moment!” (In a playful tone, of course.) They were excited about the competitiveness behind the game.
- There are a lot of options for things to bid on. Everyone is bound to find something they like.
- Users were even more confused after reading the “How it Works” and “Buy it Now” pages. They couldn’t navigate the site without experiencing frustration.
- Some of the terminology such as bid, auction and causes didn’t meet their expectations. They way they are used on the website differ from their personal definitions.
- “Why do some have robobidders? I thought you could always use it? How does it work with multiple bidders?”
Synthesizing user feedback
After reviewing our findings from the interviews and tests, we gathered together in one room and organized the feedback by common themes through affinity mapping. We grouped them based on categories of pain points and overall confusion and then, rearranged them based on areas of opportunity.
Some of our assumptions about the confusion behind the “How It Works” page and the complex nature of the registration process were validated. Research says that our two assumed user groups were on point. In this process, we also gained insights on other problems that we completely overlooked like the inconsistencies in terminology and lack of transparency.
Creating personas and validating with surveys: Based on our affinity mapping, we created an initial persona of Gary, our deal seeker who likes supporting Kickstarters and other causes but expects things in return. His main goal is to spend less money for items that he wants (even if it means going through the extra hassle of bidding) and knowing that the money going to a good cause is a nice added bonus.
Although we were confident in this persona, we still wanted to explore the other set of users who are passionate about supporting causes. As we continued to do more user interviews, we also conducted a survey so that we have a broad understanding of people who support causes. We learned that everyone donates for the gratification aspect and that receiving items is a nice addition.
Based on the information we got from our surveys, we revised our persona to better match the Bonbids user to Helen, the passive donator, who is all about supporting causes through donations because she doesn’t necessarily have the time to volunteer. She is all about putting in minimal effort while maximizing her support to causes.
Capturing the flow & sketching ideas
We have the feedback and we have the personas. We needed to understand their story. What does their Bonbids journey look like? By mapping this experience, it gave us a visual sense of what goes on and see where users get confused and frustrated. In parallel, we mapped the flow to help us identify the biggest areas of opportunities for redesign. We wanted to replace the frustration with delight and we wanted to find strategic pockets to include buttons to share certain activities on social media. Here is the current flow:
Let’s get this streamlined: Users were the most confused about landing on an auction page without it showing any affiliation to a cause. To make this more obvious, we created a cause-driven flow. A typical user would enter the site through a social media link posted by an organization or a friend. When users click on that link, they are directed to a cause page.
Victoria, Elexa, Will, and I designed separate user flows before meeting together. When we met, we reviewed what we like about each. We evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s designs and then weaved that together into one streamlined powerhouse flow that addresses the most pressing issues. Mine focused on making the payment process while someone else had a great “create an account” experience.
The users' happy path:
We simplified and digitized the end-to-end user flow into this simpler path. This new flow puts the user’s cause of choice at the forefront and removes a lot of features that add confusion, frustration and clutter rather than value to the overall game.
Wireframing: We translated our completed user flow into a rough, low-fidelity wireframe so that we can understand how our redesign would look visually. In the span of 30 minutes, we sketched our own ideas in silence. Through rapid sketching, we delved into the details that could make or break the UX. We were intentional about creating delightful moments for users such as implementing a much simpler login process and providing them with confirmation for assurance.
Uh oh, we failed. In our initial redesign, we slightly changed the rules of the game so that it became a raffle rather than following a penny auction model. Unfortunately, an issue came up and the flow completely failed. Before prototyping, we had a team meeting with Monique to propose our ideas and get her feedback so far. She said that a raffle is a random process, as opposed to a “skill-based” activity. Therefore, it is not a legal way to directly charge customers and for Bonbids to be considered a legal social business.
What did I learn? Learning this was an eye-opener and validated the importance of keeping the lines of communication with the client open. I’m glad we had this discussion with Monique relatively early in the process before we invested any more time into this idea. For future reference, I plan to run through my ideas with clients and seek legal advice regarding potential challenges I may deal with.
Many designers emphasize the value of bringing in non-designer perspectives throughout the process, and not just towards the end when a high-fidelity prototype is built. This incident helped me understand why and gave me the conviction that I’ll never make this mistake again. If I do, I have to take the responsibility.
Back to the drawing board: I mapped out a new flow that incorporates the improved features with the current Bonbids game model. The new flow still highlights the cause and then takes users through a simple, self-explanatory journey to their destination. In this journey, users receive an email from a cause they support (or see a social media share by someone) and lands directly on an auction page hosted by that particular organization. They bid on items they like, create an account, win the item, find out where the money went and is given more opportunities to donate and/or share to others.
Simplifying the flow
Prototyping, testing, iterating
Many users said that the Bonbids experience was frustrating because there were too many features and they got confused. In theory, such features seem to add a sense of competition and excitement but our tests indicated that they confused our users and only made them frustrated. Each should have a major purpose and it was time to do a little feature audit and decluttering.
Can we collaborate on individual prototypes? Our initial approach was to individually work on different screens in Sketch and bring them all together into InVision as one prototype. This collaboration approach worked when we created the first redesigned flow so we naively assumed that it would be more effective and efficient to do the same in Sketch.
The answer is no. We failed again. Unfortunately, this strategy presented several challenges. We were all at different levels of the Sketch program and we all had different interpretations of the flow in the UI sense. As a result, these different screens gave us a lot of visual and conceptual inconsistencies. With limited time, we resorted to using our combined screens and Victoria and Elexa created a rough prototype together in InVision to test with users.
We conducted both remote testing with UserTesting as well as a couple others in-person, interview-style tests. It’s important to test a prototype effectively so I referred to this video on how to conduct user interviews with Michael Margolis, UX research partner at GV (his Medium page is also a phenomenal resource for UX research). Even as UX designers, we have tendencies to overlook the obvious so these tests allowed us to get feedback on how we can incorporate even better features to provide our users with truly magical moments.
Some of that feedback includes:
- “I wouldn’t use this regularly so I would want an option of bidding as a guest.” (This is so important! It reminds me of Jared Spool’s $300 million button case study.)
- “I just kept bidding because it would be cool to win the item and support a cause at the same time.”
- “I don’t like to sign up for websites I won’t use on a regular basis with Facebook.” (Great insight!)
After receiving crucial feedback on our initial prototype from users, along with comments from the client and our mentors, we focused on the most important changes we can incorporate to produce a final, high fidelity prototype. After we failed with the “separate screens, one prototype” strategy, Victoria and Elexa took the responsibility to build the final prototype, while Will and I reviewed the artifacts from this project to prepare a presentation to the client.
Given the technical and time constraints, we couldn’t solve every problem that we discovered so we focused on the most needed features to build a minimal viable product to deliver to our client. Base on the feedback, we incorporated the following changes:
- Allow users to check out with an Amazon account so they wouldn’t have to manually enter their payment information. This also allows users to bid as guests, rather than asking them to create another account with a service they won’t use on a regular basis.
- A welcoming splash page for first-time users and notify them that 90% of the funds raised go directly to the cause. Users wanted more transparency about the business model and we wanted to be as upfront about it as possible.
- Increased, but not obnoxious, opportunities to share on social media. Monique stressed the importance of this because social sharing is how Bonbids grows.
- More notifications on the status of items that users bid on, especially in real-time. Users want to be able to monitor the game and know immediately if they have been outbid.
Let the users do the talking! Our final prototype was received with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. Of course, they also had critiques to share, which we definitely welcome, but there was a quantifiable difference in the level of frustration that they experienced while using the site.
- “I like this! If it’s true, for each charity, they should announce how much of the money goes toward what they say they are supporting. I think that’s important.”
- With the share prize being clear and upfront, it motivated more than 50% of our users to share their activity from Bonbids on social media.
- “You can do one-step registration by paying with PayPal or Amazon, which is cool.”
- “The layout is simple, it’s easy to follow, it flows well.”
- Almost everyone reacted with delight when they saw the upfront disclosure saying things like “I like this” and “Wow!”
- Every single user tried to explore more items from the cause page.
- One user bid on an item, won and then donated the remaining 29 to her cause! That’s dedicated generosity right there.
Finally, and most importantly, our client was very excited about the final prototype we put together. She liked how the website is more transparent about where the money goes and how the flow was simpler and more streamlined.
Recommendations & final reflections
There are plenty of things that could be done to further improve the Bonbids experience. Some of the ways we could extend and expand on this project are the following:
- Iterate on the existing prototype and get nitty gritty about the visual appearance and focus on the messaging, informational architecture and overall content strategy.
- Further research should be performed to improve the experience for the merchants and organizations hosting fundraisers.
- Look into redesigning the gaming experience and figuring out ways we could make the site more addicting to get users hooked on the service.
- Set up a system for weekly newsletters via email to go out so it triggers our users to return to the site.
- Increase transparency about where the money is going and how exactly it is being used.
- A striking value proposition landing page.
- Set up fundraising campaigns and promotions around popular holidays and globally-recognized movements.
And so on. This project presented challenges but being able to hone in on one part of the experience and prioritize that for users made the experience worthwhile.
As a group, we unanimously agreed that the design process involves a lot more work than anticipated. Despite that, we were all feeling incredibly passionate about improving our own skill set so that when we work on our next project, we can design even better solutions. Here are some of our reflections:
1. Roadblocks are a sign of innovation
The design process is full of challenges and roadblocks and it’s tempting to call it quits when it’s not working out the way we want it to. These difficulties, however, allowed us to expand our capacities as designers and forced us to be innovative with our solutions. And the moment we started approaching our roadblocks as manifestations of innovations changed our approach to design.
2. Drive design decisions with data
In user experience, it’s all about performing research and using that to drive every decision we made to take the project forward. When we prepared a presentation of our progress to the client, we made sure that we can confidently back up every decision we made with concrete data that we derived from our research.
3. A lot of research is required
During the research phase, I was taken back to my undergraduate days when I was researching for my senior thesis project. My professors and classmates would often talk about how only about 10% of the research gets cited in the final project. The same can be said about our prototype. This is not because the research was a waste but because it was necessary to build a foundation of knowledge.
4. Have an entrepreneurial mindset
Designing user experiences involve making more business decisions than we thought. Our final solution would need to drive user engagement to drive profits for the business, all while staying within legal limitations. Being entrepreneur-minded helped us make design decisions that were meaningful and ultimately contributed back to the growth of the business involved.
5. Be fearless about failure
There were moments when we’d get caught up in the design process and fixate on doing it “correctly.” We realized that, first of all, there isn’t a correct way but rather what we believe is the most tailored approach to the design challenge. Second of all, we wanted to be flexible about making mistakes, especially early on so that our final product would be significantly better than anticipated.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity of improvement for Bonbids? What would you have done differently than our process and how/why? Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions, comments and/or feedback, I’d love them.