CrowdLobby

Designing a new crowdfunding experience to effect change in the halls of state government

The Client

CrowdLobby is a Virginia based startup comprised of former Washington D.C. insiders who are dedicated to problem-solving and empowering the American people. Knowing what variables actualize change in government, they left D.C. to follow their passion. What they created is a uniquely bipartisan crowdfunding platform for everyday Americans to contribute directly to political causes. Unlike other platforms, the aim of Crowdlobby is to fund a lobbyist to work for a specific political cause. Once a campaign has reached its funding threshold of $50K the campaign will become ‘active’ and the lobbyist will work toward that cause for the next 12 months.

The Challenge

Having newly launched their platform, CrowdLobby was looking to optimize the user experience in order to increase contributions to their campaigns.

Team: 3
Time frame: 4 weeks
Tools: Figma, Sketch, InVision, Optimal workshop
Role: Research, Concepting, Prototyping, Usability testing

The Solution

Would you like to see what we created?

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Understanding the Landscape

To gain context my team developed a research plan. We wanted to cast a wide net as we knew both ‘political contributions’ and ‘Crowdfunding’ to be vast and complex domains. We gave particular attention to Crowdlobby’s competitors, donors/potential donors of both CrowdLobby and other crowdfunding platforms, and to understanding trends around political contributions via digital platforms. We gained many insights along the way but let’s clear up one thing first…

Lobbyist

Lob·​by·​ist | \ ˈlä-bē-ist \

Definition of a Lobbyist
: one who conducts activities aimed at influencing or swaying public officials and especially members of a legislative body on legislation: a person engaged in lobbying public officials

(Totally legal, I checked…)

Domain insights

$17.2B
Generated in 2018 through Crowdfunding in America
33.7%
Increase in funds raised through crowdfunding from 2017 to 2018
$300B
Projected crowdfunding market size by 2030
23%
Increase in revenue generated online for American political causes from 2017 to 2018

Competition in the domain

We looked at many platforms geared towards raising funds to examine players in the industry and to help inform the direction of potential feature exploration.

Opportunity!

With only one direct competitor and projections for growth in the crowdfunding space, we recognized the opportunity for CrowdLobby to become the dominant player in their niche.

Learning for donors and experts

After doing preliminary research to familiarize ourselves with the current landscape, we set out to learn from donors/potential donors and experts in the field. We aimed to learn the deeper “why” behind people’s relationship with donating in order to better understand their actions, motivations, goals, and pain points.

Interview insights

1

The majority of interviewees stated the had a personal connection to the cause they supported

"I donated because my coworker sent me the link. She's a good friend and I wanted to support her."
2

People find photos, videos, and personal stories most impactful and need them to connect emotionally

"Watching the videos warms my heart, I could almost tear up just thinking about it."
3

Donors want to feel that their donation will actually make an impact

"Is my twenty bucks actually gunna help?"
4

Transparency and credibility are critical. People want to know exactly where the money is going.

"I fear not knowing where the money goes."
5

Donors are driven to a campaign, not a platform.

"Its like Uber and Lyft, all the platforms are the same."

Defining the Problem

At this point, having a much deeper understanding of the landscape and those within it, we wanted to more clearly define the exact problem to solve for. Having found many opportunities for improvement, we chose to address the most pressing issues with the little time allotted to us. Knowing that the elements that lead people to donate can be very mercurial, we wanted to design something that not only addresses the layout and hierarchy but something that also addresses the emotional body of the potential donors.

Design principles

We created a set of considerations to guide our process, and inform design decisions for the needs of CrowdLobby’s potential donors.

Credibility:
Build users confidence in the effectiveness of funded campaigns so they are more likely to donate to campaigns that are not yet fully funded

Transparency:
Inform the user of every step of the process (including before a campaign is fully funded) about what their money is being used for and the progress being made

Motivating:
Encourage users to participate by empowering them to make a social impact

Emotional connection:
Encourage engagement with the campaign by emotionally connecting potential donors through visual elements, community engagement and well planned messaging

Distilling the problem

Informed by everything previous, we crafted a problem statement to guide our pursuits towards a solution:

Potential donors need to feel personally connected to a campaign and feel sufficiently confident that donating would be impactful so that they will contribute monetarily to a campaign

Exploring solutions

Campaign page redesign

Our focus was to create a modern design with distinct hierarchy as well as prominent visual and informational elements. In addition, we added a personal narrative to the content. We did this to capture the donors’ attention and inspire them on an emotional level. We felt this design was critical to bring their site up to industry standards and to give each campaign its own ‘Soul’.

Design improvements made:

  • Informational and visual hierarchy has been redesigned
  • Campaign specific media had been added to encourage personal connection
  • Host and Lobbyist bios have been added for transparency to who is behind the campaign
  • A personal narrative has been added for the potential donors to connect emotionally
  • A secondary menu was added which includes FAQ, Updates, and comments
  • A tertiary menu was added for quick informational reference
Want to see the original campaign design?
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Usability test results

We A/B tested our design against the original to measure any impact made on how people perceived the campaign, both visually and emotionally. Users were overwhelmingly in support of the new design.

Emotional Connection
Users affirmed having a stronger emotional connection to the design when compared against the original. Users attributed this to the addition of photos and videos paired with personalized messaging.

Perception of legitimacy
Users stated an increase in their perception of legitimacy when compared against the original design due to its more modernized look and structure.

Trust in the Host
Users expressed increased feelings of trust with the new design when compared against the original. This was due to the photos of the host paired with a bio written in the first person.

Roadmap design

We intended to mix visuals and data in order to add transparency to the campaign’s spending plan, along with the overall strategy of the campaign. From the research, we found that donors need to know how the money will be spent so that they feel confident enough to contribute.

Predominant elements:

  • Timeline in months for the entire year
  • Spending budget allocation
  • Chronological list of events
  • Brief description of each event

Usability test results

We utilized the ‘Think Aloud’ method to gain insight into how the design was being perceived by our users. We led them through prompts like, “Think aloud about the design you’re seeing. Can you tell me a little about what it is?”. After this round of questions, we then aimed to gain clarity on how the design might affect the user’s behavior with the campaign after interacting with it. We used prompts like, “After seeing this design, would this make you more or less likely to get involved with the campaign?”. We asked many similar questions to gain the broadest understanding possible. While the overall response to this design was positive, there were critical issues that needed to be addressed in order for this design to truly have an impact.

Transparency
Users stated a much higher level of transparency connected to the new design when compared against the original design. The addition of months, dollar amounts, and a rough timeline were the key elements that created this new perception. Additionally, the user experienced an increase in their sense of confidence in the campaign and in the credibility of the site.

Unclear graph
While users stated that the graph did offer more transparency, they were confused by the layout of the graph and were confused by certain elements of its design, i.e. what each dollar amount represented and why the text spacing was irregular.

Accuracy of plan
Users questioned the validity of the information contained in the timeline. They wanted to know whether this information was accurate and who created it. It wasn’t enough that the timeline was there, they needed to know more about its origins and its likelihood of actually being implemented.

Iteration on the Roadmap design

Informed by our test results, we redesigned the layout of the graph and added infographics to include an element of validation to the design. We added additional information under each event on the timeline shown only in a hover state. Ultimately, we aimed to lower the cognitive load of the potential donor so they can spend less time trying to understand the graph and more time engaging with the rest of the site.

Design improvements made:

  • Reduced the complexity of the timeline
  • Infographics aimed at validating the roadmap and educating the potential donors about the effectiveness of lobbyists
  • Additional information about each event displayed in the hover state

Usability test results

With a new set of users, we ran the same test on the iterated design. First inquiring about the perception of the design, and second, about its potential effects on their behavior. The results showed that we had achieved a solid step in the right direction towards our goal of adding transparency to the campaign page.

Understandable at a glance
All users reported that they had no difficulty understanding the iterated design at a glance and enjoyed the additional information provided under each event on the timeline in hover state.

Lobbyist vetting brought confidence
Users reported feeling confident about the iterated design when seeing that the plan had been vetted by the lobbyist associated with the campaign.

Leaderboard design

We sought to engage potential donors by adding elements of social proofing and gamification. Through the element of competition (who donated the highest dollar amount or referred the largest number of others that donated) we wanted donors to be able to engage with members in and out of their personal network creating a micro-community in each campaign.

Predominant elements:

  • Encouragement through social proofing
  • The ability to ‘put a face to the name’
  • Engagement through competition
  • The ability to refer others to the campaign with a customized link
  • The ability to see both the dollar amount and the number of referrals made

Usability test results

Exactly similar to the Roadmap testing, first we inquired about perception, and second, about the potential effects on the user’s behavior. While the core of the concept showed promise, we uncovered some fascinating insights through the initial round of testing.

Motivating for some
Some users stated the urge to engage more with the campaign. The element of competition led some to say they might even contribute more to get onto the leaderboard.

Sense of Community
Some users stated an increased sense of community around being able to engage with other members of the platform that are committed to the same cause.

Irritating for many
Half of our users stated that they were irritated with the concept of competition being incorporated into a campaign based around charitable giving. They felt that it was not in the spirit of philanthropy.

Iteration on the design

We saw the potential for this concept but knew we needed to make it less polarizing. We designed a second version of this concept informed by our findings. We removed all the elements of competition from this new version and renamed it “Shout-outs” to make it more of a special thanks concept. We also added clarification around the concept of referrals, as some users didn’t immediately understand it.

Design improvements made:

  • Removal of competition
  • Removal of dollar amount and referral amount
  • List order changed to the most recent contributor at the top
  • Added the ability to donate or refer others anonymously
  • Modification of the language
  • Added clarification around the concept of referrals

Usability test results

After updating both versions of our iterated design, we ran an A/B test between the two to see if one was clearly preferred by our users and could help drive user engagement. We also inquired about the potential effects on their behavior after engaging with both designs independently. While the core concept (social proofing) did prove to be emotionally stimulating, our goal of depolarizing the design wasn’t fully achieved.

Social Proofing Confirmed
All users responded positively to seeing others engaged in the campaign. This concept also helped to make the platform more credible and motivate individuals to get involved.

Users still divided on the design
Half of the users we tested enjoyed the element of competition while the other half preferred just to see who else was committing to the campaign.

The solution

Our final design implemented a distinct hierarchy, a modern aesthetic and additional content, allowing potential donors easier access to information that was not previously provided. The design now offers the transparency that donors need and allows them to become emotionally connected to the campaign through prominent and personalized media, community engagement through an FAQ section, updates, a comments section, a financial spending plan called “Roadmap” and crucially, strategic messaging. We have included a pared-down version of our social proofing inspired design called “shouts-outs”, only showing who has donated and listed by the most recent contributors at the top. There is also the ability to donate anonymously. Each campaign on the Crowdlobby platform will now be run by an individual host instead of the stakeholders at Crowdlobby. This way the campaign messaging and media can easily be personalized and representative of those behind the campaign.

Would you like to interact with the prototype?
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Recommendations moving forward

  • Build out the host-side of the platform
  • Further test and iterate on the UI patterns for optimization
  • Conduct further research and testing on the best practices for the implementation of a social proofing concept.

Reflections

The language in interview questions

Language is everything and the power of subtlety cannot be overstated. When working to uncover the intangible elements that affect people’s emotions, every word matters. Although our interview questions were thorough, I found that we had many opportunities to be even more specific with our language in reference to timeframe and the comparison of concepts.

Additional Divergent Concepts

We knew we wanted to incorporate the powerful concept of social proofing into our design. However, we chose to implement a design that was pre-existing and seemingly effective in the field already. In hindsight, this was a missed opportunity to design a concept that would be more suited to CrowdLobby specifically. I believe we should have been braver in developing additional divergent concepts around social proofing.

Working with remote clients

Working with a remote client over video conferencing can be a challenge. Sharing weekly design updates, slide presentations and interactive walkthroughs and workshops in a seamless fashion presented difficulties. This experience was extremely valuable in the sense that whenever challenges arose, we met those challenges and we’re able to overcome them.

Working with a platform whose success is contingent on the emotional buy-in of a donor was a challenge. I feel we met that challenge and I look forward to seeing our designs help our client change the face of American politics.