Crowdswell is an online community to crowdfund social innovation initiatives for civic good.

Their online fundraising platform helps move social causes from ideation to realization.


The Crowdswell design was strong and visually cohesive. Even so, users were not creating Swells. Why not?

Prior to selecting a design method, we performed a standard SWOT analysis comparing Crowdswell to its competitors. What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that affect their platform?

The Analysis

We found that Crowdswell is in a good position to take advantage of the increasing popular crowdfunding industry and their design is appealing for the Millennial target audience. One easily understands what the site is about with the help of the introductory video and they offer full mobile version support.

But when compared to competitors, the onboarding process is hard to follow, Swell creation offers no progressive disclosure, and limited regulation leaves room for distrust or fraudulent behavior.

The Method

The Business Origami method provides deep insights into human behavior, including the reasons that govern human conduct.

After interpreting the SWOT analysis, it became clear that the Swell creation process needed to be simplified. Our goal was to make a simplified, friendly and easy to follow task flow that, at the same time, accounted for the needs and expectations of its users.

Not only that, Business Origami is a hands-on tangible artifacts method. It’s easy enough for anyone to contribute without requiring diagramming skills or following any flowchart conventions. Since Crowdswell’s intended audience is NGOs and similar, Business Origami was a perfect fit.

The Business Origami process is quite simple:
  1. Make a variety of paper cutouts (hence the name origami), each representing a different part of a system or service. Including, but not limited to:
    1. People
    2. Locations
    3. Channels
    4. Organizations
    5. Communication Tools

For instance, cutouts of a single person could represent a specific actor and a group of people could represent an organization or community.

  1. Ask participants to arrange the cutouts on a horizontal whiteboard, showing relationships between actors and organizations for a given scenario.
  2. Mark all the possible interactions from one area to another.
  3. Make emphasis on the value exchanged at each interaction.

The result is a miniature model of the user’s journey which can then be mapped into specific features and attributes, ultimately improving both task completion and user satisfaction.

For our research we recruited 7 potential users from a variety of local NGOs and asked them to show us how they obtain funds for their causes. They built and narrated their process, highlighting:

  1. The actors in the organizations that they encounter
  2. The communication tools used to reach out to those actors
  3. How they interact with one another
  4. The value exchanged during their interactions (what’s given and what’s received)
  5. Barriers and obstacles

Crowdswell UX report method image

UX Findings

In order to visually organize the results found during research, we created a user Journey Map that describes the transition from one touchpoint to another

The visualization allowed for us to document the standard journey of launching a social campaign, and ultimately, to improve the user experience by identifying opportunity areas.

With the Journey Map we discovered:
  1. There are two main ways of encouraging audience commitment, depending on the targeted actor:
    1. Individuals respond to emotion; altruism in awakened by highlighting the reality of the cause and by creating a sense of belonging.
    2. The private sector responds to professionalism, with a focus on the formality and organizational scheme of the organization.
  1. Smaller organizations struggle for a chance as the public sector already takes on similar, but oftentimes insufficient, projects.
  2. Organizations and their campaigns are not taken seriously unless they are perceived to be well organized and stable. There exists an incorrect social perception of what non-profit organizations do.

We also used Journey Mapping to define the best way to create a Swell. We discovered that the process of creating a campaign should:

  1. Encourage the audience to move from a simple social activity such as liking or sharing to real action.
  2. Raise awareness through the development of an emotional connection and a sense of belonging.
  3. Project stability and formality through a strong visual identity.
  4. Show the problem’s full spectrum by presenting both the background and the desired solution to the situation.

The UI Solution

Our recommendation is to display the information via a storytelling approach by using a dashboard that prompts the users to complete the process

How the Dashboard Works:
  1. When users click on each one of the eight sections a window will appear at the top of the screen. Sections include:
    1. My Swell (Title, Summary, etc.)
    2. Logo and Branding
    3. Time & Goal
    4. Story & Video
    5. Desired Outcome
    6. The Team
    7. Who can take on this Swell?
    8. Other Ways to Help
  2. The user need only focus on filling out that particular section of the process.
  3. As the user completes each piece of the story, the section greys out and is checked with a green icon.
  4. A progress bar tracks the advance as users move forward on the dashboard.
  5. After completing the dashboard the user is presented with a Swell preview. Changes can be made before launching.

The dashboard’s progressive disclosure design now gives the user a high element of control without overwhelming.

We find three of the sections to be particularly important: 1) Logo and Branding, 2) Time and Goal, and 3) Story and Video.  Each of these sections adds an important element to the Swell: the professionalism and the emotion that are required for audience commitment.

We discovered that many NGOs do not yet have their own logo or branding, which are an integral part of displaying professionalism. The Logo and Branding section would allow for the upload of their current logo or ability to create one.

Clear objectives also display professionalism, an element that is developed in the Time & Goal section where users specify what is needed and when.

The Story and Video section makes telling their own story easy, from the current state of things, to context and background, to the solution. As with logos, video could be uploaded or recorded here.

Finally, we redesigned the Swell display, emphasizing the organization’s logo for reliability. We added a sense of urgency with a countdown highlighting the days, hours and minutes left to go. The video and storytelling take prominent roles in order to create empathy and excitement. The “Other Ways to Help” and “Meet the Team” sections are placed at the end, allowing the user to see how they can become part of something bigger than themselves.

Bring on the Swells!

The Take Aways

People naturally want to connect to social causes. Even so, by creating a sense of belonging and professionalism the campaign has an even better chance of succeeding.

Encouraging users to tell their story using video is a great way to build trust.

Visual identity is important to project stability and formality.

Presenting the process of campaign creation as a storyboard facilitates its completion, allowing users to process information smoothly.

Breaking a problem into small chunks of information makes for effective communication.


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