Our Task

The Team was tasked to introduce a way for users to:

  • Donate money via the Venmo app to causes that the user cares about
  • To strengthen the organization’s brand by offering options for social impact

We broke down our situation into a ‘problem statement’, we were able to understand how to tackle the users challenge.

The user would like an easy way to send money via the VENMO app to organizations they care about.

We believe that by introducing a way for VENMO users to send money through the application to organizations they care about, we will cause customers to increase their monthly donation trends.

We will know this to be true when we see donation transactions come through the VENMO platform.

Project Details

This is a story of how we applied user focused research, collaboration and unwavering customer focus of Agile UX to deliver successful results on a tight schedule.

Venmo is a simple payment app with over 40 million users that enables people to quickly send money between friends and family. 

  • Client: Venmo
  • Category: Donation, Prototype

UX Design Team

  • Elyssa Cohen (Visual Design & Research)
  • Lucas Oliveira (Research)
  • Mike O’Reilly (Visual Design & Research)
Design Thinking –

We used a design thinking approach for the entire process

What Next? –

Project Objectives:

  1. Define how the users will use Venmo to donate
  2. Learn how easily integrate the donate function into the app
  3. Sketch to test my ideas.
  4. Build a prototype for testing design.
  5. Implement my ideas in the final project.


Interview Objectives

Interview Objectives:

  1. Define how often they use venmo
  2. Define how often they donate to causes
  3. What kind of causes do they donate to
  4. What helps them build trust with organizations
  5. Define how they currently donate to causes. What tools and approaches they use.

Target audience:

  • Male and female
  • Different level of experience using apps
  • Different income brackets
  • People who donate often and occasionally

User Interviews

We started the research process to clearly understand why and how users would interact with this app to donate to causes.  We observed the interviewee and asked what goals they are trying to achieve and how they would go about the donation process. 

  • Set up interview objectives, target audience, and questions before conducting the interviews.
Mike Design Studio
Affinity Mapping –

Click on image to preview

Results from interview pull quotes

The “I” statements we pulled from affinity mapping. 

  • I donate once a month or more
  • I donate based on my monthly budget
  • I research causes that I support
  • I donate to causes that I trust
Comparative Analysis –

We learned that the only other payment application that gives the user the option to pay and donate in the same app is PayPal which is a sister company to Venmo.

Participatory Design –

We did an initial participatory studio to learn if the icon based app should include microcopy to assist the user with app learnability.  We asked a brand new Venmo user to walk us through paying a friend. Through this research it was clear that the user was able to easily pay a friend from where to click the icon.

Venmo Screenshot
User flow chart –
venmo userflow chart

Click on image to preview

We created a user flow based on the feedback from the participatory design studio and the research synthesis to help the user best accomplish the task of donating to a cause.

Through the participatory design studio we were able to detect moments that the user loved, to maintain them or even make them better.

App Map –

We created a sitemap based off the flow chart prior to sketching.

Design Studio –

Our next challenge was to begin designing the Venmo app. We began by prototyping our ideas in the form of a rapid design studio. Five minutes of drawing followed by discussion and reiteration. Agile methods were key in our process of developing and testing the idea with the user.

We learned through testing that the user wanted the donation function to be integrated seamlessly into the app to keep with the same learnability as the current app.

Mike Design Studio
venmo design studio
venmo donation app final sketches
Sketch Iterations –
venmo sketch revisions

Click on image to preview

Through more user testing we discovered that people wanted an “Add Honoree” feature to the donation process.  They also wanted to make recurring donations, as well as an invitation button to invite friends to donate to a cause.

Users wanted an easy way to know if they could trust where their money was being spent within the organization.  We added a pie chart visual element to the description of each organization to educate the user of the financial performance metrics to validate the charities score based on the data provided by “CharityNavigator.org”.

High Fidelity Prototypes & Usability Tests –

We designed and tested the high fidelity prototypes. Below are mark ups based on the usability tests. 

Usability tests –

We made the changes from two rounds of usability tests and sent out a survey to 50 people to ask feedback based on the follow user scenario:

You are an avid believer that plastic needs to be removed from the ocean. Straws are killing the sea turtles. Since learning all that, you have become a monthly supporter of Sea Turtle Conservancy organization. You have recently received an email from them letting you know that you can set up monthly support directly through VENMO. Please go on VENMO and find the Sea Turtle Conservancy organization and set up your $50 monthly donation.

After we received the quantitative data back from the surveys we learned that the usability score was 72 based on the SUS scale

Final Design –
What’s Next? –

Donate to a random cause

Our area of focus for the future would be to design a way for people to randomly find causes through the use of a randomizer feature.  This would address the people that wanted to donate to a cause but didn’t know of any to donate to.

The user would either shake the phone to spin the categories to find a cause or tap on the “Spin Categories” button. The randomizer would randomly select a cause based on the location of the cause and type of cause.

Venmo Case Study