user experience Posts

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Below is a very thoughtful and interesting review of our website done by Dr. Susan Weinschenk.  It’s almost as though she has been sitting in our User Experience conversations for the last 18 months.  We agree with Dr. Weinschenk’s observations and suggestions, and appreciate her insights.

This is why we are investing a tremendous amount of our 2009 firepower into redesigning the way in which project information gets onto our platform, so that the stories and media can more effectively be leveraged to help project leaders around the world raise needed funds.


Donor’s Bill of Rights

Over the past several years there’s been an interesting change in non-profit sector – as more and more non-profits try to figure out how to use the Internet to leverage and expand their donor base, more and more donors are starting to take a harder look at their giving and asking more questions about why they should give and what their donations are used for. As charities continue to innovate and respond to the market, however, I think that more and more things will change.

Thanks to the success of sites like GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose, and Kiva, people are realizing that small donations can make a huge difference. And, thanks to the Internet, people are beginning to see that their participation on a site can be as important as making a donation. Offering people the ability to review, comment, and discuss the impact that projects have and to suggest improvements, changes, or even alternative charities, reminds non-profits that quality matters. And more importantly, these discussions can happen at scale, be it reviewing the American Red Cross over at Charity Navigator, or reviewing a grassroots project here on GlobalGiving. No non-profit is too big or too small to participate in the discussion.

What’s most amazing about this open, on-going conversation is that it can happen between donors and the people that they are donating to. For the first time, individuals, not large organizations, are deciding where funds should go. This wisdom of the crowds approach is not only more efficient, it’s also a lot more fun for donors.

Classically, people would give their money to a large organization and the only that they’d expect in return was a tax receipt and some junk mail asking them for more money. As we move forward, I think it’s important for the non-profit sector to realize this and to make some substantial changes in the way that they view donors. I think that the changes that we’re seeing is the emergence of a set of “donors rights.”

Some of these rights are:

  • Donors should learn how their money is being used.
  • Donors should have a guarantee of their satisfaction, with recourse in the form of a refund or reallocation.
  • Donors should have the freedom to remix and redistribute information about the causes that they support and non-profits should enable this through open standards like Creative Commons and published APIs.
  • Donors should be allowed to make a donation without their mailbox (or inbox) being filled with junk mail, spam, or bacn.
  • Donors should have an equivalent of customer support, where they can easily ask questions about the charity or how their money is being used and get high-quality answers.
  • Donors should feel valued and appreciated for their generosity, rather than someone to guilt into giving more.

I think perhaps what’s most interesting is that donors already have all of these “rights” in the retail market. If you walk into a store, “the customer is always right.” So why should non-profits be any different?

This is by no means a complete list, so if you think of something else that should be added, let us know in the comments. This is, after all, an open discussion.

Check (This) Out: A New Giving Cart

After six intense weeks of development and thirty cups of Thanksgiving Coffee, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just released a major upgrade to our giving cart. The new version sports a user-friendly design, provides better feedback, runs faster, and most importantly, allows you to make a donation without creating an account on GlobalGiving.

Why did we do all of this? Over the last year we’ve gotten feedback from a variety of users that while they have enjoyed donating to projects on GlobalGiving they wished that they didn’t have to create yet another account on a web site with yet another password for them to remember or write down just to donate $10. We agreed with them.

About three months ago, we kicked off our giving cart redesign project. As one of two web developers here at GlobalGiving, I was tasked with spearheading the project. So, rather than reinventing the e-commerce wheel, I did an in-depth study of what other people are doing with checkout. I looked some of the big names like,, but also at some smaller shops like and Additionally, I studied some of the other sites in our space, like the American Heart Association. We read about the latest research on e-commerce over at and consulted a variety of interface design resources.

Then, we went to the drawing board, coming up with over eight different designs and over 200 pages of paper prototypes. We obsessed about every aspect of the design, trying to make everything as easy to use as possible.

For instance, one of the best things about the new giving cart is the error feedback. Before our redesign, if you had an error, we just wrote a small error message at the top of the screen and you had to figure out how to fix the error. Now, we clearly state what the error is, what you need to do to correct it, and highlight the field that has the problem.

We think it’s a much better user experience and hope that you find it easier to make a donation to your favorite grassroots charity.

So give to your favorite project today (mine is Rescuing Young Girls From Bonded Labor in Nepal) and let us know what you think! We’ll do everything that we can to make the checkout process as easy as possible so that you can stop filling out forms and start spreading the good.