Scrapp wants to empower its users with the knowledge to make informed decisions about where their donations will make an impact that matters to them. It also seeks to address the ease of donating, which has been shown to be a barrier.
Research indicates folks are not concerned with where their used items go. They are more concerned about the ease of donating.
How might we make it easier to donate clothes and inspire people to be more intentional about where they end up?
Mismanagement of used textiles has a significant environmental impact. The recycling rate for all textiles in the United States is about 15 percent. For textiles in clothing and footwear, it’s even lower: 13.6 percent.
Ha-Brookshire and Hodges (2009) looked at social responsibility as a motivator for used clothing donations. They found that discarding used clothing was usually prompted by the need to make room for new clothes—not an altruistic want to “give back”. This critical insight was the first indication that we could not rely on altruism alone. Our product had to be convenient too.
Our new hypothesis: if we can bring people on-board with convenience — and we can meet that need — we will have a platform to use to also inspire them to donate more consciously.
Donation apps are not uncommon, but our comparative and competitive analysis showed that certain trends dominate.
Many larger organizations have created apps to help schedule pickups or to direct donors to drop-off sites. Map-based apps help donors know where there are donation locations nearby.
None of the apps focus directly on the ethics of the organizations. We also found it hard to know what was accepted at drop sites vis-a-vis existing apps.
Having identified the competition, we wanted to understand more about the problems the vocal minority were raising online with them. Much of what we discovered online mirrored the views expressed during our user interviews.
Online, reviewers often voiced frustration about the lack of information regarding what donation sites did and did not accept. One reviewer from Brooklyn said of a local Salvation Army drop off point:
“My items were too heavy to carry on the subway so I paid $20 to uber down to the donation center to donate clothing only to find they couldn’t accept any more donations. This should be advertised online so I wouldn’t have wasted money trying to give a donation that wasn’t accepted.”
“Donations are refused an hour before closing… don’t come!”
We interviewed ten people living in New York City who had identified themselves as people who have donated their used clothing in the past.
Learn about their current solutions
Learn about annoyances with their current process
Learn what motivates them to donate.
Our users were primarily motivated by the need to declutter or make room for new items in their wardrobe. This primary motivation was the catalyst, but there were other contributing layers involved around guilt felt when items went to waste or landfill. In that sense, ethics were another motivating factor, particularly around the goals of the not-for-profit repurposing the goods. Finally, the value of the items was also a motivating factor for our users.
Our users described several current solutions to their clutter woes. Often it gets hoarded or ignored until it just becomes too much. Some items are given away to friends or family. Items were left on stoops or in hallways for others to pick through and take. Sometimes items were discarded to a landfill. Sometimes goods made their way to a donation site. At times users would seek value for items that were perceived to still be “of value”.
The number one annoyance for our users was around transporting items to donation sites. They also complained about knowledge gaps around where to take their stuff and who would want — or refuse — it. Some of our users also expressed concern about the underlying ideology of the charity receiving the goods.
Our users told us that they love getting rid of the clutter in their lives. Some of them loved making a social impact and others were more focused on the environmental impact of waste to landfills.
Our users need convenience over everything else. Its the biggest barrier and cannot be understated. It came up again and again in our interviews. Regardless of ethics, most donors want to drop goods close to home.
Some users don’t want to donate. They prefer to trade their used goods or re-sell them. Others won’t donate to causes or charities that are discordant with their moral code or ethics.
Here is some insight into how we built our initial personas using the data we extrapolated and abstracted from our interviews.
Our trader persona was dropped because although some of our users expressed a desire to sell or trade their used goods, we had to prioritize and narrow the scope of our project. Our social do-gooder type was combined with our environmentalist, eventually becoming “Doff”, our (drop it off) personality. Refining our personas enabled us to design for everyone, without it becoming too crowded.
This user is motivated purely by convenience. Their used clothes often go to a landfill because they are too busy juggling a young family and work to concern themselves with such things.
They care about the environment but heard many donations end up in landfills anyway. They also know that donation sites only take certain things—refusing others.
“I need a pick up service“
“Someone who will take everything, not just certain items”
“Carrying bags on the subway takes energy and it’s a lot to carry.”
“I’m incredibly busy. I just don’t have time.”
This user is most interested in avoiding waste to landfill.
They want to recycle, upcycle, bicycle.. all of the cycles. They are motivated by reducing their carbon footprint.
This user loves feeling like their donations go to a cause they support but they want to know where their donation will end up.
“I would like to know who needs what”
“I won’t donate to any religious charities who promote an anti-lgbtqi+ agenda. I need other options and it needs to be clear”
“I struggle to find drop off locations”
“No easy way to see the philosophy of a donation site.”
After conducting interviews, we discovered that we had some false assumptions about donors. Initially, we believed that donors would choose donation centers and causes based on ethics and accountability. We discovered that all of our interviewees based their donations on convenience. Even if they wanted to support causes they simply found it easier to donate to the closest drop point.
We assumed that donors would either drive, take public transportation, or walk to drop boxes or donation centers, leave their donations, and continue on with their days. We know users are frustrated by inconvenient drop points but also by not knowing what donation centers accept. One interviewee expressed helplessness not knowing where goods actually end up.
Having an app on your phone that will easily display (list and/or map) where to donate but also WHAT is accepted is key. A huge pain point for donors is not knowing what is accepted where. We also realized at this point that there are definitely niche donation centers. For example, some animal shelters accept used bedding and towels; textile recycling centers accept unwearable items. In this journey, the user is dropping the items.
We completed some usability tests using the Figma mirror app so that users could get a real device in-hand. A heuristic evaluation was also performed using Nielsen metrics.
We learned that we needed to make some changes to our onboarding process, as it was asking too much before a user had really experienced scrapp. “The onboarding is super clunky. When I click on buttons they take me back to the landing page.
There was also some confusion around search and discovery – “This page is confusing. Why would it pop up with saved searches if I’ve never been on this app?”
We received positive feedback on our listing icons that showed what items donation sites accept – “I really love this page! I know who takes what and it’s nice to have the map on the side there. ”
Project managers: Adam Inglis and Nicole Miller-Krezelak.
Research: led by Davira Jiménez, assisted by Nicole Miller-Krezelak and Adam Inglis.
Information Architecture: Led by Nicole Miller-Krezelak, assisted by Adam Inglis.
Prototype and Visual Design: led by Adam Inglis, assisted by Nicole Miller-Krezelak.
CUNY Human-Centered Design Instructor and Mentor: Efrat Yardeni.