Andras Bodo

Overview

The colibr.org project was a new digital platform designed to address one of the most pressing issues facing charities and causes around the globe: the lack of accessible and sustainable funding. It was an innovative alternative fundraising solution that blended cutting-edge technology with the spirit of philanthropy, providing charities the means to create and manage their fundraising campaigns effectively.

The initiative encompassed a comprehensive web platform and a free browser extension, establishing a seamless integration between philanthropy and daily online activities. Charities were provided a dedicated space to register and create sub-pages, presenting an efficient way to reach out to their supporters. Users, on the other hand, could support their chosen causes through everyday online purchases at no extra cost. A predefined percentage of their total purchases was donated to the selected cause by the participating brands. The unique feature of the browser extension also allowed users to support causes through ads displayed on new tab pages, even without making purchases. Not only was the project a success in terms of functionality, but it also gained extensive recognition and commendation. It received local and global acclaim, winning the prestigious world summit award in the categories of 'Young European Innovator Winner' and 'Young Innovator Winner'. This recognition was a testament to the hard work and dedication put into making the platform not just a fundraising tool, but a change maker in the non-profit sector.

Background

The covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges globally, particularly affecting the charitable sector. Financial uncertainties led to a significant decrease in monetary donations, as people became cautious due to job losses and an unstable economic climate. Traditional volunteering opportunities were also drastically reduced due to lockdown restrictions. At the same time, charities faced increased demand for their services, escalating the need for funding. In this context of heightened need and reduced resources, it was crucial to devise a solution to sustain the vital work of these organizations.

Vision

Having recently completed google's ux professional course, i was eager to apply my newly acquired skills to a cause that resonated with me deeply. The challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic fueled my aspiration to create a solution that could have a positive impact in such difficult times.

My Responsibilities

As part of a small UX team, I managed a few user experience aspects, including user flows, wireframes, and prototypes. I utilized A/B testing to refine our designs based on real user feedback. I also handled cordination with developers and NGOs, and participated in the creation of visual design elements, creating a unified visual language for our platform. This role diversity provided a holistic perspective, integrating user experience, project management, and visual design.I envisioned a platform that could seamlessly intertwine people's everyday activities with the act of giving, thus enabling them to support the causes they cared about without incurring additional costs or requiring substantial effort. Our aim was to challenge the status quo of philanthropy, moving away from the traditional understanding of donations as a separate, often demanding act.

Research

The research phase was a crucial aspect of the project and involved multiple steps to thoroughly understand the market opportunity, competitive landscape, and the needs of our target users and causes.

Market and Competitive Analysis

In response to lockdown restrictions, there had been a significant rise in online shopping. This presented a timely opportunity to tap into a fast-growing digital behavior. To understand the competitive landscape, i investigated and analyzed existing platforms and was particularly drawn to amazonsmile. However, its absence in Hungary and the cumbersome necessity for shoppers to use a specific link each time they shopped were apparent shortcomings. Further research revealed that over 60% of online shopping occurred through PCs. This insight, combined with the drawbacks of existing platforms, led me to the idea of developing a browser extension. I did a competitor analysis (in the fields of online donation, fundraising, most popular shopping-related browser extensions, and extension best practices) and a strategy canvas to help discover opportunities, areas I needed to focus more, and areas that weren't that important.​​

User and Cause Research

The second phase of the research focused on understanding the potential users and causes for the platform. Through questionnaires, i discovered that the majority of online shoppers were between the ages of 39-65, financially stable, and already supporting or following at least one ngo.

Parallelly, i conducted discussions with various causes ranging from large organizations like unicef hungary to smaller local animal shelters. They confirmed the need for an alternative fundraising platform and expressed willingness to promote such an option to their communities.

This two-fold research provided essential insights into both user behavior and cause needs, forming a strong foundation for the platform's development.

Design

Task Model and Experience Map

In the initial design phase, I utilized task modeling to understand the steps users and causes would undertake during the joining process. This allowed for the identification and correction of potential pain points and inefficiencies in their journey. Understanding the tasks was complemented by grasping their motivations and emotional states at each stage.

To gain a more comprehensive view, an experience map was developed. This tool illustrates the users' emotional journey across multiple touchpoints, encapsulating their feelings, thoughts, and context of their interactions. This approach helped in empathizing with the users and understanding their overall journey, ensuring a smooth, enjoyable experience.

This combination of task modeling and experience mapping served as a powerful tool, informing design decisions rooted in understanding user behavior, needs, and expectations. It helped create a more intuitive and user-centric platform.

Development

The development process for the Colibr.org platform involved parallel work on both the frontend and backend, starting almost simultaneously. Our development team consisted of one frontend developer, one senior developer, and two junior developers. We organized our work using a weekly sprint model and used Trello and Miro for task management and collaborative brainstorming, respectively. Discord was our choice of communication platform to maintain a steady flow of dialogue and cooperation within the team.

The frontend was custom-built, and the backend was developed using .NET Core MVC. For the browser extension's backend, we relied on JavaScript.

Design Implementation

I started by working closely with the frontend developer to ensure that the designs were correctly implemented. We meticulously crafted a pixel-perfect design system and reusable components to maintain consistency and ease of use across the platform.

Backend Development

Once the frontend was established, our focus shifted to the backend development. Here, we encountered a few significant challenges.

- Data Security: Ensuring user data privacy was a major concern, especially considering the sensitive nature of some user information. Solution: To tackle this, we integrated high-standard encryption methods and stringent access controls, abiding by GDPR regulations and best practices.

- Data Synchronization: Keeping the data consistent between the web platform and the browser extension was another technical hurdle.

- Our solution: We built a robust API that ensured seamless synchronization between the web platform and the browser extension, thus maintaining data integrity and consistency.

Through constant communication, collaborative problem-solving, and a user-focused approach, we were able to overcome these challenges and successfully bring our platform to life. Parallelly, i conducted discussions with various causes ranging from large organizations like unicef hungary to smaller local animal shelters. They confirmed the need for an alternative fundraising platform and expressed willingness to promote such an option to their communities.

This two-fold research provided essential insights into both user behavior and cause needs, forming a strong foundation for the platform's development.

Results

The launch of the Colibr.org platform saw a positive response with multiple causes joining to benefit from this innovative form of fundraising. We received significant support in the form of $150k server credit from Microsoft, which further empowered the operation and scalability of the platform.

Our initiative didn't go unnoticed by the global community. The project was acknowledged by the prestigious World Summit Awards, winning in the categories of 'Young Innovator Winner 2021' and 'European Young Innovator Winner 2021'. This international recognition further bolstered our platform's credibility and reach. The platform received significant media coverage, with articles featured in Forbes and several Hungarian news outlets. This media exposure played a crucial role in attracting a wider audience to our platform.


However, as the project was entirely volunteer-based and focused on charity, attracting investors proved challenging. As COVID-19 panic gradually diminished and funds depleted, the project unfortunately had to come to a halt.


Despite the end of the project, while it was operational, it garnered positive feedback from users. Here are a few testimonials that illustrate the platform's impact:

- “Colibr.org has transformed the way I think about charitable giving. It's incredibly easy to use and feels good knowing that my everyday online purchases are supporting the causes I care about.” - John, 42, frequent online shopper

- “The platform is user-friendly, and the browser extension is such a seamless part of my online shopping experience. The fact that it's supporting my favorite NGO is just the icing on the cake!” - Lisa, 57, online shopper and NGO supporter

- “It's brilliant how Colibr.org makes supporting charities so simple. You shop, and they donate. It's charity made easy and effective!” - Michael, 46, an enthusiast for sustainable causes.



Though the project has ended, the impact and innovation it brought to charitable giving during its operational phase were significant and memorable. The platform served as a testament to the power of creative thinking, technological innovation, and user-centered design in making a positive societal impact.

Takeaways

Looking back on the journey of developing and launching Colibr.org, there are several valuable insights and lessons that I have gained, which I will carry forward in my future endeavors:

1. User-Centered Approach: The importance of a user-centric approach in design and development was reaffirmed. User feedback was pivotal in shaping the product and improving its usability. It demonstrated that users are the best critics and that their inputs can significantly enhance the product experience.

2. Adapting to Change: The project required constant adaptation to changes and challenges, especially during uncertain times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a reminder that flexibility and resilience are crucial in any venture, particularly when dealing with factors outside one's control.

3. Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Working with a diverse team, including frontend and backend developers, highlighted the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration. A robust, well-functioning product is the result of different expertise and viewpoints coming together.

4. Importance of Sustainability: Finding sustainable sources of funding and support is a key factor in ensuring the longevity of a project. While we received significant non-monetary support, the project’s sustainability was challenged due to the lack of ongoing financial backing.

5. Significance of Marketing and Outreach: The impact of media coverage in bringing our platform to a wider audience reaffirmed the value of effective marketing and outreach strategies. It underlined the importance of spreading awareness about the product for gaining user engagement.

6. Valuable Impact: Despite the project’s closure, the positive feedback from users and the recognition it received were heartening. They confirmed the significant societal impact that thoughtful design and technology can make, reinforcing my belief in the power of innovation for good.


Overall, the experience with Colibr.org has been both challenging and rewarding, providing me with a deeper understanding of the intricacies of product development. Although it didn't achieve its full potential due to financial constraints, it served as a powerful learning opportunity and a platform to make a difference.

Open for work - collaboration.

Andras Bodo

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