Anything Helps

An App Design Case Study
View Prototype


Anything Helps is an app developed to empower users to donate requested items directly to the homeless. Using a combination of wish lists, location services, and local partners, users are able to sponsor items that are exactly what they need.  Users can find people to donate to by finding their approximate location on a map either by viewing their own location and seeing surrounding participants in the app or by searching a specific location.  Individuals found have a biography to add a personal element as well as a wishlist of items built out by the person in need.

My Role

UX Researcher
UX Designer
UI Designer

Research Approach

Sensitivity and respect were important to me throughout this project, particularly during the research portion. I conducted several interviews with people who had experience living and interacting with urban environments on a regular basis, encountering homeless individuals on some level.  I tried to keep these discussions objective and impersonal, asking the participants to speculate on how others feel when encountering the homeless and what barriers might prevent people from giving more. This format distanced the participants from their own possible guilt and allowed room for honesty. Powerful insights were distilled from these interviews:


believed that an impersonal distance or lack of emotional investment in a homeless person prevents people from giving more.


believed people do not give more to the homeless because they fear for their own safety.


believed the homeless could benefit from direct, specific donations such as food, clothing, or other common resources.
Understanding these thoughts and motivations helped me craft a user persona to better understand who I’d design a solution for. A young professional who wanted to give but was unsure of the risks of physical encounters best summarized the stances of my target audience for various reasons.
Confident with my understanding of user needs and motivation, I wanted a firmer grasp on industry standards for the service and features that I wanted to offer in this app. Donations were an important part of this project as well as creative ways to connect users with the homeless with the option of not having a face to face encounter. I was also interested in existing apps that helped the homeless in other ways and examine what they were doing right.
Having user needs narrowed down and strong features in mind, bolstered by a competitor analysis, I sorted through the features I wanted to focus on for Anything Helps. To add some clarity to what features would impact the user experience the most I built a task flow for a typical user who wanted to donate to a homeless person they identified via map.


I wanted to capture a logo and a style that resonated with the emotion of giving modernized into an original app. My audience would be savvy mobile users familiar with other services done such as finances and booking vacations and would expect a similar style of interface. I set to sketching out ideas, ranging in complexity to help with my own brainstorming.
I decided to go in a simple direction, lending to a design that was simple yet effective. A word mark with a discernible heart icon would make it scalable to any size needed, only associated a single color with it to make it easy to switch to any palette as needed. The standard brand color would be a saturated blue to capture a calming emotion associated with a tech focused solution.

Design Approach

Looking at the research results, it was obvious to me that an app designed to help the homeless would need to make it as easy as possible for a user to understand a person’s story and material needs. I immediately thought of a design centered around an informative map, allowing the user to select individuals to donate to based on approximate locations. I wanted a user to be able to quickly pass through an urban environment, see someone in need,  and immediately be able to identify them on the app in order to sponsor a donation.

Taking inspiration from real estate apps and vacation booking interfaces, I set to sketch a UI that provided intuitive insight for location based data.
I moved onto high resolution wireframes using a similar layout to what i sketched for the location mapping but decided to take a more card-based approach for the donation list. It became important for me to provide the user with an easy way to access someone’s personal bio if they wanted to read it as it was important to have an emotional investment in the person being donated to.

Usability Testing

After my MVP was mature enough for testing, I set out for users to complete one task that took them from start to finish of a typical use case for this app.

“You’ve just exited the Retro Room Salon and Lounge and saw a woman on a corner asking for money. You ignored her and walked about two blocks and decided you’d like to help. You downloaded this app and decided you’d like to donate a t-shirt and a pair of glasses.”

Users were not only massively successful in completing this task, but were enthusiastic of the implied usefulness of the app as well.

2 min 24 sec

average completion time per user.

Less than 6%

miss-tapping on navigation items within the app.


Using feedback from testing results, tweaks were made to enhance the navigation features of the app. To address concerns of complexity of navigating the app, back buttons were added to the beginning on-boarding screens to help review information. Notifications for cart additions were also enlarged to make it more obvious to the user that additions were made as well as default quantities of zero for donation items to avoid confusion as to what's already been added to cart.

Next Steps

This app in it’s current designed is only meant to address specific item donations to individuals. I’d like to expand upon this by building in enhanced donation features for shelters and non-profit organizations, a subject that frequently came up during my interviews.

In addition to the donating user, this app would also have to be designed from the perspective of the receiving user, which would include an interface that would make it easy to edit one’s own biography and wishlist.  This side of the app would also have to be, in my ways, more dynamic and custom in the way that a person in need could specify a size for a piece of clothing or a prescription for a pair of eyeglasses. This would take close coordination with partner organizations that would provide the donations once fulfilled.