ACLU "Purchasing Power"



For this project, we went through the entire process of creating a new mobile app for the ACLU, called “Purchasing Power.” We wanted to create an app that had the primary purpose of doing some social good and we were excited to do a project for the ACLU. The following document details our process of researching, designing, and testing this app in order to create the best possible experience for our target users. 

Please note that any information available about the brands within the prototype is fictional and only for the purpose of our usability testing.


Android Native App Concept

Tools used
UX/UI Designer, Researcher
Passion Project, 2 Week Sprint
Sketch, Illustrator, Invision, Keynote Pencil & Paper
How might we empower value driven millennials to efficiently make well informed purchases to increase capitalist engagement?
Socially conscious Millennials

While the ACLU currently does not have a way to look into the values of a specific company, we thought they would make a good partner for our app idea. We felt this way because of three major reasons: 

The ACLU has a long history of defending people, regardless of race, gender, class, or political affiliation. They are seen as strict adherents to the law and generally non-biased.

The ACLU has demonstrated a commitment to educating the public about important social issues. Their spending on education has risen from $21 to $28m in the last year alone.

The ALCU has already ventured into the world of mobile applications with the “ACLU Blue Light” app designed to empower users to document unlawful abuses of power by the police.

Home Screen
Set Personal Values Screen
Company Values Screen
Menu Screen


User Interviews

Market Research

Heuristic Analysis

User Reviews Analysis


Persona Creation

Potential User Flows

Information Architecture


User Flows


Clickable Prototype



Feedback Sessions

Feedback Analysis


User Flow Refinement

Sketch Mockups

Invision Prototyping




Color Palette

High-Level Process



We knew that for an app like this, we needed to speak with people who make their purchase decisions in a way that are at least somewhat influenced by their personal values. Our strategy was to utilize a variety of research methods to learn how people like this inform themselves before making a purchase decision.


We broke down our research process into the following steps:

Send out a screener survey to a large group of people to find users who strive to make ethically informed purchases

Conduct user interviews with people who screened in from our survey about how they inform themselves before a purchase decision

Create user personas from synthesized interview data that represent our target audience that will inform our design choices

Conduct a full competitive/comparative analysis of other tools designed to research the ethics and practices of a company

Prioritize features based on research findings to determine what needed to be included in our minimally viable product (MVP)

Screener Survey

Our first step was to send a screener survey to a large group of millennials to find people who potentially would be interested in our app. A few of the qualifying questions included:​

  • Have you ever chosen to do or not do business with a company based on their values or political stances?

  • Which values are important to your purchasing decisions (e.g., labor practices, environmental practices, political stances/alignments)?

  • Do you use a credit/debit card or cash for most of your purchases?

User Interviews

Our next step was to conduct user interviews since it was important to speak with people who make their purchasing decisions based on their personal values. We also wanted to learn how people typically research a company and which platform they use to do so.
Male: 3
Female: 3
Smartphones: 4
Desktop browser: 2
RNG: 22-30
AVG: 25
Google Search: 5
Specific Site: 1

Key User Interview Insights

After completing our user interviews, we sat down and created an affinity map to synthesize our findings. We plotted over 90 different insights into similar groupings until we could extract some key insights.


  • 5/6 Stated that they are frustrated by Google search results being contradictory when looking up info on a company 

  • 5/6 Would use a mobile app to look up companies quickly if they trusted the source

  • 6/6 Told us that certain issues of personal importance have more weight than others when deciding where to give their business


A major recurring theme was that people want to make purchasing decisions that align with their values, but it is no easy task. They felt that there is a lot of conflicting information out there and it is very difficult to stay up-to-date on the latest news.

User Persona

With our synthesized interview data, we created user personas that represented our target audience for whom we'd be designing.

Competitive Analysis/ Feature Prioritization

Finally, we conducted a full competitive analysis of many of the other online tools and resources used to research the ethics and values of a company. We found several but they all had numerous issues with being biased and not comprehensive enough.

We also looked at organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and CivicUs because they have similar social-good goals while also striving to educate the public.


After mapping all of the features from these companies and organizations, we used the MoSCoW method to prioritize which features needed to be in our minimally viable product (MVP).

(Please refer to pages 12 - 17 of our research report for more in-depth info.)


Once we were confident in our research and insights, it was time to start designing! We knew what had to be in our MVP to allow our users to make ethically informed decisions. We also looked at other reference tools like IMDB, Flixter, and Yelp to get inspiration for the aesthetics of our app.

Of course in UX, you don't just design and "throw it over the fence." Our process was to constantly design, test, and iterate in order to ensure that we were creating the best possible experience for our users.


User Flows/ Task Flows/ User Journeys

We started by designing user journeys to help us better visualize how our primary persona, Emily, would educate herself about the values of a specific company. It also showed us the steps leading up to and following her interactions with our tool. Next, we created task flows and user flows to further detail how people would interact with and navigate our site. Finally, we created a sitemap for our app to give us a better understanding of all the paths within our site when creating a prototype. 


Finally, we began wireframing! We started with low fidelity frames in a design studio and moved all the way up to high fidelity. In total we ended with 1 mid-fi prototype, 2 high-fi prototypes, and 2 rounds of usability testing. 

In this section, you will see several key screens from our mid-fi wireframes compared to our final high-fi wireframes. Our usability test process and methodology is further discussed in the next section.


As mentioned in the previous section, we ran two rounds of usability testing, one in mid-fidelity and one in high-fidelity. These consisted of asking 5 different users to complete 3 tasks that were informed by our personas and user journeys. These tasks represented how we expected people to primarily use the Purchasing Power app. Abbreviated versions of the tasks we asked users to complete are:

  • Find Nike's company page

  • Create a profile and see which companies align with your values

  • Set a new goal

Some of the larger changes are shown in the wireframe annotations in the design section. For a breakdown of the full test and a complete list of iterations, please refer to our specification document.


We added in a "search results" page because users thought it was unusual to not have in case of misspellings
Put in pop-up alerts to help confirm that users had successfully shared socially, set a new goal, created profile
"Info" changed to "ACLU" to make it easier for users to find info on the app. Bank privacy assurances added


In the end, we were very satisfied with the results of our testing and subsequent iterations. We saw strong improvements over all three tasks and by the end, no fail rates at all.


Users told us that ACLU Purchasing Power was easy to use, credible, and would make it easier to quickly research a company's values. We felt successful in our goal of creating a useful app that would help our users make better-informed, ethical purchases.


This project had a lot of interesting twists during our process. Firstly, I had very strong feelings about what our solution should look like from the very beginning and so learning to overcome those biases was difficult but very rewarding as I later found out. Perhaps the most interesting lesson during this however was getting a feel for when a product or feature is done, or at least as done as it is going to be before it needs to be handed off. 

Through this project i've learned to listen not only to what the users are explicitly saying with their words and actions but to listen for their hesitations and what they are not saying as well. 

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© 2019 by Kemberly Eliscar