UX Researcher


A philanthropic peer to peer platform to connect those in need with those who can give. 



A philanthropic peer to peer platform to connect those in need with those who can give. 


Timeline: 3 weeks
Teammates: Po Bhattacharya, Yulin Liu
Responsibilities: Exploratory/Generative Research, Interaction Design
Course: Interaction Design Studio



Every year, natural disasters disrupt the lives of close to 160 million people worldwide. Particularly affected are those in developing countries, where factors such as scarce resources, poor infrastructure, and inefficient government response magnify the disaster's impact. 

When people hear about these tragic events, they often want to help. Many, however, refrain from donating to large aid organizations, remaining skeptical about how much of their hard-earned money is actually going to the person in need.


To address these problems, we designed Sunbeam, a peer to peer platform that utilizes the global spread of mobile tech and a future with satellite Internet to aid disaster recovery. 

A responsive website, Sunbeam rapidly and directly connects donors who want to help with donees who need help: no middle man involved. 


how it works


Our Process

Guerilla Research

"[There was] irresponsible behavior on the government’s part...no immediate response.
[We had] no gas to cook with, no firewood to use." 
-Flooding survivor in India


From quick, informal interviews with a number of disaster survivors, we uncovered that those in developing countries faced some common problems: 

  • A lack of essential resources. 
  • Unsatisfactory government response.
  • Poor infrastructure/utilities.  

We thus decided to pursue exploring a solution for disaster recovery in developing countries. 

Scenario Ideation


With our problem space in mind, we began to individually brainstorm short scenarios in which peer economy based solutions could be used to address user needs during a disaster.

The variety of ideas that were generated as a result of this process helped us identify real-world constraints as well as problems we had not previously considered.


Ultimately, we decided that a monetary-based donation platform would be the most effective way of securing the help victims of a disaster need. 

Persona Creation

Using our research insights, we created two representations of our potential users: the donor and the donee. 


Paige, Age 26


Software engineer in Austin who wants to help others but is skeptical of large charities. 


Shankar, Age 47 Donee


Tea stall vendor in India who lives month to month and owns a simple smartphone.  



Via storyboards, we then envisioned how these two personas could interact using our potential solution. 



Using these storyboards, we conducted several rounds of speed-dating, asking each participant for their thoughts about the solution. Key concerns were:

  • Legitimacy: people could abuse the system, and donations may not be used for the intended purpose. 
  • Unfair advantages: more educated donees could convey their message more effectively and consequently receive more money than others with a similar need. 
  • A lack of communication: more direct contact between the donor and donee could help build trust and encourage further donations.  
speed dating.png

Screen Map


Because we were tasked with designing a responsive website, we then created a map to determine which screens would have mobile and/or desktop compatibility. 

Since people in impoverished regions of developing countries would most likely only have access to smartphones, we decided to eliminate desktop compatibility for the majority of the 'donee' function. 




While creating our rough paper prototypes, we employed a mobile first approach, since the majority of users would access Sunbeam via their smartphone browser.


When designing features, we made sure to incorporate the insights we gained from speed-dating. For example, we implemented a 'contact' feature, in which the donor and donee could communicate and build trust with each other via phone, chat or video call. 


High-Fidelity Prototype


After gaining feedback on the usability of our design, we created a high-fidelity prototype, again taking a mobile-first approach.

We also designed some desktop screens, only creating compatibility for the 'donor' function (as we had decided in our screen map). 


Final Design