Photo with several people holding hands together

Buy Nothing Project

Design Research | UX/UI
Project Overview
The Buy Nothing Project is a worldwide social movement that focuses on hyperlocal, volunteer-run groups on Facebook where neighbors can offer free items and services to each other with no expectation to receive anything back in return. The purpose of the Buy Nothing Project is to create a gift economy that helps relieve financial stress, creates a sense of community, and allows users to care for the environment by living sustainably.
Currently the Buy Nothing Project relies on Facebook to host its project on. But I wondered if maybe this was not the proper domain to host it, and that there could be a tailored experience that could be created through research and UX Design.
Following the human design process, I conducted a survey that yielded 40 responses, had four interviews, three iterations, and seven total usability testing sessions. From involving the users from beginning to end, I was able to design an app that provided a positive experience that would excite current users and help attract new environmentally conscious users.
Graphic explaining how we have 11 years to change climate change

This project is personal to me, because I became a member of the Buy Nothing Project while researching ways to reduce my own carbon footprint.

I knew the basics:

Too many greenhouse gasses = bad, that climate change was caused by greenhouse gas pollution, and that in reality big corporations have the power to make the real change. But I also knew that we participate in a linear economy and a capitalist society that encourages hyper-consumerism, and that companies react to the demand of the people.

Initial Research
Graphic explaining how climate change affects the earth

Currently, we live in a society that encourages hyper-consumerism, and a linear economy. In this kind of economy we take virgin materials, produce goods from them, consume them, and then discard them causing a lot of waste in our landfills.

Linear vs. Circular Economy

However, the Buy Nothing Project encourages a circular economy. In a circular economy, markets are given incentives to reuse products, rather than discarding them and having to extract new resources. This way of life is ultimately what will bring the change we need.

Linear vs. Circular Economy continued

I created a survey that had answers from over 40 survey takers. This survey helped confirm my assumption that my target audience was Generation Z (18-24) and Millennials (25-40). That's not to exclude other generations, however these generations would be most interested in my end product.

Other questions on my survey included how users felt about their status of environmental consciousness, whether they considered themselves budget conscious, and their feelings of community.

Survey Results

Feeling overwhelmed when scrolling through their group and wishing that items were organized.

Wishing the group was educating users on how to become more environmentally conscious.

Users worrying about their safety, and ensuring those they were meeting up with were legit.

Major takeaways from my interviews included:

Pull quote from an interview

A User Persona and Empathy Map were created as a result from survey findings and interviews. Major takeaways included that our user didn’t care to be a part of Facebook anymore, and they really wished that other users of the Buy Nothing Project were aware of how big of an environmental impact they were making, and if there was a way for users to care more about the environment.

User Persona & Empathy Map
A graphic with User Persona details
A graphic with Empathy Map details

By creating a Journey Map , it’s clear that the process of becoming a member is overwhelming and confusing, which could deter potential users. This process has a lot of unnecessary steps that could definitely be simplified.

Journey Map
A graphic detailing a journey map of a Buy Nothing Project user.

Starting with low fidelity paper prototypes allowed me to thoroughly test and reconsider my user flow while easing the pressure from my users.

Paper Prototypes & Usability Test 1
A graphic with sketches and usability testing quotes

Moving on to wireframes and making it interactive made it easier for my users to envision how things will look digitally.

Wireframes & Usability Test 2

The updated Journey Map shows how the flow to sign up has removed redundancies, and allows the user to jump into the project quickly.

Updated Journey Map
A graphic showing a simplified journey map
Final Outcome - Onboarding

In interviews, I uncovered that several users were concerned about their safety, and wanted to make sure that the people they were meeting up with were trustworthy. This inspired the feature of requiring identity verification to ensure the safety of all users.

Final Outcome - Searching

Several users mentioned they wish that the content on the Buy Nothing Project was organized better, and wished they had a way to search through items. To help out my users, I created a way to search and filter through items.

Final Outcome - Giving & Asking

I created a visual cue between Gives and Asks by assigning them a specific color. Based on a user suggestion, to reduce redundancies, I implemented a feature that would alert the user when a similar item that they were asking for was already in the feed.

Final Outcome - Profile

The Profile section shows how your contributions to the Buy Nothing Project make a positive impact on the environment, which was a huge request from my users. This also reinforces the Buy Nothing Project’s mission by including features that show they care about relieving financial stress, creating a sense of community, and allowing users to care for the environment by encouraging a sustainable lifestyle.

Final Outcome - Community

Users in interviews mentioned that they felt the sense of community that the current Buy Nothing Project encourages, feels forced. Considering the users, and inspired by a user who offered a free little library on their property, I created a feature that would show how neighbors nearby are contributing to their community.

Final Outcome - Animations

Adding animations to the final design helps to create a layer of delight and fun for the user, keeping the experience of using the app inviting and exciting.

Try the App

To experience all of the features of the app yourself, feel free to interact with this prototype. Or click here, to open the app in a new window.

detail of an iphonedetail of an iphonedetail of an iphonedetail of an iphone
Lessons Learned

“You are not your user” holds so much truth. Even though this project started because of my personal qualms with the Buy Nothing Project, so many features and the overall flow of this app came from involving my users from beginning to end, as well as listening to and understanding their struggles and goals with this project.

With More Time and Resources

I would do more research on finding an actual way to track your carbon footprint, and perhaps partner up with another non profit organization that does just that to help make the Buy Nothing Project more legitimate and ease the minds of the users.