Case Study: American Heart Association realizes 60% increase in Online Donations

Situation Overview

The American Heart Association is one of the leading Nonprofit institutions for education and research on heart disease and stroke in the world. Like most large nonprofits, American Heart Association’s online donation site has become an increasingly vital part of the organization and they realize the need to understand how well their visitors are able to use the online donation process.

In the summer of 2005, American Heart Association management became concerned about the percentage of site visitors entering the online donation section and not completing the donation process. This concern, combined with the prospect of potential donors being financially drained by the unusually large number of events calling for charitable contributions for disaster relief throughout the year led American Heart Association to investigate how the site was being used and look for ways to improve the design and functionality based upon user research. After completing web analytics the American Heart Association contacted Usability Sciences Corporation for a solution.

In order to address the problem, American Heart Association and Usability Sciences collaborated to design a research project with the following objectives:

  • Determine the type of individuals visiting the donation section of the website
  • Understand the behavior of the donation section visitors and what contributes to the successful or unsuccessful completion of the donation process
  • Document the problem areas for the donation section
  • Validate design and functional changes before going into development and launch to gauge whether abandonment and failure rates are corrected
  • Develop a list of recommendations for improving American Heart Association’s online donation process

Usability Sciences’ Solution

Based upon the objectives of the online donation research project, Usability Sciences recommended a two-phase approach, combining two proven methodologies. These phases consist of:

Phase 1: Online Research
Phase 1 used Usability Sciences’ Attitudinal Analytics service, driven by a proprietary data collection and analysis technology called WebIQ, to conduct online research. The findings from this phase would identify the most problematic areas of the online donation process and identify the profile of online donors. These findings would be used to redesign the donation site to fix the areas of failure and capitalize on the successes as well as define the focus of the next phase, lab-based testing.

Phase 2: Lab-Based Usability Tests
Usability Sciences’ Lab-Based Usability Testing methodology was used in order to gain a depth of understanding on how users interact with the online donation section as well as validate design and functional changes in a prototype build from learnings gained from the use of WebIQ and other web analytics.

Online Research Findings

Findings from the Attitudinal Analytics research conducted for American Heart Association’s online donation process included:

  • Visitor demographics (who was visiting the online donation section), behavior (how they navigated on the website), and attitudinal (responses to questions about their online experience) data were gathered and analyzed as an integrated set of data
  • The top two drivers for American Heart Association online donation were identified
  • The main points of abandonment; identified and rationalized with user feedback
  • Five specific areas for improvement of the online donation section of the website were identified and used to build a high fidelity prototype as well as structure the lab-based usability testing

Lab-based Usability Test Findings

American Heart Association Online Donation Project Results
Upon completion of the lab-based Usability Test, Usability Sciences documented the test findings with recommendations for changes to the American Heart Association online donation process, based on direct feedback from potential American Heart Association donors. Recommendations included:

  • Changes to the Homepage
  • Modifications to the look and feel of the website
  • Content provided on the site
  • Improvements to the sign-in process
  • Variations in methods and types of donations

American Heart Association’s implementation of the recommendations from the usability tests resulted in the following improvements:

  • 60% year over year increase in online donations the first month following the implementation of the improvements
  • Continuous monthly year-to-year improvement in online donations each month since implementation
  • Increased number of monthly donors
  • Increase in average gift per donor
  • Improved visitor satisfaction with online donation process
  • Increased likelihood to donate again
  • Increased likelihood to recommend donating to AHA online to others
  • Higher appreciation for user research and user centered design in the American Heart Association among all interactive channels and platforms

Online WebIQ Methodology

Assess Root Cause of Problem Areas

  • Usability Sciences’ proprietary technology (WebIQ) was used to gather attitudinal and behavioral data from visitors to the AHA website
  • Data for the American Heart Association online donation project was collected from October ‘05 to December ‘05
  • A total of 738 survey sessions were collected during this period and analyzed using Usability Sciences proprietary VAST analytical tool

Lab Usability

Test Methodology
Gain Greater Knowledge of User Experience Through Lab Based Interaction

  • Usability Testing was conducted in Usability Sciences’ lab facilities in Irving, TX (near Dallas)
  • Ten users participated in one-on-one sessions and performed tasks on the donation section
  • User experience was recorded showing both facial expressions and cursor movement around the donation section
  • All questions and tasks were fully customized and tailored to meet American Heart Association’s business objectives
  • All test sessions were recorded and participant responses and activities were logged by the Usability Sciences Analysis team

About Usability Sciences

Usability Sciences provides clients with insight and resolution to problems users have with their websites, software, or technology products. Usability Sciences has gathered insight into the user experience and has lead the way in usability for more than 18 years. Usability Sciences employs a combination of technologies, methodologies and skill sets to identify usability problems for clients across a wide range of industry segments, all over the world. For more information please Contact Us or call 972-550-1599.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. American Heart Association has been a champion of public health since it’s founding in 1924. The American Heart Association has continued to lead the way in heart research, as well as educating the public about health concerns. For further information visit


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