Organization: AmazonSmile, Amazon
Role: Only designer (UX + Visual)
Problem: Charities needed a place to register for AmazonSmile
Measures for success: Launch & registration completion rate

How I got involved

In November 2012, I attended an informational session about a top secret project at Amazon, which would later launch as AmazonSmile. I was so excited about the program that I approached the team and volunteered my nights and weekends to help them out. Over the following 8 months, I did just that until in August 2013 when they got approval for a full time UX designer position, I was transferred to the team full time.


Much of this process is confidential so this part will be intentionally brief. Initially we were going to incorporate the charity needs into another, already-existing system at Amazon. Soon after we started the project, we realized that building on top of this system would not only be a worse experience for the charity administrators, but also technically harder, than building our own system from scratch. This presented many challenges and opportunities to build an entire Amazon site from the ground up and involved creating several new experiences that hadn’t been done at Amazon before. Without something to leverage from elsewhere in the Amazon ecosystem, I had to invent as I went.

Ideally, I would have started with researching charity administrators directly, who were the target customer, but with the nature of the level of confidentiality for the project, that was not possible. Instead, I researched as much as I could through discussions with friends who worked at non-profits (without revealing confidential information,) and searching the web.

The following features in this project were firsts for Amazon:

  • Website entirely targeted at administrators at charitable organizations
  • Process of claiming a charity
  • Verifying an account via email
  • Verifying a checking account by uploading an image of a voided check


I created click-through wireframes to get us all on the same page and move the project along. It really helped the stakeholders visualize flows and lead conversations that helped us determine the final solution.

Wireframe sketch

High fidelities

One of the biggest opportunities that building our own system gave us was the ability to use a new style for Amazon created by the central Amazon design platform team. One of the challenges was that this new style guide was so new, that there were only components and not yet patterns and best practices to follow. By being one of the first areas to entirely adopt this new system, I got to pioneer the new look and make my own patterns. Along the way, I checked in a few times with the designer who had created the style guide to make sure it was matching his vision.

High fidelity of first step, finding your charity
High fidelity of second step, creating your account
High fidelity of confirmation after verifying your email
High fidelity of page to register your bank account

Usability testing

Although there was no allocated budget or bandwidth for doing usability testing on this top-secret project, I leveraged internal connections I had and was able to convince a user researcher and his intern to volunteer some of their spare time to do a usability study on Org Central. We recruited participants that would actually be charity admins, but protected the secrecy of the project by having them sign non-disclosure agreements.

All participants were able to successfully navigate through to fully register their charity.

The main tweak we made after usability testing was adding a label and tweaked some language to make it even more clear and discoverable that Org Central was for charity administrators only and that to shop to support charity, a customer would use the separate website, smile.amazon.com.


A huge responsibility of this project was making sure that it was executed by the development team flawlessly, and we hit a few road bumps along the way. When development started coding Org Central, they discovered that some of the things they thought would work, actually didn’t when they tried to code it. I was able to respond quickly (even though I had a full time job and was just helping this program on the side) to make quick adjustments, sometimes major ones that affected the whole flow of the site, to unblock the develops and ensure we launched on time. I also tested the site to catch visual bugs that might have been missed by the QA team.


Org Central was ready to launch on time and launched the same time as AmazonSmile on October 30, 2013. We have been extremely pleased with the results of Org Central, including a XX% completion rate of charity administrators that initiate claiming a charity, and have secured XX% charities that have customers supporting them to be fully registered to receive donations from Amazon. (Actual metrics confidential.)

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