Heal the Bay iOS App

Heal the Bay (HtB) is an environmental advocacy nonprofit located in Santa Monica. How might an iOS app increase total volunteerism, increase the volume of trash collected, and improve volunteer retention?

Project Details


Heal the Bay Nonprofit

Role: Project Manager. As Project Manager, I helped facilitate a UX strategy that was centered around the business needs of the client. Ideated solutions, coordinated team, facilitated meetings, achieving deadlines, concept validation. I also created design guidelines to ensure project was aligned with HtB’s brand identity.

Duration: Research 1.5 weeks. Design 1.5 weeks.

Tools: Sketch. InVision. RealTimeBoard. Illustrator. Google Drive, Slack, & Trello (for project management).

Heal the Bay (HtB) is an environmental advocacy nonprofit located in Santa Monica. Best known for hosting California’s largest annual beach clean up, HtB is also Southern California’s water watchdog. HtB also focuses on habitat restoration; advocacy; education; and the management of the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

In a matter of three weeks, my project team would research, ideate, then develop an app to increase volunteerism with Heal the Bay. Heal the Bay uses both a website and Eventbrite to advertise information and register for events. We wanted to unify and simplify this experience by developing an iOS native app from the ground up.

The app focused on developing social interaction design, allowing for the easy discovery of events, and creating a robust gamification platform to increase volunteer participation. We focused on creating an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, so we could quickly satisfy the needs of the project receive provide feedback for future product development.


The greatest challenges facing HtB are recruiting and retaining volunteers, and increasing the volume of trash collected during cleanups. How might a digital interface alleviate these troubles?


An app that includes robust social and gamification features to encourage participation in cleanups, increase the total volume of trash collected, and encourage volunteers to keep coming back.

My Role

As project manager, I recognized the importance of developing a business strategy. I concretely defined the needs of the business first, which informed our design decisions across the three week sprint. This also helped measure the value of each feature included in the app.

In order to ensure continuity between our designs and Heal the Bay’s branding, I conducted a rigorous brand identity assessment which would direct the development of design guidelines I later created.

For the first week and a half, our team dedicated ourselves entirely to researching the client and difficulties facing nonprofits. By committing so much time to research, we were able to develop a concise UX strategy and approach to this project.

A major focus of our research was how using game elements to achieve a particular user behavior. By integrating a playful gamification component, we could incentivize users to pick up more trash in a rewarding and meaningful way.

UI decisions emphasized scannability, discovery, and ease of navigation.

After completing the research, we had three major takeaways:

“Social media holds my friends accountable for going to cleanups. You see who is going to put their hand up and show up and can bug the ones who don’t!” -User Interview”

  • volunteering is a social activity that people do either with friends or to meet people
  • signup & orientation needs to be quick & easy
  • it is hard to find time to volunteer


After synthesizing our research, we decided that developing an app (from scratch!) could solve the greatest challenges facing heal the bay – increasing volunteer recruitment and retention and increasing total trash collected. The app would also be fun, playful, and simple.


We completed a robust feature prioritization to define which pages and features our app should include. Following our research, our app would be include social features (profiles & team pages), event information, a game, and a simple registration and orientation process.

Conclusion + Recommendations

My team was able to successfully deliver an MVP app that would achieve the business goals of Heal the Bay.