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Donate Life California Creates a Compelling Case for Changing Their Messaging with User Research


The Donate Life California Donor Registration logo with two hands holding a heart next to it.

How did Donate Life California go about updating their messaging and get the California legislature on board for the change? They relied heavily on user research to inform the changes they made to the organ donation message and shared this data with the legislature to make their case.

Donate Life California’s mission is to create opportunities for all Californians to sign up to become a registered organ donor. Donate Life has a special partnership with the California DMV – which is where most people make the decision to be on the organ donation registry when they apply for a driver’s license or an identification card. If a Californian signs up to be an organ donor, they get a red dot on their license or identification card.

The Problem

Previously, the organ donation message was inconsistent between paper forms, DMV kiosks, and the website making it confusing and difficult for an applicant to make an informed decision. Our team rolled up our sleeves and began working on a solution to this problem with Donate Life.

The Solution

We began by re-writing the organ donation question. We started with comparative research - viewing what language other states use for their organ donation question. We also used choice architecture, a behavioral theory that helps users make choices more easily to craft our questions and their potential answers. Finally, we used plain language principles, which help us simplify our communications.

Once we felt we had a solid draft re-written, we tested the language with real users at a California Department of Motor Vehicles. As they waited in line to get or update their license and identification, we asked that Californians review our updated statement and provide feedback. Would they be more likely to become an organ donor? Was the language clear? What financial donation would they make with the updated options? These were the types of questions we asked potential organ donors as we tested the new donation statement.

We used this data to refine the organ donation message and completed a survey with a larger group of users to test the message one last time. Both the in-person research and survey provided Donate Life California with the evidence they needed to support the changes to the organ donation statement with the California Legislature. This evidence helped get Bill AB 1374signed into law.

The Impact

Person in front of a group pf people with clipboard
An Anthro-Tech Researcher recruiting participants at a DMV for a study.

The scope of this social impact project included background research, surveys, in-person user studies, plain language writing, and more. All these activities are a part of the User-Centered Design (UCD) process which focuses on the needs of the users – or the people who fill out the form and make decisions about being an organ donor.

Infusing UCD principles into product and/or services development is crucial for any enterprise, government, or non-profit organization. It affords the opportunity to design in a way that is useful and usable for the end user while reducing risk for the organization.

Our team at Anthro-Tech is proud to be a part of this social impact project with Donate Life California and the DMV. We look forward to seeing donor registrations and financial contributions increase now that the new law is in place.