Saving the planet with the Deeds app

Product design & Software development



Changing behaviour and saving the planet

SDG12 is a small Swedish startup with no small vision - saving the world. Or more specifically, saving humanity from themselves - by getting people to live more sustainably. So where do you start with a brief like that? 

SDG12 had a hunch that gamification could be used to encourage new behaviours - so we set out to validate their hypothesis. We used a test driven approach, exploring all the possible ways of executing this idea. We user tested four different prototypes, launched a pilot that ran for three months, and finally landed in a first release that SDG12 launched on both android and iOS. 


Measuring change

Evaluating the effect of this project was very challenging - sure we could set targets on how the product was used, but how could we tell if it was really encouraging users to be more sustainable? While at first our designs revolved around having the user report this main metric to us (have I changed my behaviour?) we eventually had to accept that this approach wasn’t the best path for the product, even though it made measuring simpler for us. 

Instead, we used a combination of in depth user interviews, qualitative surveys and carefully chosen metrics to measure the success of different ideas. The solution we landed in never requires the user to tell the service about new behaviours - but still gives us an idea of how the user is relating to the subject of sustainability. 


“We truly value the utter professionalism that Apegroup have shown time and time again”

Monika Martinsson, co-founder Deeds


A shared vision is a strong vision

One of the biggest obstacles was the subject matter, which is hard to talk about without resorting to cliches or making the user run for the hills. We created principles for how we would avoid these pitfalls, and used them as a guide throughout the project. 

These principles were key in creating a shared vision within the whole team, including SDG12. Seeing as no-one has yet cracked the puzzle for getting people to live sustainably, we had to go into the project with a very humble mindset - all we knew is that we didn’t know anything. Instead of wasting time looking for answers that might not exist, we needed to test our way forward. Doubts weren’t up for discussion unless we could find reasonable proof to back it up. This required a lot of faith, patience and humility from the team - both us and SDG12. Darlings were killed on a daily basis. Trusting the process and not second-guessing each other unnecessarily was hard - but rewarding. 

As with all startups, there was a lot of heart and soul in this project - and many good ideas that never got to take the limelight. Aligning the team behind one clear idea, instead of trying to cram all of these ideas into one product was brutal work. Sometimes it might seem like we were all in agreement on something, only to have a discussion blossom up again at first chance. It took time and a lot of difficult conversations to decide what we wanted to achieve, and what we were willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it. Throughout the project, we never saw ourselves as the people who had all the answers, we were only facilitators on SDG12s journey of discovering what their core value would be. We are still not done - there is a lot more testing ahead of us. But at least we’re all behind what we’re trying.