• 02.10.17

A Dash Button For ACLU Donations Is Perfect UX For Internet Activists

Too busy (or angry) to fill out the online donation form? Take a page from Amazon’s book.

A Dash Button For ACLU Donations Is Perfect UX For Internet Activists

What if you could press a button and donate $5 to the ACLU every time Trump did something that made you want to scream?


The designer and programmer Nathan Pryor recently hacked together just such a button, enabling him to donate to the ACLU instantly through an Amazon Dash–the e-commerce giant’s physical “buy it now” button that automatically orders refills of home goods. Now, instead of pressing a button and having toilet paper show up at your door two days later, Pryor can cathartically press a button and fund the fight against Trump’s attacks on civil rights.

“If I read an article, then have to load up the donation page for my favorite organization, fill it out, and submit, I may decide it’s not worth it or I may get distracted before I have a chance,” Pryor says. “There’s also a real satisfaction in the tactile nature of pushing the button. It’s a physical thing, and you feel closer and more involved by doing it.” (Regardless of if you are or not.)

In the age of internet activism, it’s a perfect piece of UX.

By using the same UX that Amazon uses to encourage people to buy more–removing the distance between “I need it” and “I ordered it from Amazon”–his ACLU dash button is a clever way to capitalize on people’s inherent laziness. “It’s the same reason that Amazon wants to use the Dash buttons to sell product,” Pryor says. “Now it isn’t like buying (or donating) at all, but just pushing a button. Either dangerous or brilliant, depending on your perspective and what it’s being used for.”

Inspired by a friend’s request, Pryor created the ACLU Dash button by writing a script that analyzed the ACLU’s online donation form and hooked it up to a customizable version of the Dash button. An ACLU logo completed the look of the device, and now the button sits near his laptop. Pryor estimates he’s donated a total of $30 to the cause, in $5 increments; considering he’s never donated to the ACLU before, he says the button has definitely inspired him to give, and give some more.

This is just a proof-of-concept. Pryor has no desire to deal with the regulatory issues surrounding soliciting money or the security needed to store credit card information, something he’s skirted so far because the ACLU Dash button is a home hack, disconnected from any entity. A more widely released version would also require the help of Amazon, which acts as a gatekeeper to the Dash ecosystem (ahem, Amazon! Good PR opportunity!), or he’d need to build the hardware from scratch. If he were to turn it into something more, Pryor says he would aggregate the number of button presses in a given week and then donate to the organization in a lump sum to save on credit card processing fees.


For those without the wherewithal to build their own ACLU button, here’s how you can donate right now, no hacking required. Given that Jeff Sessions was just confirmed as Attorney General, the ACLU–and America–needs all the help they can get.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is a contributing writer at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Follow her on Twitter @kschwabable.