1/2015 - 6/2015
User Research & Synthesis, Concept Testing, Partcipatory Design, Design Sprint, Facilitation, Interaction Design, Wireframes, Prototyping, UI Design
LearnVest offers financial planning for everyday people with a staff of certified financial advisors. Although the core of LearnVest's financial advice is budgeting, the company's tool that helps users keep track of their spending was outdated, and didn't meet the needs of how users actually tracked their spending while "on the go." I worked on a concept design for a new iPhone app that better fit LearnVest’s budgeting strategy to help users monitor their weekly spending.
The primary objective for the digital teams was to create products that support LearnVest’s financial advice. Customers receive that advice by purchasing an official LearnVest plan with a financial planner; that plan is tailored to the customer’s specific financial situation. The plan includes the basics of financial literacy, including LearnVest's "One Number" strategy for budgeting.
The "One Number" strategy is a formula to help the customer determine what they're allowed to spend each week, on whatever they want (their flexible spending or “flex spend” amount). Thus, the customer only has to remember that "One Number" as their budget, because funds for all bills, obligations, and goals has already been accounted for (shown below).
Once users have met with their financial advisor and received their financial plan, they can then download the One Number app. While the financial advisor goes over the One Number budgeting strategy, we wanted to be sure that the app continued to remind users how to budget and categorize their spending in order to meet their goals.
Once users got the hang of the One Number strategy, the app would serve as helpful tool to keep users on track with their weekly budget and show users where there spending levels were at during the week.
LearnVest was undergoing a branding refresh, and the app would be one of the first tools to show it off. We also wanted to be ready for the app to debut with the new version of iOS.
The current app was outdated in its visual and UI design, and it didn’t really help users track their “One Number.” It also had a lot of different features—being able to view net worth, assets, debts, goal progress, and aggregated accounts—but it didn’t focus on weekly spending and tracking the “One Number.”
The current app
Based on the ideas with the most votes, I created high-level wireframes, which we showed to users. Our testing began with basic questions about their finances, how they feel about money, and how they currently budget. We then had them draw their own ideas for a budgeting app.
Finally, we showed them our concepts. The user feedback helped to validate and improve our designs. Since the team felt we were going in the right direction, I moved forward in the design process.
To fully understand what screens and functionality was needed, I created a flow diagram to make sure my product and engineering partners were on the same page.
While the end results of having One Number to budget with is simple, inputting the information needed to calculate it is a lot of work for the end user. Here is a concept for a multi-step onboarding flow. The goal is to educate the user as they enter their information.
The concept of a meter really resonated with users. Keeping ease of use and an on-the-go lifestyle in mind, I wanted users to be able to quickly tap between what they have available and what they’ve spent (left). Initially, the app won't know which of the user's finances is considered "flex spending" based on LearnVest's "One Number" strategy. The app would learn over time, but in the early usage of the app, a quick swipe by the user can tell us what's discretionary and what's not (right).
Participatory design yielded valuable insights
The participatory design exercise allows users to better articulate their ideal app. As a result, we got more insights than we would have had we only done interview questions and surveys.
Continual testing of concepts would help us focus
If given more time, I would have continued to test more concepts after the initial participatory design sessions to validate the direction we chose.
Take a phased approach to features
The team initially approached the design very ambitiously with the intention of grounding the scope of work into what was actually feasible. I would’ve suggested chunking out the features into a phased approach and tying it to a realistic and manageable timeline.
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