You've probably heard of Mint. Mint is considered the benchmark for financial budgeting software. Mint creatively tracks your spending through automatically synchronizing with the paperless statement of bank account and generating monthly budget so that people do not need to input their transaction to track their financial status manually. As a result, many companies are following in the footsteps and are emerging competitors. Our clients who initiated this project called for compelling ideas that can revamp Mint.com and smash the competitors.
In response to that, my team designed a browser extension along with a redesigned alert feature in current Mint app aiming to help users gain better control of their money. Our solution was considered as the best one among all 13 teams by the clients.
The Ignored Tradeoff
Through our exploratory research, we found an ignored tradeoff brought by taking away the effort of inputting transactions manually:
Efforts for manually inputting transactions is helpful to cultivate the financial awareness because people will have a deeper impression of what's going on while insisting on reasonable spending behavior requires users to have financial sense during decision-making process of purchase.
Instead of swinging between automatic and manual input, we dig deeply into how to cultivate financial awareness with emerging technology. Here are two findings we found most important:
- Keep users updated: Smarter decisions could be made if people have very clear understanding of their overall spending before decision-making.
- Roll with the punches: Overspending is not doom, but an opportunity to make your budget realistic.
Step our feet into users' shoes
Joe is a young white-collar employee in a company. He uses the budget in Mint to get better control of his money. Since he just opens the Mint app for several times a month, he doesn't always know his overall spending information. Therefore, overspending happens a lot.
What if ...
Joe could immediately know whether something is within his budget without having to have a look?
What if ...
Joe could know what he will have to give up in order to afford something that isn't?
Sometimes Joe just accidentally overspent, and it's understandable. The budget is a plan – but plans can be changed, and the budget should too. Prior to that, Mintelligence helps Joe quickly identify why he overspent.
Mintelligence is there to help Joe rebudget when slip-ups do happen. Covering overspending in time keeps Joe on track.
Here are more details about the process.
The project was divided into two sessions. In the first session, we worked as a facilitator in a three person group; in the second session, I iterated on the solution individually.
In the first session, the main challenge is to come up with a compelling idea that can pitch the clients. Since the clients expect a totally new and innovative redesign rather than fix usability issues, we spent most of our effort on conducting exploratory research, ideation and creating a pitch deck that looks visually appealing.
In the second session, I gathered feedback from clients and classmates. The feedback and reflection inspired me a lot. I focused on exploring different interaction design and UI design concepts to better help the user rebudget.
Map out Design Opportunities
When doing a redesign project for a mature product like Mint, the most questions will be asked first is "should we change? Why we need a change? What should we change?".
Since one of our main goals is to compete with growing competitors, our exploration started with studying the current financial applications via competitive analysis. Our purpose is to comprehensively understand the market, and the possibility to innovate around Mint's advantage.
To give attention to both extent and depth of our research, I talked with 3 users of other financial software and conducted a contextual inquiry with a Mint user to seek insights in current user flow. The process and various potential design directions thus inspired were summarized in this report.
Less effort to input leads to less influence
The most interesting and important findings from our exploratory research were that two of our participants still used traditional financial software that required manual input. Their explanation was that these apps helped them better memorize the transactions. The Mint user we observed in the contextual inquiry also mentioned that she expect automatic alert when expenditure for this month goes beyond the budget.
We found that the pain points behind these facts were that:
- Mint cannot help users cultivate financial awareness.
- Mint fails to bring behavioral change in spending.
We then decided to focus on exploring a route in which we focus on the slow change problem of helping people actually change their bad spending habits to have a successful budget. We discussed with our clients about our decision and ideated with them. One idea is generated to build "social proof" for users by comparing spending to others in your geographical area. But we found most of them won't work over time.
Changing habits are difficult, and must take a long time. We studied articles about budgeting and kept talking with people in order to dig how people can do better budgeting. These efforts lead to the final solution we present to the clients.
Gather the feedback
Our clients came to our classroom to give us feedbacks for our submissions. They spoke highly of our solution, and also give suggestions for our presentation.
The best Project is the Seamless Mint - Didn’t have to open Mint or visit website to get value out of it. Integrated into shopping experience, other experience. It feels flimsy, like there’s no meat, but really when you tell the story and weave it through someone’s day, it comes out strong! Great job!
Below are examples of my explorations around conveying the idea of rebudgeting and effectively calling to action in the places of alert details.
Teammates: Karthik Rao, Micah Nethery
My role: Team facilitator
Date: 5 days on September 2015
Link: Final Document, Research Report