Helping people control what they spend so they can save more money
Chase wanted to increase usage of their mobile app by helping their customers improve their financial health. My task was to understand how and when customers use the app and design a new, value-added feature.
Chase’s mobile app is highly-rated but offers basic functionality. Most people use the app to check their balance or deposit a check. The bank wanted to help their customers manage their money. My research showed that most people know what they make but don’t know what they spend. And only a small percentage are saving.
With that in mind I designed Smart Wallet, a new section of the app for users to create a budget, customize alerts, set savings goals, track spending and optimize debt.
Talking to people about money is emotional for them. Fear drives most of their behavior. They don’t want to see their bank balance go down, so they check it infrequently. They want an emergency fund, but they don’t save for it. Many pretend that they don’t carry debt and still spend liberally. Those that try to manage their finances feel like their efforts fall short. The products they’ve tried are either too complicated or don’t help them feel in control.
“You always feel like you’re the only one living from paycheck to paycheck. I should be doing better than I am.”
A lack of job security is directly tied to financial insecurity for most. Whether full time or freelance, people today expect to change jobs much more frequently than their parents. And unlike their parents, employers rarely offer pensions. Most believe they’ll never be able to afford retirement. They do what they can to save, but they are looking for a process that can help them.
“It’s hard, because nobody teaches you how to manage money. You’re just expected to know how to do it.”
Based on primary and secondary research, providing users with an easy way to control their spending and save money was the primary goal for the new feature. An affinity map helped prioritize needs and wants. From there, I created a persona and empathy map to go deeper into the mindset of the user. Then I clearly defined the problem to solve:
That helped focus my ideation. I used the Crazy 8s brainstorming method — 8 rounds of 5 minute sketching — to generate solutions. Several people said they liked getting alerts from the app. I wanted to explore ways to use alerts that would help users feel more in control of their finances. So I storyboarded a few scenarios, like the one below where a Chase customer orders a coffee from Starbucks.
There were a few user flows I needed to map out prior to wireframing. First, I wanted to to include customized categories and alerts so people could have a tool personalized to their needs. And second, I wanted to outline the Starbuck’s scenario in a realistic flow.
Then I designed low-fidelity wireframes in Sketch, revised and went right into high-fidelity wires since the UI and branding were already established. I also spent time exploring iconography and language that users would find supportive given their emotional charge around money. Could the right alert icon, for example, be helpful vs alarming? Would less formal alert language encourage them to open the app and use it?
The new section follows a simple flow. Users create a budget that includes fixed monthly expenses, variable weekly expenses and sets savings goals. For every budget item can have an optional text message alert, so they can be notified when expenses are coming due and when they are debited. They can transfer surpluses between categories and add unused balances to savings goals. And they can customize throughout so the tool works for their own needs.
I conducted usability testing with an inVision prototype. Users were asked to complete 5 tasks. First they set up a preset monthly billing budget item with alerts. Then a custom monthly billing item with alerts. Next a weekly expense item with a custom alert. Then a savings goal. Finally they had to resolve an alert on a budget item by transfering funds from their budget surplus for the month.
All tasks were completed easily. They found the experience simple and more importantly useful. Everyone hoped Chase would actually build it.
“I could actually see myself using this. I think it would really help me financially.”
This solution was driven by research and user insights to understand what could help people overcome their fears about money. It was really rewarding to watch people use it, see them understand the principles of money management and have them complete tasks without instruction. I’d like to further explore the Optimize Debt section so it has utility beyond selling Chase products.