Everyone I spoke to hated making budgets. They complained about the tedium of making a budget by hand, and they complained about the inaccuracy of automatic budgets like the ones Mint creates.
Problem Statement: How might we keep a user’s finances on track without a traditional budget?
The Big Idea: Macro-Budgeting
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For a user to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, their income needs to serve three purposes: pay for essentials like bills, pay for everyday spending, and work towards financial goals (like debt payoff, saving, or investing).
In the interest of simplicity, I wanted to partition a user’s money into just those three categories. I called this a “Macro-Budget”. Using animation and color would make it easier to understand the process.
Exploration: Isometric Stacks
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It sounds obvious, but research shows that consumers have an easier time associating graphics with money if the graphics actually depict money. I first tried out the isometric look for an animated demo I made, shown here.
Experiment: Concierge Prototype
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To test the concept of 3-category macro-budgeting, I devised a “Concierge Prototype” of the service. I asked 8 test users to share their transaction data with me, and used statistical analysis to determine their paycheck and monthly bills.
I used that information to break their income down into the three categories I was focusing on. I created a financial assessment and emailed to them as aPDF financial. The dollar graphic and visual breakdown tested well and gave me the confidence to move forward with an app design.
Testing: Clickable Prototype
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My next step was to translate the PDF Concierge Prototype into a mobile app. This animation is from a clickable prototype I put on my phone for in-person testing.
The most frustrating aspect was that I had to used canned figures for income and bills, and the inauthenticity was a distraction for users. Other feedback was that the colors were gloomy and not distinct enough.
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After being told that the original colors of Purple, Blue, and Green were “gloomy” and indistinct, I experimented until I settled on the palette of Green, Blue and Red.
Users felt the process was too long, so I used chevrons to indicate what step they were on.
Finally, I added a summary screen at the end we called “Your Paycheck Plan.”