Kelly Noah

Finabler

Categories: Prototype, Requirements, Usability Testing, User Research, Wireframes
Completion Date: March 18, 2008

Finabler is a financial management tool for tracking and keeping your money. The idea for Finabler grew out of a student competition for World Usability Day in 2006, with the theme of “making life easy”. This project has gone through several phases as I’ve carried it with me from class-to-class through graduate school, so rather than outlining all the details, I’ll present Finabler in a nutshell.

Context

The big picture is that people are spending more than they have, the cost of living is constantly rising, some are trying to save down payments for first homes and pay off student loans simultaneously, people aren’t saving for retirement, and video games are $50 a pop.

Now to the details: According to my research, young professionals and students in their 20s and 30s generally manage their finances by logging into their bank account and seeing what the balance is. They typically don’t keep a strict budget, but think of money as inflows and outflows and keep a mental tab of how much they have. If they have to save for a bigger purchase, they come up with the amount to save and allocate money toward that goal. The one time of year they see their expenses broken down categorically may be when their credit card company sends them an annual report of their spending.

see full persona example
A Finabler persona crafted from user research. Click on image to view full PDF.

Approach

User research in the form of interviews, self-reporting financial diaries, and surveys gave me the background knowledge to understand how finances are handled, and what problem areas need to be addressed to make keeping track of finances easier.

A few themes emerged that I applied directly to the design of Finabler. People want to:

  • Manage all financial accounts in the same place
  • Track money categorically, not just chronologically
  • Get help creating and sticking to budgets
  • Set and meet savings goals
  • See how future changes in income/expense will affect their overall budget
  • Allocate money toward goals, bills, etc to better see how much money they really have to spend


Detail of a dependency diagram I used to brainstorm all the goals of Finabler and how they are related

Outcome

Finabler went through several rounds of design iterations, gathering feedback in the form of peer review, participatory design, and usability testing along the way.

During usability tests, participants successfully completed all the tasks they were given. Participants liked the encouraging voice of the application, and said it was intuitive, simple and clear. Participants indicated that they would like more information – the home page should give them at-a-glance status of their finances, budget, and goals. Mental models also came into play during usability tests, with each participant indicating how they would expect something to work, or what would be best for them, such as incremental goals for people with a less-steady cash flow.

account overview
goals
budget

Select Finabler wireframes – but please download the clickable PDF to experience it yourself.

More related documents…
Finabler UI Specification (PDF)
Finabler Requirements Specification (PDF)
Finabler Wireframes (clickable PDF prototype)