What is the Soul of the Idea?

Last Saturday, Sam, Jeff and I narrowed down our three ideas to one. In order to do this, we had an honest discussion about which idea we were each most passionate about– that we truly thought would benefit the people we spoke to during our research.

We excitedly settled on a service that, for now, we are calling “Tipping Point”. Throughout our research we found that amongst young adults ages 22-32, while financial literacy is lacking, what is doing the most harm is the inability to balance immediate satisfaction with future stability. Here are two of our key insights from our research:

There is no satisfaction in future benefits. We need to feel immediate value to be satisfied.

We want to make good decisions but fear sacrificing more than necessary. Because we don’t know how to balance these competing desires we avoid the situation or make rash decisions.

With these insights in mind, the design idea must achieve the following:

  • Provide a narrative that supports users’ identity and ties together disparate financial actions into a bigger, motivating story.
  • Recognize that the value of money is personal and context specific.
  • Translate future benefit of wise financial actions into immediate satisfaction.

Tipping Point will be a service that uses someone’s habits of spending as a means to make a dent in their credit card debt. Essentially, using their habits against them. We created a storyboard to begin to think through the following scenario:

Looking at his credit card bill online, Carl, a recent grad with a high paying job is overwhelmed by the amount of debt he has accumulated in just under a year. For the last couple of months, he’s made a conscious effort to start paying down his debt– he’s read blogs, followed experts on Twitter, but nothing has made a difference. Reflecting on this fact, he is frustrated that he has the knowledge of how to save better, but is unable to get his actions and habits under control. Knowing he needs to cut back on frivolous spending, he still wants to continue to enjoy his time out with friends.

He sets up an account on Tipping Point, and chooses restaurants and bars as the places he spends the most money. During a night out with friends, when paying his tab he gets a prompt on his phone asking him to tip himself. Reminded of his goal, he excitedly tips himself 20%. Another message pops up congratulating him that he just paid $5 towards his credit card payment. At the end of the first month, he gets a summary of how much he’s affected his credit card debt, with some tips on how to continue to better make changes. Carl feels accomplished.



What is the Soul of the Idea?

This is a question that we’ve had to keep close to the heart every day this week. Sitting down and working through how to “smoke and mirrors” this together in order to test the idea with real users, we hit roadblock after roadblock.

We started by crafting an ideal service map which we then broke down into a more lo-tech option to essentially hack it together. We did hours and hours of research between the three of us to find a service, pre-paid debit card with notifications, to get as close to the real experience of our idea as possible.


We realized we were trying to hold our test too true to the actual idea. After much discussion and guidance from Matt, Jon, and Scott, we realized we need to step back and ask ourselves:

“What is the soul of the idea?”

Instead of focusing on the technology piece so much, we began to focus on the human piece. How does the idea feel?

We are working through the tone and ideal scenario and drilling down into each moment to better craft the service. Really focusing on feeling and staying away from too many technical terms. From our research, we found that there’s a lot of frustration around not understanding finances, about not being able to change personal spending habits, which are both causing decision paralysis.


As we craft the tone of our service, we are keeping in mind the need for it to lighten the cognitive load of feeling trapped by personal financial situations and how this can manifest in the details.


Out of the building and into the wild

The more we discussed the tone of the service, the more questions we had about what the service really is.

Do we do away with the reality of the money and layer a story of keeping a fictional pet or possibly your future self alive and healthy, Tamagotchi style? Are the pings transaction-based, time based or location based? How often is too often to get notified about spending?

The only way to move forward from here is to start answering these questions, and the only way to get some answers is to get out of the building.

After playing out different scenarios of how the service would work, we sketched super low fidelity screens onto note cards.




Then we put them in front of people:

The screens portrayed different personalities for the service. One set was very straight forward, prompting the individual to throw $10 at her credit card. Other screen flows were more humorous with a character named Melvin playfully nagging you to buy him a six pack as a mask for paying down your debt.


Keep it simple. Keep it fresh.

The simplicity of prompting a person to throw a specified amount to their credit card was easy to understand and easy to act on, while anything showing a percentage was too overwhelming and not as satisfying. We learned that too many prompts in a short time period would elicit reactions like “…at some point, I’d start hating Melvin.”

The importance of how the service manifests in the details became incredibly apparent during this round of testing. Playful surprises from our very lo-fi screens were well received. One guy even said, “I want to see what Melvin does for $7.00!” Another participant even began to joke around saying, “You drink tonight, Melvin. I’ll stay in.”