For the past two months, our cohort has been working on designing a banking app that integrates traditional banking functionality with financial forecasting features. In our Product Management course, we are learning fundamental methods to take a product from wireframe to market. The first step along this journey? Meet up with a developer to enjoy a dose of reality!
When design meets development
Last week, I met with my assigned developer to estimate how long it would take to turn my hypothetical banking app into a functioning reality. Together we walked through eight flows depicting various user actions (Appendix A), mulled over controls and features (Appendix B), and then the developer estimated how many days it would take for him to build out the app as designed (Appendix C).
I learned a lot during our hour-long session… definitely too much to describe in detail whilst still maintaining the focus of our faithful AC4D blog readers! Below I will instead highlight a few primary takeaways from the perspective of a designer’s first meeting with a developer, in case this advice proves helpful for anyone out there in the process of designing your own app:
Whenever possible, reuse elements as you design. This both helps to maintain a consistent look and feel for the user, and it coincidentally also drastically lowers time the required for a developer to build out your app.
Do you want your app to be available in both iOS and Android? Go ahead and double that estimation that the developer gave you! Development takes time and money, so be sure you have enough of each to make your plans a reality.
When you meet with a developer, be clear about what user goals you are designing for and remain open-minded about the details. The developer may suggest a more efficient way (see below) of designing to meet your goals!
The developer suggested that I look into integrating Zelle® technology into my banking app in lieu of developing my own payments functionality. He showed me his own banking app (with Zelle®) to show me just how easy payments could be!
The next step in this process will be to take everything that we have learned and develop a product roadmap that integrates our most desired features and functionalities for this app based on our conversation and estimations from the developer. Stay tuned!
Appendix A: Flow Animations
For your viewing pleasure, below please find animations of each flow that I designed. The red dots represent where a user would click to advance to the next screen once the requisite information has been entered.
Appendix B: Controls and Features
In the eight flows linked below, highlighted controls are red and highlighted features are blue. You may click any flow image to display a zoomed-in version of the flow.
Appendix C: Estimation Session
Click to view the estimations calculated after meeting with a developer. This shared Google spreadsheet shows an estimate of how many days it would take the developer to build out each flow based on my individual wireframes. Also included are a few notes from our discussion. Feel free to comment with any questions!
Is there such a thing as selfish altruism? Is this a bad thing? It matters not. As designers, we are asking the wrong questions. Our cohort just spent the first portion of Theory of Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship reading articles and posts loosely grouped into the theme of “With the Best Intentions” and being asked whether or not the content discussed in each piece could be labeled as selfish altruism.
With a background in nonprofits and volunteerism, I’m intimately familiar with the concept of altruism. Merriam-Webster defines altruism as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others”. In contrast, selfish is defined as “concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others”. By definition alone, the concepts seem in direct opposition… but is it possible that altruism is inherently selfish?
The concept of selfish altruism was most directly introduced to us in Richard Anderson‘s “Reflections on gratitude” post where he referenced a blog post by Scott Henderson who expressed regret for a philanthropic donation and posited that humans are inherently selfishly altruistic. Anderson reflected that many interactions are designed around platforms that facilitate “reciprocal exchange”, e.g. Kickstarter perks, for supporting a cause. Another such example could be Lauren Frayer‘s segment describing Spain’s “Robin Hood” restaurant that “charges the rich and feeds the poor”.
Sometimes, however, these perks are intangible and manifest as an internal benefit or reaction to the interaction. Alex Holder‘s piece references the rise of corporate social responsibility and, similarly, Cindy Phu recaps the “commodification” of Gap’s (RED) campaign. Consumers of these businesses may not be receiving any particular tangible benefit (beyond the product being purchased) but one could argue that these trends exist because consumers are drawn to companies that enable a sense of “doing good” in the world.
Anyone who works in development could argue that fundraising is best nurtured when donors feel good about supporting their nonprofit cause. Fundraising is both an art and a science, and it flourishes when the donation interaction is designed to maximize the personal “kickback” that results from donors feeling good about acting in devotion to the welfare of others. Does this make the donor “selfish” for experiencing an internal benefit when externally helping others? I would argue that it doesn’t matter because the point is moot.
As designers concurrently studying social entrepreneurship, we are learning to design interactions that maximize social good. If in studying human behavior, we first a) recognize that humans are inherently selfish yet still capable of acting altruistically, and b) acknowledge that the outcome of this juxtaposition is maximized when we can let these two qualities coexist symbiotically in our own headspace, then c) we will be well-poised to design for maximum social impact.
Failure is hard to admit, let alone share with others.
Jen, Laura, and I have spent the past few months understanding the impacts that impostor phenomenon has on a woman’s life trajectory. We kept hearing stories from women about how failing at something led them to give up on that path or dream entirely, and completely change course.
In starting ATX Fail Club, we hope to reframe what failure looks and feels like for women and celebrate it as a necessary part of growth and success. Sign up below to stay updated on our failures and get invites to come celebrate some truly epic failures with us!
For our latest assignment in Designing Digital Interfaces, we were tasked with merging the traditional functionalities of a banking app to offer additional capacity for financial modeling. This meant that we had to take our existing banking app designs and integrate new functionalities in a way that felt seamless and intuitive for users… and then test to see how well we had done.
I tested my design with five users ranging in age from 26 to 36. I again used the “think aloud” style of testing in which I had users talk through their experience as they tried to accomplish a few outlined tasks (or “flows”) within our banking app designs. I tested users both on my computer and on cell phones and learned that I much preferred testing users via mobile phone because the experience was that much more true to form with an actual use case.
My test users were familiar with a variety of banking apps and a few also used financial modeling or budgeting apps like You Need a Budget. During testing, I learned that it’s helpful to chart more than just one pathfor a user to achieve the desired task. Users who were less experienced with budgeting apps tended to look for new functionality via “tried and true” mental pathways.
My other significant takeaway from user testing was more generally about the value of testing your design with real humans that aren’t yourself. Your app may be your baby, but if it can’t match to your users’ expectations then it won’t grow into a successful business venture. Streamline your design to meld with user expectations such that the user can intuitively navigate through your app’s features and functionalities.
The final step in our journey with Designing Digital Interfaces will be to revise our wireframes based on our experiences in this final round of user testing. I look forward to updating my wireframe designs and flows so that they are as intuitive and streamlined as possible!
Jen, Laura, and I have spent the last three months researching how impostor phenomenon impacts life trajectories and then ideating on ways to combat feelings of impostorism. We are now pushing forward a few design ideas that came out of our research to develop potential solutions within this space.
Here is a high-level overview of the design concepts we are currently exploring:
DESTRUCTION BOX: Self-care, self-reflection, and stress relief, all tied up in one monthly box. Instead of nurturing, pampering, or creation, subscribers are encouraged to express anger, rage, and destruction by symbolically destroying feelings of impostorism.
JVL CONSULTANCY: A human-centered design firm providing company leadership with actionable solutions and recommendations to help hire, retain, and promote top talent while moving toward a more balanced and inclusive workplace.
ATX FAIL CLUB: A safe space to share your stories of failure and impostorism in your life. Curating dinner parties and storytelling events for women-identifying people to come together and celebrate stories of failure.
In order to best understand how these initiatives could provide value (to subscribers, attendees, and clients), we are currently in the phase of interviewing and testing these design ideas with prospective users. To do that, we must embrace a bias towards action. We recognize that it’s easier to offer feedback on something that already exists, so this week we:
Interviewed ten people (on some or all concepts)
Drafted a prototype online listing for the Destruction Box
In this post, we’ll share what we’ve learned so far about each concept, and then we invite you to reach out and share your thoughts on these prospective businesses.
This product is for people who are feeling stressed, burnt out, or are having feelings of self-doubt. Our solution, Destruction Box, will provide an outlet for acknowledging, reflecting on, and symbolically destroying these feelings. This subscription box allows users to physically destroy objects that symbolically represent their impostorism. Unlike other self-care subscription boxes that promote nurturing, pampering, and creation, our solution encourages women to express anger, rage, and destruction.
What we tested:
We began the week prepared to test a few hypotheses with prospective users. First and foremost, we wanted to explore how the concept of symbolic destruction resonated with people. Would they see it as both familiar and impactful? We were also curious about the logistics of the subscription box like whether or not users would be inclined to purchase the box for others as a gift and at what price point they would value this solution.
What we learned:
Our user interviews offered insight into the above hypotheses and also provided new angles to explore this concept. We learned that our interviewees had symbolically destroyed items in the past and they did find the experience surprisingly impactful. Users also opined that the Destruction Box would make a fun gift for friends or family members. We also heard interest in participating in this sort of activity in a group setting. One interviewee pointed out that if other people are destroying something, then “you feel entitled to destroy it as well”.
In the upcoming week, we will further dig into the interest in and hesitations around this business idea. We want to better understand the allure of “group destruction” and how it might fit into this design concept. We will also be fleshing out our draft Cratejoy listing and doing more “think aloud” interviews to invite feedback on how prospective users might interpret the concept when they stumble across the product online. Finally, we’ll be prototyping additional destruction activities… your brainstorms are always welcome!
This service design solution is for companies who experience gender inequities or have trouble building/retaining a diverse workplace. Through human-centered research and design, JVL Consultancy provides company leadership with actionable solutions and recommendations to help them hire, retain, and promote top talent while moving toward a more balanced and inclusive workplace. Unlike employee surveys or checklists, our solution focuses on service design approaches and is customized to each client workplace.
What we tested:
During last week’s interviews, we heard that — while this concept sounds wonderful in theory — it will be crucial to have top-down buy-in in order to effect actual change with this business. This week we wanted to validate that feedback by interviewing HR professionals to explore how best to secure top-down support for this concept. We also generally wanted to continue to invite feedback on whether or not employees would find this relevant to their workplaces and how this consultancy could maximize value to both employers and employees.
What we learned:
Our hypothesis that top-down support is vital was validated during this week’s conversations. We heard the feedback that in order to “sell” this consultancy to prospective clients, it will be important to be able to show the return on investment (ROI) for investing in this sort of work. One of our interviewees, an HR leader with over a decade of experience, ideated with us on how this solution could decrease employee turnover at companies.
One interviewee reflected back on one of his earlier positions and said that impostorism was a leading cause of his decision to leave the company. He said, “People are always looking for belonging… and that’s hard when people don’t look like you, talk like you, or think like you.” JVL Consultancy could help companies to be more inclusive thereby decreasing feelings of impostorism, increasing employee retention, and saving the business money in the long run.
In the upcoming week, we will continue to meet with prospective clients (both business owners and HR professionals) to do “think aloud” testing with our website and explore what kind of value this consultancy could provide to the client. We will also brainstorm specific companies to approach with project proposals… stay tuned for more on that front in next week’s update!
ATX Fail Club
People feel shame and guilt about their failures, and internalizing these feelings can have mental health impacts and negative consequences on life and career trajectories. The ATX Fail Club offers a safe space for attendees to share their stories of failure and feelings of impostorism in their lives, whether at an intimate small-group dinner or on stage at a public storytelling event.
What we tested:
The best way to test a concept is to go ahead and prototype it… so last night we went ahead and hosted our first ATX Fail Club dinner event! On Monday morning, we sent out an email to invite all AC4D alumnae to join us for dinner on Friday evening. First and foremost, we wanted to find out if people would RSVP and show up for this sort of event. We also wanted to test whether or not attendees would be open to sharing their stories of failure, and to do this we needed to get folks to the table.
What we learned:
From our test group of approximately 30 female alumnae, we had five alumnae who responded to express interest but who were unavailable on Friday evening and one alum who RSVPed that she could make it. And what did we learn during the event itself? Too much to share in one short blog post! But at a high-level, we heard that this concept has meat to it and we are thrilled to continue testing.
We will follow up with our dinner attendees to share photos and invite additional feedback on the event and concept. We are also currently seeking sponsors as we plan the next ATX Fail Club dinner — shoot us an email if you or your company would be interested in sponsoring either by providing food, alcohol, or financial support. Or, are you just generally interested in this design concept and want to stay in the loop as we move forward? Visit our website to learn more and sign up for our email list to receive future event invites!
The past week we have been conducting “think aloud” user testing on our redesigned banking app wireframes. During this style of user testing, I quickly found that it is incredibly difficult for me to not answer questions or help the user as they proceed through the flow! Even when they muttered questions quietly to themselves, I had to restrain myself from offering words of encouragement or guidance. Instead, my duty was to continually ask the user to explain their actions and “think aloud” through their decision-making as they navigated through the wireframe flows.
Despite my personal challenges in keeping my support silent, this form of user testing illuminated a number of interesting design opportunities. For example, one user spoke aloud as he clicked down through the steps of filling in the required information to transfer money out of his bank account, and then when he reached the bottom of the workflow he expressed frustration at needing to jump up to the top right portion of the screen to “preview” his transfer. He said: “I had to click here, do a thing, click here, do a thing, click here, do a thing… and then go up here!” By moving the “Preview” button down below the required information areas, we could help to ensure a more consistent and intuitive experience as the user navigates down through the workflow.
Beyond these more technical design decisions, one of my favorite discoveries from user testing was the opportunity to recognize and design for human emotion. For example, while banking apps may seem dry, users may get nervous when pressing “Submit” on large transactions. I heard this sentiment from my users even though there was no actual money involved: that tendency to read over the final “Preview” page one extra time to ensure accuracy before taking the leap to click “Submit”.
By taking a page from Freddie‘s book, we can design for interactions that celebrate and reward the user to make even a banking app turn into a delightful human-centered design experience.
This past week in Designing Digital Interfaces, we have been learning how to design wireframes. To do this, we used a tool called Sketch and iterated upon our last assignment to create digital wireframes of our redesigned banking app.
Being a relatively new user of Sketch, I got really into the experience of simulating potential screens for various workflows. Below is an example of the wireframe workflow that I created for the task of transferring money out of my banking app.
The next step for this course will be animating the wireframes that we have created so that a user can virtually click through the wireframes and we can test the user experience. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of finding out whether or not my wireframes are user-friendly with actual humans!
Aspiration dubs itself a “Financial Firm with a Purpose”. My favorite features are the ability to earn interest on my checking account balance, use any ATM in the world for free (because they don’t have any brick-and-mortars), and that I have the autonomy to decide how much I would like to pay Aspiration as their monthly service fee.
I began inventorying existing functionality by taking screenshots of each individual screen within my banking app. I found that over 80 separate screens with potential actions are possible within what I thought was a relatively simple and straightforward app! This is partly because Aspiration offers an investment component to its users which comes with the ability to buy and sell shares, adding an extra layer of complexity into the app’s functionality.
Next, I mapped out the functionalities in the below concept map:
I am overall relatively satisfied with the functionalities in my existing Aspiration banking app and would suggest only minor redesigns for the next iteration. First, while it was helpful to be able to view my personal info (name, address, phone number, etc.) from within the app, there was no functionality to edit that personal information, so I would add that feature.
Also, it would also be nice to have the ability to set alerts on my account balances, send notifications when transfers have completed, and create recurring payments from within the app. These are important functionalities to integrate in order to keep Aspiration competitive with today’s market.
Two months ago, Gerald, Cristina, and I partnered up with Lettuce, a local meal delivery service that aims to create a more sustainable, hyper-local food ecosystem. We set out to learn more about how the operation of Lettuce affects a subscriber’s relationship with food. By now, we have spent countless hours analyzing our research data to unearth recurring behavioral patterns, otherwise known as “themes”. By asking “why” about some of these patterns and interactions with food and the Lettuce meal delivery service, we have been able to synthesize deeper insights about human behavior.
In our recent blog post describing how Lettuce gets produce from “plant to porch”, we highlighted how increasing product lines decreases efficiency on the operations end. When the process is inefficient and deliveries run late, this affects the customer experience. One customer, Keegan, shared a story of a time when her Lettuce delivery arrived late: “One time it was almost 8 PM. I was like ‘forget this’, because that was going to be my meal for the night… I had to figure something else out.”
It is a very human thing to grow dependent on a service and, conversely, it can feel pretty terrible to be let down. Customers are relying on Lettuce to help put food on the table, and they must be able to trust Lettuce to deliver. Armed with this behavioral insight, how might we point out opportunities for Lettuce to strengthen and grow trust with its customers?
Another behavioral insight from our research involves the angst involved in meal preparation. Our workspace is inundated with quotes of individuals stressing about the various tasks involved in cooking and meal preparation, from procuring groceries to simply having the mental energy to cook a meal when one’s life is feeling particularly chaotic. We’re sure that no one in this program can relate to those feelings, right, classmates?
Keegan illustrated this perfectly in relation to her experience with Lettuce deliveries occasionally running late. She said, “Sometimes I’m ready to cook and by the time it gets here, I’m like ‘I’m exhausted’… and there goes the cooking time.” This sentiment rang true to us: if one isn’t both physically and mentally prepared to cook dinner by a certain point in the evening, then they pass a decision fatigue “tipping point” and are no longer inclined to cook their desired meal.
Studying these themes or behavioral patterns catapulted us towards the realization that meal preparation cultivates anxiety because people approach cooking as a chore, rather than a healthy habit or skill to hone. What might happen if we can help Lettuce to reframe how people think about cooking to perceive it not as a task but as a habit to hone?
Our next insight involves patterns of latent needs that our participants expressed through their behaviors and frustrations. It is essential to make a quick distinction about discussing the word “convenience” before we dive into how we arrived at our third insight. Our team acknowledges that Lettuce provides convenience with their food delivery, however, in the conventional sense of our food culture, “eating out of convenience” is generally associated with highly processed food with high caloric and poor nutritional value. The convenience associated with Lettuce is a healthy endeavor.
Our current food culture is a symptom of our work culture. Busy work schedules have driven the importance of shaving time from staple activities like cooking and eating. We now see behaviors that reflect people being distanced from a healthy relationship with food. We also see this behavior with parents attempting to accommodate their children with customized meals and allowing their children to make poor diet decisions.
Pat shared of his three-year-old son that “his favorite foods are bread, cheese, and fruit. He only likes some vegetables. Lettuce works with my wife and me, but our son… we usually do a variation.” We captured this behavior in the following statement: parents enable picky children which inhibits exploration of food. By catering to children’s professed palettes, parents are consequently stymying a world of new taste experiences.
We also heard over and over that people want to eat seasonally but underestimate the learning curve. This theme indicates subscribers’ willingness to try vegetables or fruits that they have never encountered before, but are inhibited by a lack of really knowing “what to do with it”. Since a large part of Lettuce’s mission revolves around encouraging people to eat seasonally to support the local food ecosystem, it’s important to acknowledge this knowledge gap.
Another theme or pattern that we witnessed was how cooking new foods takes mental energy. People stick with what they know, as inferred from subscribers defaulting to their easy meals when life gets rough. While we were visiting her house, Keegan even used these words to describe something in her pantry: “this is my go-to, my sad ‘not cooking’ meal”.
From these recurring themes:
Parents enable picky children which inhibits exploration of food.
People want to eat seasonally but underestimate the learning curve.
Cooking new foods takes mental energy. People stick with what they know.
We arrived at this insight:
The allure of convenience and choice has enabled parents and kids to form bad food habits. We must foster more exploration of and respect for food.
We believe this insight is valuable because it speaks to a latent need exhibited by the Lettuce subscribers and it helped us get a better understanding of the subscriber’s actual relationship with food. It also led us to wonder how can Lettuce foster more exploration of and respect for food?
While we were conducting our research, we looked at more than just the subscriber’s relationship with food. We also looked at how and why subscribers valued the Lettuce service. We learned that subscribers desire a sustainable lifestyle. For example, Maple is a student who lives in a small apartment complex and cannot compost. Maple studies landscape archeology and she knows the positive impact that composting has on the environment.
While subscribers do value the tangible service of composting, they are primarily motivated by the non-tangible aspect of living a zero waste lifestyle. One reason people like Maple make decisions around sustainability is that they are acutely aware that their individual actions can have an impact on the greater whole whether that be in their community, the environment, society, and so on.
This sustainability or “greater good” mindset is hard to shake. It makes it impossible to throw out a plastic Tupperware without lamenting that it will end up in the landfill. One succinctly stated reflection on sustainability that we heard during our research came from Margaret: “A lot of people probably don’t think about that. But for me, I can’t not think about it. Once you get in that mindspace you can’t get out of it.”
This leads us to our final behavioral insight that we would like to share with you: Subscribers operate from the mindset that their individual actions affect the whole. Lettuce should positively reinforce subscribers impact all throughout the experience. How can Lettuce bolster subscribers’ perception of a collective good?
As we move into the final stage of this research project, we will continue to reflect upon these opportunity questions. Pondering these challenges will guide our team in our journey to outline opportunity areas for Lettuce to grow, improve the service it provides to its customers, and strengthen the local food ecosystem. Until next time, blog readers!
Have you ever heard of “service slices”? We hadn’t either. Gerald, Cristina, and I have been working with Lettuce, a local meal delivery company, for the past six weeks with the goal of identifying key opportunity areas for the company. This process began with in-depth behavioral interviews with staff and customers alike and we’ve since been analyzing the research data that we collected through various lenses. We sifted through the data to identify a few key emerging themes and then refocused to start mapping out some of the behaviors that we observed during our research.
For the purposes of this assignment, our team would like to offer you a glimpse of how Lettuce operates from plant to porch. We mapped out a few of the key operations processes that culminate in the delivery of a Lettuce bag to the client: sourcing, assembly, and delivery. We examined several hours of our research data by creating what are called “service slices” in which we mapped out behavioral and informational interactions, inferred relationships of power and influence, and sketched out the location and objects involved in these interactions.
Lettuce strives to create a sustainable and hyper-local food ecosystem. In order to do this, Lettuce partners with a number of local farms and purveyors to source the ingredients that go into their weekly meal deliveries. By creating service slices examining this sourcing process through various lenses, we were able to identify a few bits of “low-hanging fruit” insofar as opportunities for Lettuce to streamline and make more dependable the sourcing process.
Once the ingredients have been sourced and delivered to Lettuce’s warehouse, they are ready to be assembled for delivery. During assembly, the packers are supervised by managers to ensure that all of the meal boxes are packed correctly into each delivery bag. We used the service slices to note a few key areas of frustration on the staff side during assembly. One manager noted that while Lettuce is striving to offer a variety of product lines for its customers and is ever-increasing the available meal options, this has a compounding effect on the efficiency of the assembly line.
After assembly, packers transition into the role of drivers for delivery. The delivery bags get divvied out amongst the drivers and routes assigned, and the drivers set out to make their deliveries. Similar to assembly, when things are running late or a driver calls in sick, this affects everyone’s delivery route. By mapping our data using these various service slice lens, we also noticed some really positive interactions between the operations staff which lend themselves to strong team cohesion.
Creating these service slices helped us to examine the operations side of Lettuce from a few different perspectives and glean observations which we hope will prove useful in the next step of our research process. We look forward to synthesizing insights and working towards providing Lettuce with areas of opportunity to enhance the services that they provide to the Central Texas area and beyond.