Lending, Goal-achieving, and Volunteering: Feedback from 3 Early Design Ideas

This is the third installment of our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) project for our Studio and Ideation class. This project builds on the research we did with gig economy workers last Fall. While only one of the ideas listed below directly affects gig economy workers, all ideas were developed directly from our research, which you can read about here and here.

This week we started to turn our research into reality. After developing 200 unique ideas last week, we narrowed to three design ideas to start testing. This is the first step in our four-week journey to narrow and define one strong design idea that we will develop in our final quarter at AC4D.

Our progress this week:

  • We narrowed from 200 to five design ideas. To do this, we gave each idea a score of 1-5 for:

    • Viability: how likely is this idea to make money?

    • Feasibility: with current technology today and our resources, how likely could this be built?

    • Impact: does this serve the people we seek to help?

    • Differentiation: is this need already being met?

    • Interestingness: do we personally find this compelling enough to work on it for 12 weeks?

We used the rankings of the top 20 to narrow down potential options and then we each took time to reflect and surface our personal top 5. Early this week we met together and decided on a top 5 for the group.

  • Developed an Elevator Pitch, Lean Startup Canvas, and Storyboard for our top 5 ideas. To help us flesh out these concepts to get actionable feedback, we created shareable assets. This helped us hone in on core features.

  • Narrowed to three ideas. The process of creating those artifacts helped us narrow down to a top three that we would focus our interviews on.

  • Interviewed 15 people. We each owned one idea and held 50-minute interviews with five people to gather initial reactions, questions, and overall sentiment. Read below for high-level feedback and insights from our interviews.

Shake It Off

Our app makes it easy for people who want to improve transparency and accountability when they borrow money from friends or family. You can set up terms, reminders, auto-drafts, and even note cash payments or barters that happen outside the app. Unlike GoFundMe or bank loans, our product doesn’t require a good credit score and allows people to ask for temporary assistance rather than a gift.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 29-51

  • Average rating: 1.6 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Paypal already does this – sort of. Participants who had previous experience using PayPal or Venmo to share money with friends and family felt their needs were already met. They used transaction history to keep track of loans but did acknowledge that this has the potential to get messy for larger amounts over $1,000.

    • Lending friends/family money is messy. Three participants mentioned that their parents taught them to not lend money to their friends or families because it gets messy. This mentality seemed more prevalent among groups with higher socioeconomic status.

    • Tracking loans is not always desirable. Often there appears to be an expectation that if you borrow money from friends or family, they may not make you pay it back in full. This is especially true of people borrowing money from their parents.

      Key Positive Insights

    • Payment tracking needs are not currently being met. For folks living paycheck to paycheck, the desire to track exact payments was very high. This was less important for anyone with a savings cushion.

    • It’s hard to stay accountable without a tool. Self-discipline is required when borrowing money from friends and family because the consequences of default are less concrete. Participants liked that this app could help keep you accountable, and even auto-draft money so you didn’t have to think about it.

    • This is helpful for the financially excluded. Almost everyone we talked with had experienced some level of exclusion from banks. Payday loans were seen as an absolute last resort. Three participants tried to get money from a bank before borrowing from friends and family but were denied.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Edit storyboard to reflect larger dollar amounts. The current storyboard has $40 as the loan, but most participants mentioned they were typically borrowing hundreds at a time. For every participant that gave this product a 1 (would not be disappointed if it didn’t come to life), they said they would be more likely to use it if it helped facilitate larger loans ($5,000-$10,000).

    • Consider unique profit models. One successful model mentioned was Dave, a banking app, that asks for donations and is only $1.07 per month.

    • Suggest speed. The immediacy of instant cashouts has increased the expectation for products to move money quickly. Two participants felt that Venmo transfers are too slow (taking 2-3 days) and want to get paid immediately.


    • The financial product space is saturated. In my five conversations, the following tools were mentioned: Venmo, Paypal, CashApp, Splitwise, Zelle, Direct Transfer, Dave, Earnin, Acorn


Goal Grab

For gig workers who are looking to build a roadmap to achieving their dream, our platform motivates users by helping them visualize their priorities, break goals into smaller building blocks, and track progress. Users are prompted to articulate why their goals are meaningful, enabling them to develop clarity and confidence around realizing their goals. The goal-achieving platform enables community support through a ‘tip me forward’ function, allowing others to support your progress and give towards your dream.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 26-36

  • Average rating: 2 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Motivation is a moving target. Participants expressed a multitude of motivating behaviors or support systems. Each person found it meaningful to articulate the why behind their goals but most expressed distrust and uncertainty around how the platform could help.

    • People aren’t interested in features that require more work for them. As our storyboard illustrated, the tip me forward function would be separate from the in-app tipping system of Uber or Lyft, requiring users to be engaged with a physical artifact that would prompt them to inquire. Alternately, it could mean the driver has to engage their customer – the prospect of which prompted strong, negative reactions around it feeling coercive or inauthentic. “Needs to be part of an organic conversation vs being pitched at.”“It makes me feel super uncomfortable – I would never do it. If I didn’t make my goal, I would feel awful.” “It could also be infuriating if it didn’t feel genuine.”

    • Analog is the default. Each participant expressed some degree of reservation around using apps as a learning tool. “Anytime I start an app, I might start there but then I switch to ‘old school’ pen and paper – divert back to tried and true.” When talking about who this platform might benefit, participants mentioned people who have a smartphone and have a degree of fluency or ease in using them “in that way.”

      Key Positive Insights

    • More motivational to have a fluid approach. Overplanning often leads to disappointment because it doesn’t account for “the only thing constant in life is change.” While people liked the ability to see all of your goals or steps in one place, creating flexibility within tackling each step was an important quality that folks were looking for.

    • Having a trail of success behind you becomes evidence of how far you’ve come and provides motivation to push forward. Feedback was positive around the progress view. One participant noted that people can get discouraged though, if the evidence doesn’t show them as the higher achiever they want to be and could be overwhelmed if this view appeared unprompted. They also provided feedback on how it might look differently though one person said, “I like the little pie charts change a linear sense of time too. It’s not month to month or week to week but visually growing.”

    • Confidence requires as much traction as the goal itself. Participants spoke about fear as a hurdle to getting out the gate, and self-doubt as a reason why they don’t achieve their goals. In putting the effort into putting those out there, two of our participants spoke about how that alone can help clarify how invested and interested you are.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Explore the concept ‘off the screen.’ The folks we spoke with are not using the apps they download. How we can clarify what makes this better than pen and pencil version and how can we consider different contexts for this concept?

    • Explore ways to include motivation mapping. It would be interesting to consider how we might track motivation to see what patterns emerge for people so they can better develop strategy around how to build momentum when it begins to slide.

    • Group conversation about folding concepts together. We merged two ideas in coming up with this concept. Having a frank conversation will help clarify where and how these ideas do and don’t work together.


Re-inventing the Elk’s Lodge

For young adults (millennials) who want to be meaningfully engaged in their communities but feel limited by their financial resources. Our product matches user interests with volunteer opportunities, placing people in service tracks where they can hone their philanthropic interests and grow their social network. Unlike volunteer platforms that connect you with one organization, we introduce you to a range of projects, people and interests. Through a mix of online and in-person engagements, we are driving the premise that social health is the new individual health.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 33-39

  • Average rating: 2.6 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Progress tracking of volunteerism is “gross” and “cringey.” All participants except for one had strong negative reactions to the premise of a progress tracking function built into the app. They felt it was anathema to the ethos of volunteering.

    • It reminds people of a platform they dislike. Initial responses to our platform concept were that it sounded like it might recreate a platform that already existed and that nobody liked. The VolunteerMatch comparison and bad after-taste are something our group will have to address if we bring our product to market.

    • People prefer an on-going engagement with one organization. People didn’t like the idea of service tracks that sampled volunteerism at different organizations or the idea because it was at odds with their value of going deep with a single group to get to make meaningful connections.

      Key Positive Insights

    • Meeting other people is a central reason for volunteering. People were highly positive about the potential for a social connection function built into the app. Meeting other people is often a primary or secondary goal for becoming involved in volunteer work, and one that was often not met.

    • Finding a great organization to volunteer with is hard. People liked the idea of getting matched to an organization and having a more manageable non-profit landscape to navigate whether you were new in town or just not tuned into the local non-profit landscape.

    • The mission of the platform resonates with interviewees’ values. Jessica said, “An app like this would go a long way to fix what is wrong with my generation [a lack of social cohesion and community-mindedness]” and four of our five participants said they would be extremely disappointed if the product didn’t come to market.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Implement filtering or even curation functionality. Participants didn’t want to see organizations that hasn’t been vetted and preferred 5-10 excellent local orgs to dozens of random ones. Colin even suggested that the user should create a profile and not see more than three ‘matches’ for volunteer options.

    • Close the loop. Jessica suggested that non-profit staff should be at events to provide purpose to events. They could be there to informally chat about the org and the opportunities or even kick off an event with a more formal State of the Org presentation. This idea tested positively with subsequent interviews. This might be a good way to expand the pool of potential volunteers organically.

    • Research the other side of the ‘marketplace.’ Molly (who had experience working as a volunteer coordinator for a youth program) mentioned that if on-boarding for the non-profit partners was too complicated they just wouldn’t do it.

Next Steps

  • This upcoming week, Allison and Laura will continue to expand on these three ideas by building pitch decks and then interviewing new participants for their feedback.

  • Michelle will be in Milan competing at the IxDA Student Design Charette – wish her luck!