How might we change the way people borrow and invest money?

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TIMELINE
MY ROLE
TARGET AUDIENCE
3-week design sprint
UX/UI Designer
Users ages 18 - 38
ABOUT OUR PROJECT

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what

Cash Match is a peer-to-peer lending app that connects people looking for loans with people looking to invest their money. There are no credit requirements that need to be met in order to borrow money, and funds can be accessed right away.

Users get matched with other users that match their loan or investment criteria. Borrowers don't need a credit check to get matched to an investor, and they can avoid the high-interest rates of payday loans while building their credit with on-time payments.

Users can also

  • Earn Badges to solidify and recognize their hard work towards financial awesomeness.

  • Create avatars. Because although our transactions are anonymous, we wanted this app to feel friendly and fun (two words you don't typically hear being said about any loan or investment process).

This rapid design project was based on a client’s request to create a way to help people pay bills and access funds during hardships, such as COVID-19 unemployment, or having a poor credit score and history.

As a two-person team (myself and my client), my role was UX/UI designer. I conducted research, sketched many ideas, prototyped, and finally presented the solution to my client.

CONTEXT

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why

2020 happened. One thing we can take away from the COVID-19 pandemic is that life and our society is a fragile thing.

Systems that we once thought were the bedrock and foundation of our society actually failed us in such unprecedented times.

One of those systems is credit, and how we determine the creditworthiness of a person.

With this project, we endeavor to redefine how a lender determines a borrower's creditworthiness and make financial access and financial success universal.

With Cash Match, we aim to change the way people borrow money and invest their money.

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our goal

Many Americans suffered from sudden job losses, reduced hours, shortages of food, and isolation. Those with lower credit scores were left with nowhere to turn for financial assistance.

The resulting economy following the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated their already declining credit score. This and other factors made it harder for people to obtain the financial assistance they need and even harder for them to trust any banking or credit system during these times.

So, how do we create an environment where that doesn't happen?

More specifically, how do we create a revolutionary peer-to-peer lending app that allows people to borrow from and invest in real people right when they need it, doesn't feel like a bank, doesn't require credit approval for a loan, and is still a secure, friendly, and--dare I say it--a fun experience for all?

This is the problem we endeavored to solve.
THE STORY

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pre-sprint

Project Kick-Off

We used Google Ventures' Design Sprint, which is a five-day process for solving problems and testing new ideas. Since the sprint is customizable, we turned those 5 days into 3 weeks. Each day brought interesting moments and unique challenges. At the end of the sprint, we had a testable, high-fidelity prototype.

Design Sprint Overview

Here's how we broke down each day of our sprint:

Before diving into Monday, I sat down with the client again to establish UX requirements.

I learned that the client is undertaking the project to help individuals and families access loans without going through a bank or needing a credit check, allow individuals who want to invest their money in people to do so, and help people realize their financial goals and improve their literacy.

Before completing any loan transaction, however, users must first select their role.

Are they seeking to invest their money, or seeking to borrow money?

For the prototype, we decided to test the investor's journey. We concluded that our peer-to-peer lending app cannot work without investors willing to put their money up for others to borrow.

Naturally, we didn't arrive at this conclusion the moment my client approached me with their idea.

We first sought to understand the idea, the problems, and the users.

Let me tell you a little more about that.

Target Audience Analysis

According to visualcapitalist.com, "Without an understanding of key concepts in finance, it makes it difficult for the majority of the population to make the right decisions and to build wealth." To this end, the client and I concluded that investing and borrowing should be more accessible.

Given that only 16% of millennials qualify as financially literate (according to the TIAA Institute), our target audience is users between the ages of 18 and 38.
With our target audience, UX requirements, and problem clear in mind, we dove right into Monday.

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monday

Set long-term goal

Using Miro, I created the main whiteboard. Then, we got introspective and optimistic.

We asked ourselves, "why are we doing this project," and "Where do we want to be in 5 years?"

The answer was simple.

To change the way people borrow and invest money.

Sprint Questions

Now, we had to get pessimistic and ponder all the ways we can fail and how our project could go wrong.

  • Now, we had to get pessimistic and ponder all the ways we can fail and how our project could go wrong.
  • Out of all of the questions, the one that stood out to us was, "how can borrowers and lenders benefit from each other?"
We had already established that we want to change the way people borrow and invest, so why not start with exploring that symbiotic relationship?

We did that by mapping out our challenge and users through a simple map, followed by user flows, journey maps, and empathy maps.

User Flows

This simple map above illustrates key players in relation to the goal and desired ending. It helped me prepare for a more detailed approach below, where I illustrate how our customers interreact with our product for the user flow.

Getting Familiar with Our Users

We thought about how they might think, their frustrations, pain points, and goals, and we wrote it all down via empathy maps

"The Borrower"

"The Investor"

We then envisioned proto-personas and journey maps based on our assumptions about our users.

Meet Juliet

  • 23 years old
  • YouTuber/Vlogger
  • In a Relationship
  • Remote
“I want an easy way of investing my money but I also want to help individuals realize dreams and get out of hard times.”
Juliet is a 23-year-old YouTuber bitten by the travel bug. She’s currently in Madrid, Spain. She loves being around people and loves to contribute wherever she goes. Juliet has enough savings that she wants to invest but doesn’t really know anything about stocks, IRAs, CDs, or other traditional ways of investing. She doesn’t want to invest and wait 20 years to see results. She wants an easy way of investing but also wants to help people realize their dreams and get out of hard times.

Meet Carl

  • 35 years old
  • Restaurant Manager
  • Married, 4 kids
  • Seattle, Washington
“I work less hours due to COVID-19 and need to pay my family’s bills. I don’t like dealing with banks and do most of my finances on my phone.”
Carl is a 35-year-old restaurant manager with reduced work hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A married father of four, Carl is worried about his inability to pay for his family’s bills on time due to the reduced income. He does most of his finances on his phone and is frustrated that his low credit is limiting his family’s option for financial assistance. He hopes to open his own restaurant some day and take his family to Disney Land for the first time.

"How Might We?"
Turning Fears into Opportunities

Now that we had an idea of who our users were, we reframed problems as opportunities by starting with the question, "how might we" (HMW) and then wrote one idea per sticky note. It was at this point that I felt like our product started taking shape. I started to notice trends in the HMW notes.

Pick a Target

Once voted upon, it was clear that we needed to target the overall feel of the app, as well as encouraging user engagement in order to reach our goal.

With that being said, our top two HMW ideas to explore further were, "HMW make this experience as comfortable, unique, friendly, safe, fun, and secure as possible for all parties?" and "HMW encourage  lenders to lend money and borrowers to pay it forward?"

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tuesday

Lightning Demos

When Tuesday came, the first thing I did was look at existing design solutions in similar fintech apps, competitors, as well as seemingly unrelated apps.

For example, one app I checked out was a really cool pen pal app. I was interested to see their solution for making such a large, worldwide community feel close and like an actual close-knit community. I also looked at how other apps included gamification features, peer to peer lending, and avatars.

For me, this was an important step in the design sprint. Rather than creating something totally new,  the best ideas were those that are other great ideas, just remixed and improved upon.

So, I took my phone, whipped out my S Pen, and noted solutions and points of interest on the screenshots.

Next, I moved on to sketching some unique adaptations of these solutions.

The 4-Step Sketch

Now onto the 4 step Sketch. The 4 Step sketch has 4 important elements.

The first is 'Notes,' where I looked at all of my whiteboards and took super basic notes on everything between Monday and now. This helped grease up my brain for some more sketching.

Next, I took my notes and switched into doodle mode. I spent 20 minutes making some rough doodles of the notes I took earlier and made them more tangible. They're not beautiful by any means, but it's the jumpstart I needed to level up my sketching even further in the next step.

This next part was my favorite part of the 4-Step Sketch. It was also the most nerve-wracking as I had to come up with as many ideas as possible. That is Crazy 8s.

With Crazy 8s, I folded my paper so that it made 8 small rectangles and timed myself for 8 minutes. I spent 1 minute on each idea. By the time I got to 8 minutes, however, I had so many more ideas I wanted to explore so I repeated the exercise two more times. I explored ideas for different features, such as a learning area and gamification.

Next up, the Solution Sketch.

With the Solution sketch, I chose the best idea and put it down on paper. I focused on smaller details and created a story of how the user will interact with the product using my sketches.

The best idea was the investor's flow, which I named "The Lender Unicorn." These sketches follow the perspective of an investor as they complete their first investment. The sketches walk you through the main parts of the transaction.

User Surveys & Recruiting

As Tuesday neared its end, we created a screener survey to recruit users to test the prototype on Friday.

We aimed to identify target customers without revealing exactly what we were looking for. In addition to finding target customers for our prototype, we also utilized the survey to gather quantitative data about said customers.

What's interesting is that not only are the majority of the respondents in the millennial generation, but only 16% would consider themselves financially literate, similarly to the TIAA’s findings of financial literacy among millennials.

While trust in traditional institutions remained high in 2019 (according to visualcapitalist.com), the pandemic of 2020 brought on unique challenges, and the need for virtual services increased. This realization further cemented the need for a change in borrowing and investing.

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wednesday


Straw Poll & Supervote

On Wednesday, each solution sketch was critiqued and voted on by peers, the client, and myself. First, I displayed the sketches on a virtual whiteboard in an 'art museum' style.

Then, everyone placed one to three small stickers on the ideas or parts of ideas that they liked. This helped form a sort of heat map.

Next, everyone got the opportunity to ask the sketcher questions about specific design choices or ideas. We all chose our favorite idea via straw poll, where we each took a small red sticker and placed it on their favorite idea.


Branding

Now that we knew which ideas we were going to prototype and test, we quickly brainstormed fake brand names. We used lists and mind mapping techniques and decided on Cash Match.


Story Board
How will our users normally interact with our product?

Next, we created a storyboard. Remember Juliet, our investor persona? We based this storyboard on her experience. We drew a grid and thought about how Juliet would normally encounter our product.

Juliet's Storyboard - Round 1

Sketching the storyboard was next. Each scene illustrated a crucial point in the prototype.

First, Juliet Googles 'investing in a cool way'. She immediately falls in love with the idea of people helping people, benefitting from each other, and keeping the money in the hands of the people.

Soon after, she signs up, creates her avatar, and gets to searching for her next investment. She gets matched with others within her criteria. Once she selects the borrower request she's interested in funding, she's free to check out other offers while she waits for their response. When she receives the borrower's counteroffer, she happily accepts.

Juliet has just completed her first investment on our app, so she also receives her first badge and some coins she can rack up and turn in for cash to reinvest. Juliet is happy because she feels good about helping out another human and feels hopeful about her financial future.

Juliet's Storyboard, sketched by my inner child (10-year-old me)

After reviewing all of the ideas and votes, it was clear each sketch contained an integral part of the investor user flow. It was for this reason that we decided to incorporate all of the ideas in order to get to our goal and produce a viable, testable, prototype.

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thursday

Wireframes

Now that we had our storyboard, we applied it to creating our first wireframe. That’s how Thursday began. We included very basic elements and experimented with different ideas.

Low-fidelity wireframing

We then moved on to the low-fidelity prototype, ensuring our focus was on the singular transaction between the investor and the borrower.

Low-fidelity prototyping

Color Palette & Prototype

I quickly developed a simple color palette, and then added the color, illustrations, and micro-interactions to the prototype. I chose these colors because they convey liveliness, wealth, joy, stability, and trustworthiness.

I checked my color palette's contrast and color blindness accessibility.

Color blindness accessibility
Checking contrast ratios
Cash Match Prototype
After a final check of everything thus far, we wrote our interview script. Now, we were ready for testing.

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friday


User Testing & Analysis

Cash Match Prototype User Testing

I started each interview with some contextual questions before diving into the prototype itself. For testing, I created a Reframer study in Optimal Workshop that allowed me to capture, tag, and analyze 250 observations and deliver qualitative data.

I noticed interesting patterns amongst the participants.

For example,  2 out of 3 users mentioned that lack of understanding of finance and financial verbiage was a major deterrent to them trying out investing.

Additionally, I noticed that all users experienced delight when navigating through avatar creation, and showed curiosity throughout the test by asking questions about app concepts or areas of the prototype that were unavailable.

Some of the users also provided valuable feedback and suggestions. For example, one user suggested checking the contrast ratio of the Borrower’s purple icon on the role selection screen.

Purple borrower icon did not appear to meet contrast guidelines.

After the interview, I went back to WebAIM's contrast checker tool. When I checked, it did not meet any WCAG accessibility guidelines for contrast!

This and other notes were used to make changes and iterate on the final prototype.


Would you like to see the prototype?


Here's a walkthrough!

What I Learned

1

Overall, users want to see a change in the current credit system. All users interviewed saw the value of removing credit scores and labels within our app. No one is labeled as "risky" or is denied for having a lower than average credit score. The users we interviewed agreed with the ideology.

2

Millennials long to be financially secure, but feel they lack the necessary support, resources, or education to succeed. Cash Match supports the user by not only providing a secure and fun environment to experiment and learn but also providing quick, easily accessible transactions that deliver help right when needed.

3

Most users prefer to do their banking through an app or website but still crave a personal touch. For us, this meant that Cash Match needed to instill trust, stability, and structure in users while also embracing and nurturing the feeling of community.

What I Would do Differently & Next Steps

1

Users may want to borrow or invest with people they know in real life, or perhaps want to invest or borrow again with the same anonymous user. By adding a function to search for other users via their nickname or other credentials, users can easily find each other.

2

I would choose a different design for the request cards. More specifically, I would change the design and wording of, for example, "$500 for 5 months." Ideally, you would look at that and see both pieces of information without having to read a full sentence.

3

I would incorporate cryptocurrency options into the transaction . If our aim is to change the way people borrow and invest money, decentralized banking like Bitcoin and Ethereum gives people much more of an opportunity to grow their wealth. It also makes investing and borrowing more accessible, as anyone can purchase Bitcoin, for example.

4

I would have liked to sketch and explore making the request cards into a carousel. Users would swipe and get matched with offers, as in a dating app.

5

During prototype testing and when receiving feedback and critiques, 80% of folks combined displayed curiosity about how our product would incentivize/encourage borrowers to repay loans on time, as wells as how we would guarantee to investors that they would get their money back. This is very telling that is it is another area for exploration, and users want this sort of security when investing or borrowing.


And that's Cash Match!

This sprint showed us that there is indeed interest in this area of fintech. We started our 3-week sprint with the goal, "to change the way people borrow and invest money." I think Cash Match is a great exploration and first step into that journey.

Curious about this idea? Let's connect!