WHAT I WORKED ON
UX Research, Wireframes, User Testing,
Mockups, Prototyping

PROJECT TYPE
Academic (May - July 2021)

DURATION
10 Weeks 
 
TOOLS
Figma
InVision

OVERVIEW

Tasked with completing a 10 week capstone project, I created Divedly [də-ˈvəd-lē]. An app designed to help millennials who live with roommates effectively split and keep track of shared expenses. This app serves as a tool to reduce financial friction amongst roommates and ensure financial fairness.

DISCOVERING THE PROBLEM SPACE

Navigating personal finances can be challenging without the added complexity of roommates. As each person brings their own value system, beliefs, and habits into a shared living space, conversations revolving around money can oftentimes be uncomfortable and emotionally charged. 

Drawing from stories shared by friends and my own personal experiences, this inspired me to explore how technology can play a role in keeping the peace in roommate relationships. 

STARTING WITH RESEARCH

To validate whether my problem space was a compelling issue I began with secondary research. I uncovered three findings that affirmed why this problem space is important to solve.

Vector-8

01.
Millennials Are Living With
Roommates For Longer

Cohabitation has increasingly become a necessity, not just a preference for Canadian adults even after obtaining a post-secondary education. 1 in 4 millennials lives in a doubled-up household due to factors like delayed marriages, climbing student debt, and the cost of homeownership.

(The Atlantic, 2018) 

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 02.
Common Roommate Conflicts


Rent
and communication are considered to be of the top three sources of tension when living with roommates.

(Apartment Guide, 2020) 

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 03.
Unfair Split of Expenses


25% of millennials
 stated they were 
dissatisfied with how bills were split in their household.

(Apartment Guide, 2020) 

WHAT ARE THE COMPETITORS UP TO?

I looked at competitors to understand the current ways this problem space was being addressed.

My competitor analysis revealed there were gaps and opportunities across the apps to develop specific functionalities & features. This indicated there was an opportunity to carve out an improved solution with a new app.

Competitive-Landscape-1

With my problem space identified, I authored a How Might We statement to frame my design challenge:

How Might We help millennials living with roommates effectively manage their shared living expenses, so that each house member can stay aligned and accountable for their payment dues?

WHAT IS MY HUNCH?

At this point in my design process, I wanted to get more clarity on the common pain points, goals and motivations related to sharing finances with roommates. I set out and created a list of assumptions to validate through primary research. 

  • Visibility: Roommates don't have a clear view of how shared expenses are divided. 

  • Financial Management Tools: Spreadsheets are a common tool. However, they are not easily accessible and require frequent management and data entry.

  • Record Keeping: Roommates need a system to organize receipts and monthly recurring bills.
     
  • Communication: Roommates are not proactive about money conversations. It is normal for users to assume that others know what to do when sharing bills, which leads to unecessary confrontation and confusion.

UNCOVERING THEMES AND INSIGHTS

I conducted 1:1 interviews to explore and understand how millennials currently manage their shared finances. I spoke with a total of 6 participants who were between the ages of 23-32 years and currently or previously lived in a doubled-up household within the last 5 years.

Five key themes arose from my data:

Transparency

01.
A Need for Transparency

Millennials want a transparent and open environment where they can agree on expenses that are being shared and align on how amounts will be divided.

Group

02.
A Need for Seamless Communication

Using group chats and SMS as sole channels of communication has proven to be challenging. There is a need to consolidate chats, track multiple expenses, and balances within one platform. 

Tools

03.
Time and Effort

Tools like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are ineffective in quickly and conveniently communicating how much each person needs to contribute for an expense. Spreadsheets also require continous effort to update.  

Financial-Fallout

04.
The Importance of Trust

There is friction that comes with having to constantly follow up with a roommate and it is hard to re-establish trust when payments are late or missed.

Fairness

05.
Keeping Costs Fair

Millennials want costs to be equitable. Fairness helps to ensure costs are accurate and everyone in a household is aligned on the amount they owe.

 

KEY INSIGHT 💡 

My interviews revealed that although millennials want shared costs to be equitable, there is a significant barrier in determining how to best divide expenses fairly. With this learning, I chose to leverage Keeping Costs Fair as the key insight for my solution.

THE GOAL

  • Create an MVP (minimum viable product) that helps people living with roommates divide their shared finances fairly
  • Design an intuitive experience that improves the communication of shared finances
  • Build and foster a sense of transparency and trust amongst roommmates

UNDERSTANDING MY USER

Now that I had an idea of what roommates want in relation to shared finances I created a user persona to ensure my design solution was anchored by my target users goals and needs in mind.

Farzana is my primary persona. She is the point person who pays for shared bills upfront, tracks each shared expense, and ensures that all balances are settled up amongst herself and her roommates. 

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MAPPING OUT FARZANA'S JOURNEY

I stepped into Farzana's shoes and mapped out her experience of splitting an electricity bill. By doing so, I was able to identify opportunities on which to focus my digital solution. 

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THE JOBS TO BE DONE

Looking at the key opportunities identified in Farzana's experience map, I brainstormed a list of tasks and functionalities that would minimize Farzana's pain points.

I narrowed in on Splitting Expenses with Ease as the core epic for the MVP. This epic was chosen because it closely aligned with the key insight and can help Farzana achieve her goal in wanting to divide expenses fairly.

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DEVELOPING A SOLUTION

In order for Farzana to achieve the core epic highlighted above, she first needs to have the option to add and split a bill in the app. With this in mind, I selected the following user stories to develop as the primary and secondary task flows.

Primary User Story:
As a
roommate 

I want to have the option to split a bill either equally or customize my split
So that that the cost is being divided proportionally

Secondary User Story:
As a roommate 
I want to upload a bill by taking a photo or manually typing
it in

So that I can attach it to my payment request

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Task-flow-2

PUTTING PEN TO PAPER

Home Screen
The secondary task flow (uploading a bill) begins with the homepage screen. I sketched out variations to visualize how Farzana can immediately view outstanding balances and add a bill when opening the app.

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Split an Expense Screen
While sketching out the primary task flow (splitting a bill), I explored how Farzana can select from various split methods to ensure her bill is divided as fairly as possible.

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MID-FIDELITY WIREFRAMES

My sketches were then translated into mid-fidelity wireframes. This was critical in helping me create a realistic experience to encourage insightful user feedback in the testing phase.

Wireframes-2
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Design Decisions 
The screen highlighted above is a key screen in the Split An Expense task flow. To help Farzana achieve her goal in dividing a shared expense fairly, the following design decisions were made:

  1. What does Farzana need to do to begin splitting an expense?
    She can choose how to split a cost and has the option to either equally split or custom split an expense. These options are presented as a tab style navigation. 

  2. If Farzana wants to calculate based on specific usage, how does Farzana complete a custom split?
    She can calculate the divided cost by dollar amount or percentage. These are presented as drop-down options.

  3. How does Farzana accurately view and adjust a specific divided amount?
    She can change the sliders to set a specific value.

PUTTING IT TO THE TEST

To understand how users responded to the functionality of the prototype, I conducted 2 rounds of user testing.

I consolidated the qualitative feedback that was received and used a prioritization matrix to evaluate the effort to fix and value to the user. Below are the most critical changes that were applied for Version 1 & 2 of the prototype.

BUILDING THE VISUAL IDENTITY

From my research, I learned that millennials feel that managing finances can be monotonous and boring.

I wanted to inject a personality into the Divedly brand that would resonate better with my target users, so I chose to hone in on four key adjectives: friendly, vibrant, personal, and precise. These keywords informed my decisions for the colour palette and typography.

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KEEPING ACCESSIBILITY
AT THE FOREFRONT

To ensure my design visually accommodated a diverse set of users, I chose a colour palette that had sufficient contrast between the text and its background and made sure that the text colours complied with WCAG triple A standards.

Accessibility-Colours-3

WORDMARK EXPLORATION

Fundamentally, brands are about connection. They offer universals for people to relate to and wordmarks are a powerful tool to help a brand tell a story. 

When developing the app name and wordmark, I explored concepts that conveyed the idea of dividing finances and that also embodied the four key adjectives. The app name I chose to proceed with was Divedly [də-ˈvəd-lē]. 

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HIGH-FIDELITY DESIGN 

Once I established the visual identity I developed the high-fidelity prototype. Careful considerations were made to ensure the graphic motifs and colours did not overwhelm the design but instead aimed to complement and aid the user in successfully completing the task flows.

Add-New-Expense-1

Add A New Expense

Upload an expense and input information like the expense name, category, total, as well as the frequency of the bill. Then select and assign who will be paying.

Split An Expense

Choose to split an expense equally or custom split. Features such as the High Priority toggle and Set a Reminder help to eliminate the awkwardness that comes with having to follow up with roommates for payment. 

Split-an-Expense-1

LAUNCHING INTO MARKET

To launch Divedly in the market, I created a responsive marketing website to drive awareness and usage of the product. I established key marketing messages to communicate my product's value proposition and to influence users to download the app.

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MEASURES OF SUCCESS

To help determine the success of Divedly, there is a framework of user-centred metrics that can be used to measure the overall user experience: 

NPS

Happiness: Customer Satisfaction Rating
To determine whether Divedly meets the goal of building and fostering a sense of transparency amongst roommates, there is an opportunity to measure how people feel about the product and their level of satisfaction via a survey. 

 

Usability-Metric

Task Success: Task Success Rate
Evaluating the number of participants who successfully complete the How Will This Be Split?  main task flow can help reveal whether this design solution is intuitive and usable for users.

 

NPS

Retention: Retention Rate 
By measuring the number of users who return to Divedly after a given period of time, this can indicate the number of active users and can be used to point out whether the app is growing, stable, or showing signs of decline.

 

Melissa Thanakone —
UX/UI Designer

Contact —
melissa.thanakone@gmail.com

Social —
Linkedin