Posts tagged thesis
Final designs are coming together for Frank: a service that enables small groups of friends to work together to save money for the things that matter most. Come check it out on May 12
In a world before the meteoric rise of credit cards, a public service announcement about considering what you buy, what you save for, and how to spend your money…
“ Technology has made it possible to fundamentally change the way we interact with money. By providing a way to access people and financial resources in one place, technology has the potential to restore money to its original function - a means to create valuable relationships between people.”
Yesterday I went through my key screens with Charles making sure that my ideas and concepts were being communicated through actionable steps on the screens. Here is a peek inside the day’s activities. I have identified 4 pillars of experience that each part of the experience is focused around: Independence, Confidence/Competence, Generosity, and Sharing. Green post-its indicate where these pillars are manifested in the screens. These have helped me clarify actions, identify holes, and communicate the concept more clearly.
Think about all the things you can DO with money
All of us spend it. Some people borrow it from other people who lend it. We have tools to track money, we can accumulate it, analyze it, ot think about it later. We can earn money, we can separate money into different accounts. We can use money to help entire countries, entire industries, or entire populations. We can give money away or keep it for ourselves. The things we can DO with money are infinite. And we have built an infinite number of systems to accommodate our infinite number of actions. These systems are made up of institutions, objects, networks, and people. Some of these systems are visible. Most are increasingly invisible.
The entire world has spent a good part of the past 4 years talking about these systems. We have uncovered why they don’t work, can’t work, or aren’t working the way the should work. We have proposed and argued about ways that they need to work better. Regardless of where we stand, it should go without saying that our money and the systems that support it have become really really complex.
Yet, despite it’s massive and looming complexity, money doesn’t leave anyone out. Even the people that don’t have it, can’t understand or access it, can’t live without it.
The number of people who interact with money is far greater than the number of people who interact with Facebook. And that is power. And I’m talking about the interaction… not the money.
For something with so many users, why aren’t we putting more effort and focus into how we interact with and experience money?
Could it be that it is because we are too focused on what money DOES rather than what money IS? Anthropologist Keith Hart said, “Money is a means of social interaction.” Money is a way to participate. A way to engage with all the things - large and small - that matter to us.
Our focus on what money already does, has only highlighted it’s shortcomings. But by renewing our focus on what money inherently IS - we come to understand what it can enable. Think about the other participatory objects, products and systems: These systems enable sharing, chatting, giving, inviting, messaging, friending, connecting, experiencing, even trusting people you don’t know and have never met.
However, when I asked 80 college students to talk about their experience with money, this is how they described it: private, selfish, anxiety inducing, out of control, elusive, unpredictable, overwhelming, not-emotional, impersonal, invisible, confusing, and a lot of work.
There were only 2 areas where they talked positively about their experience with money
- Saving not only gave them more money to buy and do the things they wanted to do but also gave a sense of confidence, pride, and stability.
- Most find great joy and satisfaction in giving money, however small, to a friend in need.
While their negative experience was based on “the system” taking money from them (in form of interest, loan payments, and purchases), each aspect of their positive experience with money focused on giving within a highly personal context. First, giving to themselves and then giving to others. Saving built a sense of individual competence and autonomy, while helping others tapped into this generation’s overwhelming desire to be generous and share.
These positive actions and behaviors around money drilled straight to the heart of what money IS and the positive things it enables. Money is a way to participate. Money is a means of social interaction. Money enables relationships and exchanges. Our complex systems and institutions have turned our experience of money into a highly private and personal pursuit that is tied to an object or coin. We have forgotten that money, at it’s heart, is NOT a common object, but rather a common unit of value that is intended to be shared and passed between people. This is what money DOES best - and it should come as no surprise that some of our most delightful experiences with money are still built from this original foundation.
Shabash stops thinking about money as a financial resource and starts thinking about it as a series of exchanges and social interactions that help you participate in the world in ways that are meaningful.
How do we DO this?
- Through saving rather than spending or borrowing.
- Put money back into a social context
- Focus on the transferrable and sharable qualities inherent to money
- Leverage the fact that for the first time in history, our social capital and financial capital exist in the same space - on our mobile phones.
I have spent the past day going through my research, insights, writings and readings trying to cull everything down into manageable bits so I can begin to get a handle on how to present things. So far this is the clearest and most succinct way I can express my work to date: Match the intrinsic qualities of money with the intrinsic motivations of people to build more sustainable interactions around our financial relationships.
“ Money isn’t a hinderance, but an enabler. And we should start interacting with it as such.”
I have been really struggling these past weeks trying to figure out how to show and talk about my concept in ways that are meaningful and concise. I have been especially hung up on communicating the user experience - trying to decide if its best to talk about the overall need for my product or better to show it in action; whether to talk about how it works or the emotional experience with it. It has all been quite a tangle and I have been discouraged because I feel like I don’t have the time to do any of it very well. However, after good conversations with both Allison and Dave today, I think I am now headed in a better direction. By focusing on the value of saving through the lens of specific product features I think I will be able to make some good progress….
This is my first pass at a presentation introduction. We are working with Stephen Nixon, which has been a fantastic experience. I have been working this past week to refine my approach - which really means overhaul it all together, but it has been fun. Here is the feedback that I received last week and have been improving upon.
- The things I talked about in the first minute were not necessarily related to the main point of saving.
- Starting with social is perhaps revealing something too soon and not immediately clear. Don’t make your audience work too hard from the beginning
- Make a statement about money that is not so loaded. Something that is easier to connect with. Something like: “Money Sucks.” Immediately identifiable because we don’t have enough of it. Then move into the fact that it’s also social.
- Go slower., Pause more., Too many ums.
- Credit cards: the obvious option, but not the only option.
- The important thing about saving is:
- Build empathy with your audience
We are re-presenting tomorrow to Chloe Gottlieb, David Womack and Tamara Giltsoff and I am feeling much better about the direction I am headed.
“Products based on sharing are disrupting traditional industries”
I probably have this phrase written in one way or another on about 90 different pieces of paper that are littering my life right now. But there is something valuable to writing things down over and over and over again.
I chuckle a little when I see that I was writing the same thing in 2007…. and feel really good when I realize that what I am doing right now is exactly what I have been writing about all along. It’s maybe what both Liz and Paul would call “a consistent approach to a persistent idea” Heh.
Admittedly, I am horrible at formally documenting my process, but I found these post it notes hiding under a stack of papers on my desk. Chances are I wrote them some time about January or February when I was planning out my initial prototype. While I had set out to design an easier and more sustainable way for people to save money, I ended up teaching myself and learning a lot about prototyping for behavior change— because lets be honest, saving money is not quite as attractive to people as spending it.
According to my post-its, here are the things I was thinking about as I started prototyping: (I’ve included a few thoughts and links to posts I have written in the interim to fill in gaps, insights, and findings.)
- Design for existing strengths not weaknesses I wrote about this before, but I think it is the one point that has been the driving force behind the majority of my design and prototype decisions, so I will say it again: The key to success is not in telling users to work harder at something they already suck at, but in giving them the tools to improve upon their existing strengths.
- Design for capabilities not limitations: We already feel so limited by what we can and can’t do with our money. Our options around saving are so limited that I found that some of my prototype participants didn’t even know what a savings goal was. They thought saving was something that was wrapped up in a 401K, home ownership or life insurance plan - all things that were inaccessible and irrelevant to their life experience and behaviors around money. They weren’t able to even fathom saving for something so huge - so they didn’t. And as a result, they didn’t save for anything else either. My design focused on setting short term goals - things that users felt like they could complete confidently and competently in a knowable amount of time. The framework was something they could wrap their heads around - it was something they felt capable of working towards and completing.
- Design for users’ lack of time It goes without saying that most mobile experiences should be designed around what Josh Clark calls “quick hits”: that is - Assume that interactions with the app are going to be wedged between all the other things we are doing in our day. Don’t have any delusions that people will actually want to engage whenever a notification comes through. The job of the designer is to make them want to engage and make that experience as simple as possible. “The best apps fold neatly into the fabric of a busy schedule… Get me there in a tap or two.” This means that the act of saving has to be quick. Easy. Effortless. In a nutshell, I had to make the act of saving as easy as swiping a credit card…. or easier.
- Design for users competing priorities This was a hard one to tackle because the priorities and behaviors that I was up against were pretty big. I have written about this elsewhere, but to summarize: I had to make saving money for something in the near future more attractive and pleasurable than spending money (and seeing immediate gain) in the present. The main way I have been thinking about this is to make the “saving” experience as positive as possible. If the one bad thing about making a purchase is feeling guilty about spending the money, I’d do the opposite. I’d make people feel like they were paying themselves. And everyone likes to wake up with some extra money in their pocket. I want my experience to feel like that.
- Be there for users when things start to break down: I had to figure out ways to anticipate even the most positive of actions breaking down. What happens when people fall off the wagon, so to speak? What happens when they get tired of making a daily contribution or realize they are actually saving too much and can’t sustain their day-to-day lifestyle? What happens then? As I worked through my prototype this past month I had to purposefully break interactions in order to find the best to build them back up.
- Make it as easy as possible to get people involved. This is obvious. Perhaps more than the actual contribution action, I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into the onboarding process. At times it seems ancillary and I kick myself for not putting time into the other actions and potential features, but then I remember that in order to be involved you have to GET involved. So… moving on.
- Design for a trajectory of use rather than one time use. My prototype also addressed user over time. How long did I want people to be engaged? When do I give them breaks? How long is enough? How long is too long? I hate to beat a potentially dead horse, but a lot of my thinking around this was inspired from coaching and preparing competitive training programs for athletes. Change is only going to happen if you switch up the intensity, frequency and rest periods often so people don’t plateau or fatigue. The goal is always to be improving.
I’ve spent the past two days thinking a bit more purposefully about who I want to pitch my thesis to on May 12 - a day I have dubbed the Frabjous Day - which is besides the point for this blog post, … but anyway. I made a quick diagram of all of the potential audiences for my thesis pitch— individuals and specific organizations, and what they might be interested in hearing about (in red). It is a lot and I have the basic skeleton of a compelling pitch for each of these gorups… Which is a real drag because I only have 7 minutes.
This weekend I spent a fair amount of time working through the various service touchpoints within the collaborative finance product I am building. Before this weekend, I had spent significant time building out a strong experience around the contribution action making sure that all parts of the system supported that action in a way that was meaningful, easy, and relevant to the users’ goals, needs and contexts. This thinking manifested itself in how I structured groups, contribution frequency and periodicity, and on-screen UI elements. I am feeling confident on most of these fronts and need to shift back to the greater user experience with the product. As I have been working these past weeks I have identified three main points within the user experience of my product that are especially important. Unlike my previous work around the contributions - which focused on getting someone to start something, these three points focus on the tangible acknowledgement of a completed user action. They are:
- completion of a daily contribution
- completion of a sprint
- achievement of a goal
My thinking is this: that if a user feels great about a daily contribution, they will be more apt to continue to the end of a sprint. If they are positively acknowledged at the end of a sprint, they will be more likely to continue on towards their goal. The positive feedback upon reaching a goal, seems an obvious one, but the event is such a major accomplishment considering the behaviors around saving, that it deserves an equally major celebration.
This week I will be developing more specific ideas around each of these moments and constructing a more specific narrative around my product that (hopefully) I will be able to communicate through a video or other means in the next 6 weeks time.
Mark has always been impatient, so he decided to make an honest effort at getting his head back above water. Taking the advice from his New Year’s resolutions article, he started small, by putting away one dollar a day.
Some time passed, and Mark realized that he wasn’t missing that daily dollar. He went up to two, then three, then four dollars a day as the months went by. Before long, Mark’s saving became automatic. He would make his daily savings transfer almost right away after he woke up.