Flux Finance

Customized income tracking and trend analysis for fluctuating income and financial stability.

project overview

Traditional personal finance advice favors salaried jobs where income is consistent and predictable. For those with fluctuating income (i.e. servers, bartenders, consultants, etc.) income is difficult to track and manage, leading to financial uncertainty and instability.

The goal of this project was to equip users to understand their fluctuating income through tracking and visual data representation.

role + scope

UX Designer
User Research, Information Architecture, Visual Design, Prototyping + Testing

Summer 2020

solution

Flux Finance is a financial stability tool for individuals with fluctuating income. Through account and income tracking, paired with curated data analytics, users are able to see past a single data point to the truth of their income.

Skip to Solution

01: discover

02: define

03: develop

04: deliver

05: evolve

project brief:

The client went from waiting tables to landing a salaried position at a large corporation.
In the transition she quickly realized her salaried role provided better financial stability.

2.
Provide a financial solution or tool for people with fluctuating income.

1.
Identify the cause of poor personal finance habits at fluctuating income jobs.

01: discover

overview - financial stability & fluctuating income  /  opportunity  /  persona & empathy maps

financial stability

Financial stability is a system that facilitates and enhances economic growth, manages risk, and absorbs shocks and surprises.

Essentially, it's confidence in and control over your finances.

Being financially stable provides freedom from money related stress. It is recommended for all people regardless of total annual income.

essential steps to financial stability

02

Live Below Your Means

01

Build a Budget

05

Save & Invest

04

Pay Off Debt

03

Build a Buffer

income variability

fixed income

Income that is fixed.

salary

Bankers, Businessman/woman, doctors/nurses, teachers, engineers, marketers, etc.

no variability

fluctuating income

Income that is dependent on irregular variables.

sales & commission

Sales (Insurance, Medical, Tech), Real Estate Agents and Brokers, Accountants, etc.

low variability

Number of opportunities, opportunity scale (price or % tier), opportunity, investment (time), seasonal highs and lows, etc.

freelance & contract

Writers, Designers, Programmers, Contractors, Cleaners, Landscapers, etc.

medium variability

Number of clients/projects, project scale (price), project Investment (time), seasonal highs and lows, payment day(s), etc.

service & gig

Bartenders, Servers, Barbers, Stylists, Spa Workers, Drivers, Deliveries, Performers, etc.

high variability

Payable hours, tips/gratuity, seasonal highs and lows, payment day(s), pay method (cash, paycheck) , etc.

here's the scenario:

Mary the Marketer

(salary)

"I want to be more diligent in planning
for my financial future"

Rachel the Realtor

(sales & commission)

"I want to make the most of my commission."

Connie the Consultant

(freelance & contract)

"I want to be more responsible with my income."

Wendy the Waitress

(service & gig)

"I want to stop living paycheck to paycheck."

Fred the Financial Advisor

"Let's start with your income..."

"Great!
The first step to
financial stability is to build a budget."

"Your budget basics include:
income, expenses and savings.
"

Mary the Marketer

(salary)

"Great, I have that information.
Let's get started!"

Fixed income facilitates building a budget because it is stable and predictable.

rachel the realtor

(sales & commission)

"Well, I know my base salary and I can try to predict my commission."

Connie the Consultant

(Freelance & contract)

"Ok, I can approximate my income but it can vary
month to month."

Wendy the Waitress

(service & gig)

"Hmm, I can guess what my income is but I honestly
don't know."

Fluctuating income hinders building a budget
because it is unpredictable and difficult to track.

identifying the opportunity

user interviews

Participants were selected from a variety of fluctuating income jobs. The goal of these conversations was to understand their financial experiences.

Marie, 23

Waitress
2 years
Part time

Leslie, 35

Bartender
17 years
Full time

Nate, 29

Freelance Writer
3 years
Side hustle

Andre, 47

Sales Agent
24 years
Full time

Zack, 21

Dog Walker
2 years
Side Hustle

Chris, 28

Physical Therapist
2 years
Full time

Jill, 32

Photographer
8 years
Full time

Cynthia, 39

Real Estate Agent
24 years
Full time

Interview insights:
Fluctuating Income

01

The unpredictability is always a looming stress.

"There's always the risk that a client could leave - which would dramatically impact my income."

02

Fluctuation is a common excuse for carelessness.

"It's super unpredictable so I just roll with it month to month. Nothing I can do about it."

03

Lower variability = Higher financial confidence.

"My sales commission is steady. I don't have a lot of little sales to keep track of."

interview insights:
Budgeting & Personal Finance

04

A (false) sense that their income isn't note worthy.

"I don't make enough to have savings. I'm just paying as I go!"

05

Income tracking is a hassle and budgeting is a chore.

"I know I should record my tips but by the time I get home,
I forget."

06

Finance is overwhelming (mentally & emotionally).

"I try my best but honestly there's so much info out there... I don't know where to start."

personas + empathy maps

the graduate

(service & gig)

Aarthi, 23, waitress

Aarthi is a recent college graduate working as an intern at a start-up. She waits tables part time to cover her essential expenses.

    Goals:

    • To gain enough experience at the start-up to be hired as full time staff.
    • Have fun with her friends without going broke.
    • Start paying off her student loans ASAP!

    Frustrations:

    • The unpredictability of her work schedules.
    • Waitress shifts that feel like a waste of time.
    • Her income not reflecting how hard she is working.

    the hustler

    (freelance & contract)

    Ava, 34, Event Planner

    Ava manages a variety of events with overlapping schedules. She typically is paid 50% upfront and 50% after the event.

      Goals:

      • Track her income by client.
      • Begin saving to open her own business.
      • To take a vacation with her family.

      Frustrations:

      • Having to chase down clients for her payment(s).
      • Feeling uncertain about her annual income.
      • Adapting her plans when clients cancel.

      the provider

      (sales & commission)

      John, 41, Insurance Sales Agent

      John has been in sales for 20+ years. He makes a base salary with commission potential.

        Goals:

        • Get serious about his finances and his kids' college fund.
        • Better understand his peak sales season(s).
        • Wants to feel knowledgeable and in control.

        Frustrations:

        • His employer is constantly changing the commission package.
        • The stress and pressure of having a bad sales month.
        • His friends selling more at other companies.

        02: define

        how might we...?  /  problem statement

        how might we...?

        How Might We (HMW) is an exercise to identify potential problems and reframe them as opportunities

        HMW Steps:

        1. Generate HMW opportunities on post-it notes.
        2. Categorize your oppotunities and look for themes.
        3. Prioritize your categories and opportunities.

        1. HMW Opportunities

        (generated by Persona)

        2. HMW Categories and Themes

        (all step 1 opportunities)

        3. HMW Priorities

        01

        Financial Clarity

        02

        Easy Income Tracking

        03

        Useful Analytics

        Short term:

        • Communicate income trends.
        • Provide data that makes budgeting easier
        • Encourage positive financial outcomes

        Short term:

        • Painless income entry
        • Organize multiple workplaces and titles

        Short term:

        • Emphasize trends instead of single data points
        • Categorize and compare payments
        • Compare year over year and month over month

        Long term:

        • Include income deductions (i.e. travel, childcare, etc)
        • Link to their budget
        • Generate income projections

        Long term:

        • Customize to profession
        • Input additional variables (outliers, deductions, goals)
        • Automate where possible

        Long term:

        • Customize to profession
        • Provide ROI or hourly averages
        • Provide analysis on what days, months, seasons generate the most money.

        problem statement

        user:

        need:

        goal:

        People with fluctuating income that desire financial stability.

        The variability of jobs with fluctuating income makes it difficult to track and/or understand personal earnings.

        Understanding your income is crucial in becoming financially stable.

        Assist the user in becoming financially stable through income tracking, data analytics and financial clarity.

        03: develop

        ideation  /  test prototype  /  user testing & insights  /  design iteration

        ideation

        concept sketches

        Dashboard

        Account

        + Income

        Dashboard

        Account

        + Income

        Dashboard

        Account

        + Income

        Dashboard

        Account

        + Income

        Dashboard

        Account

        + Income

        Dashboard

        Account

        + Income

        visual data sketches

        Category Progress

        Month Trends (+/-)

        Annual Trend Comp

        Itemized Income

        Annual Category Comp

        Target Progress

        Zero Sum Budget

        Paycheck Reminder

        Monthly Category Comp

        Category Comp (%)

        Income Trend Line

        Income Spectrum

        lo-fi prototype

        Main Pages

        Visual Data Concepts

        test prototype

        Many users in our target demographic have little to no experience with finance apps.

        The main goal of this prototype was to be able to conduct user testing and interviews with a tangible solution before heading down the wrong path.

        Dashboard

        Income totals for all accounts listed by week, month, and year.

        Visual Data

        A collection of charts, graphs, etc to communicate income trends and promote financial insight.

        View Account

        Accounts are listed on the Dashboard and provide access to view a specific account.

        Account Visual Data

        Consistent with the Dashboard, each account has its own collection of charts and graphs.

        Add Income

        Income can be added from the Dashboard or from an account.

        Add Account

        To add an account, simply provide the job name, your title, and the source of payment.

        user testing

        Interview structure

        1. Welcome and Context Questions
        • Lifestyle (location, hobbies).
        • Work basics (industry, hours, etc.).
        • Income and personal finance (how/when they receive income, predictability, tracking and budgeting, etc.).
        • Financial Apps (likes/dislikes).
        2. Tasks
        • First impressions.
        • Identify highest earning month of 2020.
        • Identify income from paychecks this month from The Blind Pig account.
        • Add a new job.
        • Add new income.
        3. Debrief and Thank you
        • Initial reactions to the app.
        • Usefulness of data represented.
        • Gaps or missing items.
        • Follow-up on previous statements.

        screener

        • Mix of male + female, age 18+.
        • At least 1 year of fluctuating income, averaging 15+ hr/wk.
        • Mix of industries and job titles.
        • An interest or desire to be more financially aware or stable.

        participants

        Kaitlin, 26

        Psychology consultant
        (1.5 yrs; 20 hr/wk)

        varies by client

        Server at Downtown restaurant
        (6 yrs, 20 hr/wk)

        hourly + tips

        Marcia, 31

        Freelance Designer
        (5 yrs; varies)

        varies by client

        Server at local resort
        (1.5 yrs, 25 hr/wk)

        hourly + tips

        Simon, 27

        Kitchen Expo
        (2 yrs; 30 hr/wk)

        hourly + tips

        Oliver, 37

        Hospitality Sales
        (15 yrs; 30 hr/wk)

        salary + commission

        Interview affirmations

        Access to financial overviews were eye opening.

        Users noted that they hadn't seen their money put into a big picture context before and that this would be helpful to their lives.

        Users did not struggle to interpret the data presented.

        All tasks were easily completed without further explanation.

        The app formatting and data visuals were positively received.

        Users felt that the app was clean, understandable, and easy to use.

        Interview OPPORTUNITIES

        Visual data - one size does not fit all.

        The wants, needs and preferences of each user varied greatly. Data that's useful to a waitress may not be useful to a salesman.

        Irrelevant data led to "zombie scrolling".

        By giving every user the same data set, the information wasn't personal enough to be wholly practical. If a chunk of the data isn't useful, it's easy to zone out.

        The overall reception of the branding was lukewarm.

        Currently, the UI is a bit too bland to be delightful.

        design iteration

        content curation

        Creating a personal, custom data set is the next step to addressing our interview findings (i.e. one size does not fit all; zombie scrolling).

        sitemap

        Before sketching or creating wireframes, a sitemap was created to define the functional layout of the app and areas of customization.

        aligning aesthetic

        With the decision to take a more curated approach, the previous UI was no longer cohesive with the app's functionality.

        The revised app will be inspired by the minimalism and refinement of other curated brands and experiences.

        TYPOGRAPHY

        Header
        Subheader

        TITLE

        Body
        DIN 2014 - 400 Regular - 14pt

        COLOR PALETTE

        #333333
        #E75F35
        #FFFFFF
        #F7F7F7
        #DCDCDC

        ICONS

        A NEW STYLE GUIDE

        The new style guide is clean and minimal, removing the abundance of color from the previous iteration.

        The linear nature of the icons and body text will be a guiding principle in further wireframe ideation.

        wireframes + lo-fi prototype

        We are not starting over. The notable changes are the addition of data customization and new UI. But the general flow of the app remains the same.

        The wireframe sketches and lo-fi prototype are primarily about addressing these changes before creating a final prototype.

        Dashboard

        Account

        Customize

        + Income

        04: deliver

        solution

        View Figma Prototype

        Flux Finance is a financially stability tool for individuals with fluctuating income. Through account and income tracking, paired with curated data analytics, users are able to see past a single data point to the truth of their income.

        financial awareness & understanding

        Big Picture Perspective

        The Dashboard opens with an overview of your weekly, monthly, and yearly income to date.

        If you have multiple accounts or jobs, comparative data is available via the Dashboard.

        Comparing accounts is valuable for multiple jobs and crucial for users seeking to compare numerous clients and their respective ROIs.

        Demystify Your Income

        Personally curated data provides income clarity through trend analysis and detail recollection.

        Income can be filtered by week, month or year.

        The minimal aesthetic of the app prevents the data from being overwhelming.

        Financial Accessibility

        Financial stable requires an understanding of your income.

        Learning the language will boost the user's financial confidence.

        Each data set has an explanation of what is being represented and how it is applicable.

        Providing this information makes it easy for the user to learn and feel taken care of.

        Customization

        Practical Data

        We all have different financial goals and needs. Customize your data to include only what is useful for you.

        A library of data options are available and organized into categories and filtered by "Visual Content" or "Text Content".

        Data that is personal and practical, instead of one-size-fits-all, mitigates "zombie scrolling".

        Data Expansion

        Data customization allows the app to evolve and grow by targeting specific needs.

        Data requiring a passage of time (i.e. year over year comparisons) could be made available when applicable.

        Niche data (job or goal specific) and complex data modeling could be added to the app at an additional charge.

        New ways to process your income keeps the app fresh and encourages continuous user participation.

        Adding Accounts & Income

        Adding a new Account

        Add account basics in under a minute.

        Adding an account is initiated from the Dashboard.

        During prototype testing, some users preferred to keep things as quick and simple as possible.

        account customization

        When creating an account, additional content is available to create a more detailed narrative of the job.

        This customization allows the user to include specific details about their job at their discretion.

        During prototype testing, some users required more details. Account customization allows the app to meet the needs of numerous industries and job titles.

        Adding Income

        Add income basics in under a minute.

        Adding income is initiated from an Account.

        During prototype testing, some users preferred to keep things as quick and simple as possible.

        Income Customization

        When adding income, additional content is available to create a more detailed narrative of the income.

        This customization allows the user to include specific details about their income at their discretion.

        During prototype testing, some users required more details. Income customization allows the app to meet a variety of analytical needs.

        05: evolve

        next steps for flux finance

        usability testing

        Strategic expansion plan

        accessible copywriting

        Initial feedback to the MVP has been positive but additional testing is required.

        Testing should examine navigating through the app. However, the primary focus should be a quantitative and qualitative look at customization and it's value to the user.

        A perk of customization is the opportunity to allow the app to grow and evolve - but without a plan that could be quite messy.

        A roll-out strategy for when additional custom options would be launched, from a user and business perspective, would be needed to move forward.

        The language used to communicate the function and value of the data is crucial.

        A clear voice that is welcoming and financially informed could make the difference between adaptation and abandonment.