Live vs. loan is a mobile app that explores how gamifying loan debt management can motivate users and encourage learning around finances. This case study was an independent capstone project in my Designlab UX Academy curriculum in March, 2017.
This project was identified based on my own personal experience with managing and tracking student loan debt, and is a nationally pervasive problem:
I began exploring opportunities to design a product that could potentially alleviate frustrations and reduce loan amount or shorten payoff timelines for borrowers, grounded in the following hypothesis:
If Americans with student loan debt are more informed about their financial options and more motivated to proactively manage their debt, then they will be empowered to lessen or pay off debt more quickly leading to faster financial freedom.
Project brief / timeline
UX strategy blueprint
IA / Application map
Prototyping & iteration
Design from inception to final interface
UI and IxD
I can’t do anything crazy [in life], I don’t have that freedom. Like if I wanted to try and start a business, I don’t feel compelled to go for it if I have this loan.
I wish they offered personal guidance... someone to say, “Did you know there were these other options you could be doing?,” or “You’re on the right track.”
[Lessening my debt] was a sloooww drip...Now that I’m really getting down, I’m REALLY motivated. I want this done and over with.
It went from a value that seemed out of reach, like 70K, or even 100K...and when it hit 50K, when it got down there, it felt like I could actually pay this off. When I threw that one chunk of money at it, and so much went away, it felt so great.
In order to validate my design ideas, I created a wireframed protoype in InVision. I specifically wanted to test my assumptions about the onboarding process and loan sync user flow.
Some of the primary takeaways from testing were the successful completion of all tasks including the loan syncing feature, and small adjustments to visual elements, which informed my next wireframe iterations.
I also decided that further testing was needed on the “Friends” feature to determine if this social accountability element were appropriate and/or motivating in the context of loan debt management.
The decision to gamify the LVL App became pretty clear after feedback from user’s showed there was a significant lack in motivation to proactively payoff and learn more about student loan debt management options.
Feelings of frustration, embarrassment, shame, guilt, and apathy surrounding student loan debt pointed to a unique opportunity to reframe the debt problem and created a challenge of designing an app that was not only useful but engaging and fun.
Gamified elements within the app design include:
After a brainstorm regarding my vision for the LVL brand, I arrived at some key words:
RELIABLE, TRUSTED, SAFE, CHEEKY, FUN
Grounded by these brand assets, I created a mood board, sketched logo designs, and created a visual style guide.
The visual style of the product aims to make managing student loan debt less “crippling” (a word used by a real user) and significantly more pleasant:
In addition to this project being a great learning experience, I also had a lot of fun with the topic, considering it started from my own personal frustrations with student loan debt.
As mentioned previously, one challenge I had early in the process was developing a clear focus around what the problem was that I was attempting to solve. Had I started my research before clearly outlining the problem space and setting clear research goals, I could have been finding solutions to the wrong problem.
In the end, it was clear that the problem was more than simply paying off loan bills, but a deeper connection to motivation (or lack thereof), despite loan bills being highly connected to users accomplishing other life goals. This focus informed my research goals and interview questions, which impacted the rest of my project priorities and product features.
In hindsight it was also clear how important communication was as I regularly engaged in constant loops of design, feedback, and iteration. Check-ins with my mentor and group critique sessions helped me take a step back, hear from diverse perspectives, and improve on my designs.