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From research goals to research questions: A quick guide for generative user interviews

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As a product designer, the most critical guiding principle in my day-to-day is Customer Obsession. We start with the customer and work…

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FinDeck — A UX Research Case Study

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FinDeck — A UX Research Case Study

As a new member of the workforce, I was curious about building wealth. The interest remained imminent while the ways to do it remain elusive. Financial literacy is not mainstream and the implications of the same are seen in my circle and throughout society. There is growing evidence that financial literacy affects financial decision making which in turn determines the well-being of an individual in this economy driven by capitalism.

Knowing what to find, finding the right resources, finding the right mentorship, the right advice, knowing what is right, and knowing what is right for you is a daunting task even for experts, let alone a novice. Having no idea where to turn to amidst the plethora of information irrespective of its credibility was the stimulus for the ignition of this project.

Introduction

Personal finance and financial literacy

Financial literacy in a layman’s term is knowing how to handle money. To be more specific, it is knowing the concepts required to understand the abstractions of financial services. OECD defines financial literacy as “a combination of awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual well being”.

“Financial literacy is a combination of awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual well being”

Personal finance is an umbrella term encompassing saving, budgeting, debts, wealth planning, banking, investing and so on.

“Personal finance is an umbrella term encompassing of saving, budgeting, debts, wealth planning, banking, investing and so on”

Now that the meaning of financial literacy and personal finance has been established which begs the question “How are they related?”.

Implications of financial illiteracy on Personal finance

There are 15000+ financial products and services available in the market. An average individual who considers his retirement and wants to get involved in building wealth is expected to have enough knowledge about various concepts of finance to sail through the vast ocean and find products suitable for him and his lifestyle. And, this is where the problem begins as discovered via desk research. The findings are stated below:

  1. Various previous research suggests that people with low levels of financial literacy find it difficult to manage savings, borrowing, investments etc not only during work life but also during retirement.
  2. A simulation run in the United States from a life-cycle model which incorporates financial literacy shows that the same can explain more than half of the observed wealth inequality.
  3. In a similar vein, another research conducted by Blackrock to determine the relationship between wealth and well-being suggests that amongst those who invest, 43% are more positive about their financial future but even with financial confidence and optimism on the upswing, 57% of people aren’t investing(holds no stocks or bonds).

There is a positive relationship between wealth and well-being of an individual and yet one doesn’t participate due to the complexity of the financial world and inadequacy of financial knowledge.

But how inadequate is the financial knowledge amongst the ones around us?

In-depth Research

1. Survey

Although a lot of research has already been done to understand the level of financial literacy amongst the world, there wasn’t much data available for a developing country such as India. To gauge the same for a population sample around me, I decided to go forward with a survey.

Participants

The team(N=1), after thorough secondary research drafted survey questions based on the research to consult with participants(N=381) consisting of working professionals, students, and self-employed individuals who fall in different places in the spectrum of financial literacy. Participants consist of all genders with age ranging between 15–45 years.

Procedure

Goal: To measure the financial literacy rate of my first and second circle.

Platform: Google forms

When it comes to measuring financial literacy, a lot of work has already been done on the same as to how to go about it. For the research to be of help, we mustn’t only measure what the participants already know but also what they need to know to evaluate the gap. In light of this, the participants were tested on fundamental concepts such as:

  • Chances
  • Numeracy in Investment
  • Division
  • Compound Interest
  • Inflation
  • Risk Diversification

These concepts are universal and form the base for multiple financial decisions in everyday life. These questions were devised by Prof Lusardi and Prof Mitchel and are widely used across the globe to measure financial literacy.

Questions used in the Financial Literacy Survey

Here’s the link to the financial literacy survey: https://forms.gle/Rck6Ak8FayLc9As19

Observations

Financial literacy stands at 14.7%

Only 14.7% of the respondents got all the answers right.

Observations from the survey

This survey laid the base for further research into the behaviour of the respondents.

2. Expert Interview

On gauging the rate of financial literacy amongst people around us, I set forward to interview a wealth manager to further understand the ‘why, what and how’ of personal finance and its relationship with financial literacy.

I was able to uncover how a wealth management firm decides on a portfolio for a client who approaches them, and the mindset of their clients.

Observations

  1. The investment portfolio is tailored based on the risk appetite of the individual which is determined through profiling of the user.
  2. The company has an analytical wing that assesses each product to come up with a risk: reward ratio. This risk/reward ratio is made use of in parallel with the risk appetite to decide on the bespoke portfolio
  3. The younger generation(Gen Z and Gen Y), having born in the information age, although financially illiterate, prefer DIY and don’t often seek out help.

3. User Interview

Post validating the problem of low financial literacy via survey and the interview with an expert, I moved forward with user interviews to understand how participants set financial goals and went about their plan of action and how participants consume information on finance

Participants

Participants(N=14) were grouped based on the following criteria:

  1. Level of financial literacy
  2. Level of experience with financial products and service

Procedure

Research Questions:

How do individuals consume information on finance?

How do individuals set financial goals and plan their course of action?

The participants were recruited through a screener which was shared on social media platforms.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, all the interviews were conducted via zoom. The participants were asked to briefly describe their experience with investments, how they learnt to handle money — the pros and cons and their habit of information consumption.

Here’s the link to the Screener and Discussion Guide:

Screener: https://forms.gle/9g1etenuRKUaxNeB8

Discussion Guide: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ggD5aQ2gNh5ejyg_XT9ytI9bZZajbDG2krYOmeuMadc/edit?usp=sharing

4. Analysis

Once the interviews were done, it was time to get started with the analysis.

Procedure

Few of the interviews were transcribed and for the rest, notes were taken making use of the recording. Post which, thematic analysis was done to form mental models.

Screenshot of the mental model

Initial Observations

  1. Almost every participant who did not have an early influence(a mentor figure early on in life) finds it hard to learn, and maintain their investment.
  2. For most of the participants, the early influence was their parent or a relative.
  3. Most of the participants have an aversion towards consuming information on finance as video. They do not find it trustworthy
  4. Participants without a mentor figure shied away from finance for as long as possible until compelled to take action through a major event in life.

Here’s the link to viewing the mental model: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13GrhzvUJ71UHjNktVGJZVHbSCSiJCgRj_z46yyg4Pcw/edit?usp=sharing

5. User Persona

After careful consideration of the qualities and needs of users who were interviewed, these user personas were created.

Mike — The hustler
Rachel — The Beginner

Insight Generation

After rigorous research and analysis, the following insights were generated

1. Digestible Information

  • Most of the participants who did not have a mentor to guide them in their initial journey had trouble understanding content on finance and still so because of jargons and knowledge gaps
  • This lead them to shy away from learning since a lot of time is required for the same and time is a scarce resource

2. Proactive curated suggestions

“I want the app to suggest content for me.”

“I want the app to suggest content for me.” said a participant during the interview. This was in the mind of almost all the participants as it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a way in the plethora of resources available.

3. Community

“I miss not having peers to give suggestions”

When we do not know how to solve something, we look around for help or look around to see how individuals solve similar problems. When both aren’t available, it becomes frustrating and that is the case of multiple participants as they do not have anyone to rely on for discussion or advice

4. Guided Mentorship

“I get stressed when I get lost in exploring something which might not be useful”

Getting lost in the overwhelming amount of resource is not uncommon but without guidance from a mentor, it becomes difficult to differentiate the right from the wrong. To know how to filter out the noise or confirm an intuition, a mentor especially in the initial stages of learning becomes indispensable.

5. Multimedia learning

Having established the problem of low financial literacy, aiding only with investment won’t do the trick. Individuals must be taught the concepts through theory and hands-on approach. Each prefers to learn via a different medium, some through articles, some through classroom training, some through books and some through audiobooks. Any content which is being crafted to educate must consider putting it across in various formats

6. Trustworthy content

“I do not trust tools since they show sponsored content”

For any financial product to thrive, trustworthy content becomes key given that finance is a sensitive topic. Many participants quit using certain applications since the platform was showcasing sponsored articles. They expect the information being presented to them to be free of any bias

Conclusion

This project has given me an opportunity to indulge myself in the practical realm of user research providing me with irreplaceable knowledge. I’ve learnt how to conduct interviews, how to read research papers, how to analyse and how to portray the results. Most importantly, I have learnt how to empathise with users.

Thank you for reading

If you liked my work, you can reach out to me at sherliedurai@gmail.com or on Linkedin


FinDeck — A UX Research Case Study was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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research

User Research Plan for a Financial Wellness App

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Use of strategies and guidelines during the research planning phase to get strategic insights during the product discovery phase