MapleBank App Feature
Developing a solution to reach freelancers
Student Project
May-June 2022
Role: Research, Ideation, Design and Testing
In the context of the 20-week Concordia University UX certification program I completed in July 2022, we were given the task to build an application feature from scratch with an onboarding flow for new customers. 
The company, MapleBank, is a fictive Canadian online bank (neobank) that is rapidly gaining traction and looking to break into new markets in the country. 
As such, our team was given the challenge to develop a new feature that answers a critical financial need of the new market’s user base. ​​​​​​​

Meet the team: Kevin, Kesheerah, Lisa (myself) and Paola, known as the jUXtice league.

Our team was composed of 4 students in the program randomly placed together. We each had the opportunity to be involved in every step of the project as we met up weekly (sometime bi-weekly) to assign tasks and update each other on our progression. 
We had 6 weeks to go come up with an idea based on research, build a prototype, test it and finally present our solution to our class for feedback. This short timeline paired with the fictional nature of the company was a challenge given the (almost) infinite multitude of possibilities! Nonetheless, we followed the design thinking methodology to make sure we could justify our design decisions.

After analyzing the current product offering and current customers demographic data (predominantly males in their 20s), we decided to focus on Monique's persona as she represented the new market we were looking for.

The initial research phase was conducted by the bank, who shared:
- The current portfolio of products
- Key facts about their current customers
- Potential new customer personas
Our team decided to focus its efforts on Monique Abebe’s persona, a mother of two in her thirties who is balancing her personal life with her freelance bookkeeping business. Her socio-demographic attributes were under-represented in the current customer base. Furthermore, there are no current MapleBank business related offerings. As such, she embodied the new market we were looking for!
The key elements that drew us to this personal are her need for control and saving time. She needs to keep track of her revenues and expenses from multiple income streams as a freelancers.

With our persona in mind, we scanned Youtube and read articles to understand the current financial products offering available for freelancers, as well as their needs and priorities. We interviewed 5 freelancers in our surrounding to dig deeper. To immerse ourselves in their mindset, we created a journey map of a freelancer looking to open an account specifically for their business. 
We then proceeded to conduct a competitive analysis of the following to find out what kind of features exist to meet freelancers' needs:
 - Current budgeting tools (Ex: Government of Canada Planner, ScotiaBank Money Finder, QuickBooks)
 - Freelancer targeted banks (ex: Novo)
 - Neo-banks and established banks with physical branches
Although ease of use, integration with other softwares and financial perks were the main appeal of these solutions, we wanted to create an in-app feature that helped users manage their finances differently.

In the journey map scenario, our persona is looking to open an account specifically for her freelance business. As she scams articles and videos to compare different offerings, she is drawn to products that can offer features targeted to her tracking needs.

"One thing I realize I am really bad at, I need to find time... it's not even finding time I just need to get in the mindset of doing. When I go to Home Depot, my receipt gets emailed to me so it's fine, so I can search "Home Depot" and everything is there, but what I want to do is get into a habit of doing it right then and there. Is it just putting it in my notes? Or storing it in a different app? or having a whole different credit card?
 I don't know what this answer is and I've been struggling with this for years. Or I am just lazy and need to get down to doing it but I honestly struggle with my expenses. I could get a lot more tax return money."
Freelancer interviewee, male 25-40 y.o.
One of the pain points that the freelancers we interviewed currently encounter is sorting out their transaction by client. Bookkeeping is usually done using an external software which typically is a time-consuming step:
1. When it comes to expenses, they need to track and attribute them to the client to invoice them directly or for tax deduction purposes. 
2. When it comes to incomes, they could get paid in multiple stages, and could get their expenses reimbursed directly.  
Our problem was therefore defined as:​​​​​​​
How might we allow our users to save time on bookkeeping using a built-in banking feature?
Our aha moment came during one of the interviews when the participant mentioned wanting to sort out transactions in the manner of email folders for each client to save up time! It seemed from our competitive analysis that no current banking product allow for this type of categorization. 
Each of our team members developed a low-fi prototype of what they envisioned the application to look like. After merging our ideas into a first draft, we did a brief testing with some of our initial participants to confirm that the type of feature we envisioned could be of real interest to the target user. 
We then moved on to creating a mid-fi then hi-fi version of our solution, that focused on the following elements:
First draft version proposed by each member based on the problem space exploration. Highlighted in pink  are elements we kept for  our first draft of the solution.
1. An easy onboarding flow: as our target user is busy, we wanted the onboarding to be fast and minimalist. 
We included a demo of the sorting feature to help create an “Aha” moment and drive conversion.

The onboarding flow is minimalist and fast, allowing the using to try the feature in a demo mode and enter the basic information needed to open a banking account. 24 hours after signing up, they can start using their account provided that they passed the security requirements.

2. Sorting out a transaction in 3 easy ways:
A) Taking a picture of the receipt: to save them as proof for invoicing and tax filing.
B) Sorting it out into the appropriate client folder: users can then export these folders in Excel or PDF and get a quick overview of the current project's analytics in the Folder’s tab.
C) Adding a comment: to keep track of what they expense was for.

Users can sort out a transaction under the appropriate client folder by swiping left on it and tapping the folder icon. They can also attach a picture and add a note.

3. A focus on security to provide additional reassurance as it is an online bank: being able to remotely lock the card, asking to take a selfie during onboarding. 
4. A modern feel that targets young professionals. 

The branding for this product is bold, modern and premium as it targets a relatively young demographic that is image conscious.

We were able to improve our solution by tweaking certain elements thanks to feedback from 14 users in our surrounding (both freelancers and non-freelancers).

We conducted a series of 14 user tests to iterate on our final design, asking them to complete 3 tasks: create an account, setting up the account and sorting out an expense. The mean difficulty level was 9.6/10 and users went through the desired motions relatively effortlessly. We only needed to tweak some minor elements as we received overall very positive feedback from our users, classmates and professor:

"Very quick, straightforward, and intuitive. I love how the app adjusts to my needs. I would definitely use this for my business." ​​​​​​​
Freelancer user, female 25-40 y.o.
As a final step, we mapped out the flow and prepared developer handoff documentation for production:

Flow chart to map out all potential scenarios and facilitate communication of the intended interactions.

Developer handoff included annotations, explanations as well as the design system library gathered under a Figma file.

Our solution was overall very well received by our the target users we interviewed and our class. We were able to draw some valuable learnings from this whole experience: 
- Because of the large scope of the project and limited time constraints, we didn’t get to test some onboarding elements such as having to wait 24 hours in between the sign up and the account creation to verify identity. We would have also liked to validate that our bold branding was not a deterrent in trusting this neobank and that it spoke to our target demographic. 
- As the goal of this specific exercise was to develop our prototyping skills, the initial research part of the design was intended to be short. We would have otherwise explored more benchmark products to better assess the added value of our tool. We would have also validated the interest for such a feature using a quantitative method before moving to the prototyping phase.
- Some of the metrics we would want to include in this application are the conversion rate and if the demo mode leads to more conversion. We would also track the categories selected when setting up the account to determine whether recommending categories limits the user from taking full ownership over the features. 

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