Web App | Research, UX/UI

Financial Literacy Learning Path for Young Adults

Scope: 8-week long human-centered design project focused on 
problem definition and and designing a solution

My Role: UX Research Lead & UX Designer

Project: University of Washington HCDE (HCI/UX) Master’s Course

The Challenge

Our team aimed to create a solution to help teach young adults about personal finance fundamentals in order to set themselves up for long-term financial stability. This is especially important for those who lack friend or family support to learn financial literacy.

Business Goals & Intented Outcomes

+ Understand current pain points young adults face when trying to make key financial choices

+ Create a solution that helps young adults take financial actions to set themselves up for long-term financial stability

+ Use user-centered design methodologies to scope and design a solution to confront the problem of financial literacy in young adults

Methods Used

Secondary Research, Surveys, User Interviews, Persona Development, Storyboarding, Design Principles, Usability Testing, Information Architecture, User Flows, Prototyping, UI Design

"How Might We" Project Statement

+ How might we provide young professionals with a clear,
personalized way to increase their financial literacy?

Solution Overview

Dollars & Sense provides a customized financial literacy Learning Plan based on users’ current knowledge and financial values. Users complete each Learning Plan topic with the guided tasks, and can get community support throughout using mentor pods.
Onboarding Quiz

Simplified seamless integration flow in onboarding. Updated language of notifications that new users can opt-in to sharing their systems data if they want.

Detailed Tasks

Complete a Learning Topic by stepping through each of the detailed tasks related to the topic. This will ensure users learn all core knowledge needed for a topic.

Interactive Tools

In addition to the static resources provided, learning topics have easy to follow interactive tools to make learning simple.

Mentor Pods

Have additional questions? Feel supported using the mentor pods where they can feel safe and comfortable starting threads and speaking with mentors and peers.

Process Overview

Generative Research






Development N/A

1:1 Semi-structure interviews, Online Survey and Competitive Analysis to help define

Used insights from generative research to create design requirements and start ideating

Based on the user flows, we created a medium fidelity prototype to showcase our ideas

We conducted 1:1 usability studies to validate our overall solution was clear and understandable

Refined the design based on usability test, and created a UI kit to apply final visuals

Persona Creation
& User Flows

Medium Fidelity Prototype

Qualitative Usability Testing

Final Solution Design

No development occurred for this theoretical project


Generative Research & Initial Problem Definition

Our team decided to focus on financial literacy for our problem space. In order to gain insights into gaps that young adults face to help scope and drive our solution definition we conducted the following generative research:

Competitive Analysis on Products & Curriculum



Review existing financial tools and resources found online, establish insights to create a more useful and differentiated solution

Research Goals

1. Understand what are the most popular personal finance products on the market today.

2. What gaps exist within these products that are currently available?

1:1 Semi-Structured Interviews



Capture quantitative data and answers to closed-ended questions used to supplement and triangulate our qualitative user interviews.


+ Screener Questionnaire

+ Main Questions

Research Goals

1. In general, what are young adult’s comfort level with personal finances?

2. What are the popular tools and methods young adults use today to learn and manage their personal finances?

3. What are young adults’ most important financial priorities?

Online Survey Responses



Understand barriers to learning, current learning techniques, motivations (or lack thereof), and feelings around personal finance and managing their money

Research Goals

1. What are the barriers for young adults to accessing personal finance education and information? Why are these barriers?

2. How do young adults currently decide how to spend their first paychecks?

3. How do individuals learn about financial literacy today?

4. What are individuals’ financial goals and priorities, and why?

5. What are individuals currently doing to budget (or not budget), and why?

Key Research Insights

Triangulated insights from our 1:1 Semi-Structured Interviews, Online Survey Responses and Competitive Analysis.

A lack of financial structure and guidance leaves most young adults turning to vague internet searches.

Interviewees reported not knowing where to start and being overwhelmed with information, and they wanted more structured assistance to learn about finance. 70% of survey respondents currently rely on internet searches for financial advice.

Target users struggle to finds reliable, understandable and trustworthy information to support their financial decisions.

Current tools available don't solve for our target user who is looking for guidance around where to start with broader financial literacy topics such as 401ks and investments.

Everyone has different relationships with money and learning styles.

There is no universal tool or method to learning financial literacy; everyone has their own unique approach or path that works for their learning style and what they deem as relevant and important based on personal priorities. financial knowledge, priorities, and practices to what they’ve learned from their parents.

“I feel like I should be doing something, but it’s scary to start Roth or put money somewhere that it shouldn’t be. I’m just not comfortable investing.” -Participant 5
Young adults often depend on family knowledge to learn most financial literacy knowledge

83% of survey respondents said they learned to manage their finances from family.

Trust has a significant impact on who young adults seek out for learning personal finances.

Those who view their parents as trusted, financially literate resources credited their financial knowledge, priorities, and practices 
to what they’ve learned from their parents.

Sensitivity around spending relates to values in guidance and reassurance.

There are barriers preventing people from making financial decisions or employing practices because they are sensitive to how they spend their money and want reassurance and guidance.

Motivations and financial interests stem from life events and priorities.

People are motivated and interested in seeking out resources to improve their financial literacy as it pertains and becomes relevant to their life events, priorities and goals.

“I forget 50% of what I learned if it's not relevant.” -Participant 1


Persona Creation

We created 3 key personas based on our research to help guide our design choices and key design principles.

“I have no idea what to do with my money other than put it in my savings, but at least I have a consistent income now?”


Is a recent graduate living on her own. She started her first full-time job and is finally making a consistent income.


+ Not sure what financial terms mean, what things are, which options are best for her

+ Feels like current knowledge isn’t enough; still needs to seek out information

+ Doesn’t have the guidance on what to do, preventing her from making financial decisions

Sketching & Concept Development

We created 3 key personas based on our research to help guide our design choices and key design principles.

Design Principles

Created based on research & persona development

Used to help us guide out scope and ground our thinking

+ Visualize a clear financial literacy plan that align to values, life phase and preferences.

+ Flexible game plan that users can adjust as their life and financial needs change.

+ Connect users with community support to ask questions, get relevant advice and resources.

+ Educate users on common financial terms and clarify how they interrelated.

+ Build confidence in users’ ability to make financially-sound decisions.

Some sketches I completed. Together our team produced over 65 unique sketches.


Defining the UX of the Solution

IA, User Flows & Prototype

Our solution aimed to make a financial literacy “Learning Plan” that provided community support through “Mentor Pods”.
Information architecture diagram, and key user flows were created to inform the medium fidelity prototype:

1. Creating and editing your Game Plan
2. Completing a Game Plan Topic
3. Finding and joining a Mentor Pod

Medium Fidelity Prototype designed with my team. I designed the onboarding process.


Qualitative Usability Testing

We conducted semi-structured, moderated, remote usability tests with 3 participants to evaluate our app’s proof of concept and usability using the medium fidelity prototype.
Research Questions

1. Are there any barriers or pain points that prevents user from completing the core tasks and functionality within the app?

2. Does the onboarding questionnaire capture the right information about users’ financial knowledge and preferences?

3. Is the overall “Game Plan” structure and format understandable and helpful for users?

4.Does the mentor pod feature match user expectations and provide value to users trying to learn about financial literacy?


3 participants | 2 male, 1 female | ages 22-24

Due to the short recruiting timeframe used convenience sampling within our personal social networks to recruit young adults (between age 18-30) with some work experience.

Task Overview

1. Generate a personalized Learning Plan

2. Complete a Learning Plan topic

3. Find and join a new Mentor Pod

We created a severity scale to help us prioritize insights and the changes we needed to make, focusing on the most critical issues. This helped us focus our efforts given the short 3-day timeline to make changes.

What worked well

+ The onboarding questionnaire was simple to complete,
felt relevant and not too intrusive
+ The content within the “Learning Plan” met expectations:
the content made sense and seemed helpful
+ Overall, participants felt this would be something they
would use if they were seeking our financial advice

Areas for Improvement & Design Changes

Based on findings from the Qualitative Usability Study.

The lack of hierarchy in the “Learning Plan” made participants unsure about what order they should be completing the topics

Overall Learning Plan design and hierarchy was updated, including adding filters.




The “to-do” list within a topic was unclear and didn’t let the user know what they needed to complete for a topic

Navigation was updated, tasks were numbered and tabs were implemented to provide better structure.




Participants were confused about how the “Mentor Pods” connected to the overall “Game Plan” topics

Clearer CTA and description were added to bring the users’ attention to the related learning communities for the topic.




The name and iconography of the “Mentor Pods”didn’t match participants mental model of the feature

Renamed “Mentor Pods” to “Learning Communities” and updated the iconography.




Participants didn’t have enough information to understand the role of the Mentor within a “Mentor Pod”

Descriptions were improved and details were added to provide users a clear “About” section for the mentor.




Final Designs

Onboarding Questionnaire
to Create Learning Plan
Learning Plan:
Completing a Topic
Mentor Pods:
Finding and Joining
Mentor Pods:
Posting & Chatting
Learning Plan:
Editing Your Plan
Unique Challenges During the Project

Challenge 1: Scoping the Solution

During the ideation phase, we were still unsure about the scope of our solution. This With only one week to ideate, we struggled to make decisions.

Workaround & Key Takeaway

We used sketching, crazy 8’s and a group card sorting activity to quickly ideate and narrow down the scope of our solution. This allowed us to quickly ideate and think through ideas.

Challenge 2: Designing the Prototype

Limited time: Prototyping and user testing were completed in one week. All 4 members of our team (with varying UX/UI skills) wanted to design the prototype, which made keeping consistency difficult.

Workaround & Key Takeaway

+ If there had been more time, I would have done the following to get feedback on insights before proceeding with one solution: co-design session and concept testing with lo-fi prototypes.

+ Have one lead designing overseeing the work and ensuring consistency across the prototype.

Challenge 3: Usability Test Challenges

The overall tight timeline limited our ability to recruit a diverse group of target users. This also limited our ability to re-visit the overall design on larger issues.

Workaround & Key Takeaway

+ Would have recruited participants from low-income, and low-resourced areas in order to get input and feedback from minority groups that could better understand how the app can best support these young adults from these populations.

+ Run the study with at least 2 other participants.

+ Taken additional time to ideate the prototype and overall design ideas before continuing onto final visuals.

Hypothesized Impact

Disadvantaged young adults who don't have a support network of family and friends to teach them about financial literacy will be able to gain a strong understanding of personal finance in order to set themselves up for long-term financial stability.

Our solution removes the guesswork and rabbit hole of Google searches and provides a clear, customized learning path to help young adults succeed.


What would I have done differently?

+ I would have allowed for more time and concept testing in the ideation phase. Due to time constraints we were rushed to think of a solution and stick with it.

+ Scoped down our problem space. Our team spent a lot of time swirling because of our large scope. I would have picked a more narrow problem space within financial literacy.

+ Interview SMEs and more young adults. I would have taken more time to interview SMEs on financial literacy, such as community leaders and youth program leads that focus on this topic, to get their expert opinion on where young adults in disadvantaged communities fall short. I also would have found more young adults who don't have family support to interview, in order to understand gaps and pain points with their experience.

What did I learn?

+ Working with a team of designers, all with different ideas and perspectives can be a challenge to get alignment on the direction of the solution. It’s important to find activities, like sketching and card sorting, to help the team align.

+ When working in a fast-paced team environment, divide and conquer tasks by using team member’s strengths to complete quality work.