Are you financially well?
UX Research Lead
Financial Wellness Assessment
By the end of this case study, you'll see how I:
 Conducted 3 phases of mixed-methods research in partnership with UXD to build towards a successful Financial Wellness Assessment; and
 Kept our 10-person stakeholder group (ranging from Associates to Managing Directors) engaged and happy throughout.
weeks for each phase (approx.)
Project background & challenge
I led this study while specializing as a UX Researcher at a large financial services company. The company was looking to expand its Financial Wellness offering to include a competitive and valuable assessment, but they didn't quite know where to start.
The broader company behind this Financial Wellness offering typically served wealthier clients, so there was a dearth of relevant insights from past research that would help guide the design of an assessment targeting a much larger audience; Potential users of this tool could have as little as zero investable assets, as well as differences in needs, what was most important to them, level of financial stress, and more.
As a result, I identified a few key goals and considerations on my end that would need to be addressed: (1) Explore and evaluate the product space to give the UX and content designers a solid jumping off point to create a competitive assessment experience; (2) Grow empathy and understanding among study stakeholders for a new user segment with less to invest (but more to lose in many ways); and (3) Once a UX design had been developed, build confidence in its value and utility and help guide the designers on where to go next.
Although my research team was functioning on an agency model at the time, I was fortunate enough to have the study stakeholders request me specifically for each phase so I could follow this process for several months with them.
Phase 1: Competitive usablity interviews/testing
At the start of all research phases, I host a kickoff call to help stakeholders work through exactly what they are trying to achieve (the rough study goals) as well as details like timeline, target users, and confidence level they need. I then polish these up into research goals and questions and design a study to address them, keeping constraints like timeline and resources available in mind. For this phase, the plan looked like this:
 Research goals — Explore how to cater to users’ comfort level, ability level, and preferred effort level throughout the assessment; Evaluate approaches to test structure (including user input modalities, length, and section division); Evaluate the reaction and value of quantitative benchmarks/scoring to users.
 Methodologies — Unmoderated, between-subjects usability tests of 2 competitor interfaces with 22 target user look-alikes (Each participant only tested one of the competitor assessments and went through it on their own using a realistic background scenario); Moderated, within-subjects usability interviews that included the same competitor assessments and 5 user look-alikes (Each participant were shown both competitor assessments in their session and I walked them through a semi-structured interview, featuring questions relating to our research questions for each experience).
I selected each of these methodologies to be able to apply a variety of analysis techniques and build confidence in the findings while still being able to pull in-depth insights; Additionally, some of the stakeholders were newer to the concept of UX Research and wanted the chance to observe sessions, so hosting moderated interviews helped build stakeholder trust. Click the image below to view the main insights from this phase in full.
Phase 2: Stakeholder empathy building
As UXD ideated designs utilizing the insights from Phase 1, I led an in-person workshop with our stakeholder group to help them build a better understanding of their target users. As I mentioned before, the organization I worked at was not experienced in catering to users under a particular wealth level, so building stakeholder empathy was key in ensuring they would be onboard with a user-centered approach for this more inclusive population going forward.
Additionally, I collaborated with UXD on leading two other portions of the workshop: One that was focused on reviewing and solidifying the assessment's sections, questions, and answer options; and another that was exploring potential Results page components, content, and layout.
The empathy building exercise consisted of a "Who am I?" activity I created, where participant quotes from the first phase were color-coded into virtual sticky note clusters within FigJam. A "Who am I?" card was located above each cluster of quotes, and kept the following details hidden: Age, gender, income, company size, industry, race/ethnicity, number of children, and familiarity with similar assessments. Stakeholders took turns selecting quotes from each section to read aloud, and then tried to guess at the details of the participant; afterwards, the actual details of each participant was revealed. This exercise was quite successful in challenging stakeholder assumptions and exemplifying the sheer variety of financial situations, needs, and concerns that could all apply to our target users.
Phase 3: Evaluative usability testing with an exploratory twist
Based on the outputs from the in-person workshop, UXD got busy on the high-fidelity designs for the assessment. After a few passes of iteration, they created a Figma prototype from the designs that could be included in a usability testing phase. Although the designers were able to build out the main assessment flow, they were still ideating on the results page and only had a low-fidelity design for it.
As a result, I designed a moderated usability testing phase that began with a traditional usability test of the main flow, then transitioned in to a semi-structured interview on their expectations and reactions for the Results page concept. 10 varied target user look-alikes were included as our sample for this phase.
After running the 10 sessions, I set to work with qualitative thematic analysis of the feedback that was gathered. The UX designers were really hoping for as much guidance as possible from the results, so I carried out a traditional affinity mapping exercise as well as a depiction of each of the 10 users' flows within FigJam and shared the entire board with them. This allowed UXD to reference the nitty gritty if they were trying to make specific design decisions in the future.
For both study phases, I ran a pilot test for each respective competitor app being tested, just to make sure the study design itself was clear, balanced, concise and user-friendly, and that we were not asking for too much or too little from participants.
For the rest of the study stakeholders, I created a more traditional presentation readout deck highlighting key themes, insights, and quotes.
Impact & conclusion
As a result of this research effort, both the stakeholders and designers remained user-centered and had a shared source of truth (the research insights) throughout the entire 8-month process of R&D iteration. Decisions were continually made with the user and their various needs in mind. Additionally, the designers were able to confidently complete their designs for both the main flow and the Results page after the last phase, and stakeholders were able to come to important decisions on content/requirements. It was smiles all around!