Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Learn how to earn a piece of the economic pie through investment

Contributors: Joely Swartz, Amber Xu, Danh Luong (Generating ideas, conducting user research and usability tests, sketching, prototyping, and documenting)

The challenge

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed rot at the center of American economic life. Millions of low-income families are struggling to survive. Their incomes have disappeared, and they risk losing their homes. At the same time, a small group of people has seen their wealth skyrocket because they have invested and own assets. New college graduates from low-income families are exposed to additional financial challenges like a changing employment landscape and mounting student debt. How can they cope with this wealth inequality with such extreme financial challenges at the beginning of their career? Most new college graduates from low-income families lack basic financial knowledge and don’t have investment role models from their families. Wealthy people get wealthier because they know how to get and stay wealthy through investing their money. People from low-income backgrounds don’t know how to even begin investing and are stuck in a cycle of depending on uncertain income just to survive. We live in the wealthiest society that has ever existed and believe everybody has a right to share that wealth.

Our solution

How are we going to help new college graduates from low-income families achieve this goal?

Invest Now is a free and easy to access virtual education website dedicated to helping our users gain a foundation in finance and investing. Whether they are visual learners, auditory learners, hands-on learners, or reading learners, we have a place for them to start. Our users are able to choose whatever investment topic they want to learn. Each topic is presented in 5 different ways for them to explore. They can watch videos to understand the fundamentals of this topic, explore the data visualization about historical data, watch live lectures held by credited professors, get hands-on practice with mock investing, and read blogs on how to start investing. We also have a discussion room for users to discuss investment strategies in a virtual environment. This is a place that our users can learn to invest in a clear, easy, interactive, and interesting way so they can be in a better financial situation throughout their life and break through the cycle of poverty.

Paper Prototype and Testing Process

As our design has the form of an interactive virtual website, we mimicked the computer screen with a frame created from cardboard. First of all, we conducted the Heuristics Evaluation during the lecture and got feedback from another team, which was given based on Nielsen’s 10 general principles for UI design. Then, we made some changes from the feedback and moved on to the usability tests with three participants, who are seniors and recent graduates, through Zoom since we found it hard to arrange in-person meetings, especially during this pandemic. Each team member was assigned a role during the usability tests: “computer,” facilitator, and observer. During the usability tests, we asked users to interact with our design and gave them the two tasks they needed to explore. After each of the tests, we discussed as a team and made modifications on our paper prototype based on significant feedback. Here we include a link to our detailed final paper prototype and all the changes that we made after the tests.

Results and Revisions to Paper Prototype

One significant feedback we received from a participant in our usability test was that there was too much text in our design. To fix this, we reduced the amount of texts on all five doors by putting detailed descriptions under the title after users enter each door, which would be more visually attractive. This change is important since it would increase the efficiency in learning and understanding the materials for any type of learner. According to several studies, either visual learners or writing and reading learners would do better with less wordy class materials.

Another constructive feedback that we got was the lack of help and support in our design. We resolved this by adding the help button at the top right corner in multiple places of our design. Users can look up our phone number, email address, and an option to chat online. We also created a search bar to help users look up technical terms quickly. We believe this modification is necessary because according to the 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design, the last heuristics refer to Help and Documentation, which our system lacked at the time of testing. By providing this feature, we would make sure users could get help when they have some questions related to the system.

Digital Mockup

This is the digital mock-up of our website: https://www.figma.com/proto/VrVl2psxwuzHgbqK9gsiyv/Invest-Now?node-id=2%3A3&scaling=min-zoom

Based on the usability tests and feedback, we keep revising the prototype in our digital mockup implementation. In order to make the Welcome page look more aesthetic, we added our project logo at the top left corner, changed the background and the START button icon. We also changed icons, font size, and style to make them internally consistent. Users would know that they are still on the same website with more recognizable backgrounds. To improve the user experience, we changed when the recommendation popped up. Instead of popping up after users click on the first door, the message would pop up only once when users enter the “Start to Learn” section. Users can choose the first door after they close the message.

Task 1: Discuss the investment strategies with other learners in their desired environment

Task 2: Find guided resources on principles of investment

Summary

Through our user research, we discovered most of our audiences sorely lack investment knowledge. The research study participants showed powerful desires to improve their investment knowledge, but many were overwhelmed by the complexity of how to start. Furthermore, all users had different ways of learning and expressed a strong preference to have everything they want to learn in a single environment. Our solution is to create a place where all users, regardless of their learning styles or levels of knowledge, can become experts in personal finance and investment. With a single design, they can access information about any investing topic in a variety of ways and find a community to discuss their learnings with. We believe all people have the right to share the unbelievable wealth in the world and that all people can learn how to do this. By providing a clear, easy, and fun way to become educated in personal finance and get hands-on practice in investing, we will free our users from much unnecessary stress and enable them to live with a much greater degree of financial freedom and creativity.

University of Washington Computer Science, Intro to Human Computer Interaction