YNAB case study

How YNAB gathers feedback from their users to improve their product even further.

The personal budgeting software company YNAB empowers individuals to take charge of their finances and improve their quality of life by providing effective budgeting tools and resources.

“YNAB is a very mission and value-driven team. We make software centred around the YNAB Method, which helps people to not only gain control of their finances, but really love how they spend and save their money so that they can live the life they want,” shares Alan Dennis, Product Design Manager at YNAB.

Above: Example of YNAB platform


“We don't just make a budgeting tool. We're here to coach you along to meet your goals. We provide tons of content and training, and give free webinars all the time. We like to say that we're primarily an education company and we make software to keep the lights on. That's our philosophy,” he adds.

With a commitment to user-centred design, YNAB has been able to create an intuitive and engaging product that makes budgeting accessible to everyone. We spoke with Alan about how YNAB’s design team has used UsabilityHub to continue to develop their product, achieve their goals, and stay aligned with business values.

Challenge

Usability testing was always a priority for Alan and the design team, but they found it challenging to source participants in a quick and timely manner. This is a common challenge faced by many companies, particularly when it comes to finding people who aren’t already familiar with their products and business concepts. YNAB was no exception.

Before we used UsabilityHub, I would try to find participants through whatever networks I could possibly piece together. It was a lot of effort to actually put together a really quick test of something.
Alan Dennis
Product Design Manager

The combination of YNAB’s remote-first work environment and having a tight-knit design team meant that it was challenging finding individuals who weren’t already familiar with what the team was working on.

Alan adds, “I'd be talking to friends, family members, other designers who aren't very familiar or aren't familiar at all with the product. And as you can imagine, that pool dries up pretty quickly.

“So then I was starting to look into other tools like Respondent, but then that's just so much effort to put together an entire design study when it's just one screen that I just really wanted to get some feedback on quickly.”

The barrier of sourcing test participants quickly had the ripple effect of reducing testing altogether. “It would take so much more effort to put together a quick test, in order to just get early formative feedback," continues Alan. "You'd end up waiting until you felt you had something more polished, and you put together a real usability study. By waiting, you've gone that much further without actually getting valuable feedback.”

Solution

Alan had been aware of UsabilityHub for some time, but it wasn’t until his colleague Cindy suggested it as a potential tool that he decided to test it out. He registered for a free account in 2018 and transitioned to a paid plan shortly after. Alan admits that he was immediately smitten with the platform, sharing, "I quickly fell in love with it."

It wasn’t a big sell to move to a paid account due to the speed at which you could put together a test, quickly get feedback, and recruit good participants. It just makes monetary sense. It's so cheap and the feedback
is valuable.
Alan Dennis
Product Design Manager


Usability testing became firmly cemented within the YNAB  design process. Alan shares that with more significant tests, the team will brainstorm how they’re going to approach it, and have found Figma prototype testing and design surveys to be the most useful methods.

“The design survey test is so flexible in and of itself too, because you can ask a question and then just have free form responses. We'll then use the tagging system to be able to identify things like correct, incorrect, or whatever. Or you can have multiple choice responses.”

The other thing that I love about UsabilityHub is that there are so many different approaches and you can get really creative
with it.
Alan Dennis
Product Design Manager

As part of their recruitment process, Alan and his team use a mixture of the UsabilityHub panel and their own participants.

“We'll send a test out internally to gather feedback and see how people respond to it internally and then we'll send out a set to the panel to get this sense of how it's working for people who've just never even seen our app,” shares Alan. 

Screenshot of UsabilityHub tests from YNAB


On top of this, the team also seeks input from their customers by sending usability tests to current users, based on factors like those who are in their third month of usage, relatively active users, or people who asked a related support question.

“So we have a lot of different ways that we'll target different users that meet the criteria of what we're looking for in our testing. And the thing that I really like about UsabilityHub is the variant grouping.

“We can test variations of a design, so we can have an internal test, test existing users, and test new users, and compare the results”

Result

Alan notes that it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific metric when constantly iterating on designs. Nonetheless, he adds that the positive impact of the continuous improvements is evident in their work.

A full-blown usability research project can take a lot of time and energy to put together, but you can have meaningful early results from UsabilityHub in a single day. I think that’s one of the best benefits I’ve seen: faster and better iteration.
Alan Dennis
Product Design Manager

Alan shares the example of YNAB creating designs that can be easily comprehensible by all users – something that’s especially important when the financial services industry can be full of technical jargon. To address this issue, they tend to create multiple variants of UI copy and test them extensively to ensure clarity and ease of understanding.

“It can be really challenging to figure out a way to frame these things so that somebody could walk up to it and understand what you're talking about. And I think that's probably some of the most impactful usages that we've had, in iterating framing and presentation of concepts in the UI, and being able to just rapidly show that to people and get that feedback,” shares Alan.

“And if something didn't work, then we go back and iterate again. I'm thinking specifically of a project we were working on, improving how we talk about a feature in the app called Targets.”

Screenshot of UsabilityHub's homepage test screenYNAB test usability test examples
Above: Sample of the Alternate layout tests, the image on the right showing a revised copy version where iterations have been made and retested

According to Alan, the results lie in the ability to quickly validate design ideas and increase confidence in pursuing them further. Even if a test doesn't go as well as expected, the insights gained can lead to new and unexpected ideas, which ultimately helps in finding the right design solution. This makes UsabilityHub a valuable tool in the early stages of the design process due to its quick turnaround time.

Nothing has met the flexibility and the ease of use of UsabilityHub.
Alan Dennis
Product Design Manager


If you’d like to see how UsabilityHub can help your business, sign up or book a demo today.

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