Part 1 of this work can be read at this link. Conducting interviews of potential users and developing scenarios are methods often used in user centered research to help stakeholders in the product or service development stages gain insights of real people’s behavior, needs, motivations and so on. As designers we can make assumptions into what people might want or need but often that tends to fail. Real people are experts of their own experience and thus can provide the necessary information for making more insightful design decisions.

The scenario below introduces Julie Snyder, and shares the value that the app could generate for someone who has had trouble engaging in the personal finance in the past, but has a real desire to make smarter financial decisions.

It is worth noting that the entire experience is designed to take a constantly positive approach to financial engagement, from budgeting to social engagement. Interviews with potential users leads us to believe that while negative feedback from the app (e.g. "you can't afford that" or "you failed to meet your budget") could curb spending initially, it would lead users to stop engaging with the app in the long term. We believe that staying positive will help increase long-term engagement, which will help influence users to make smarter decisions (even if they might have some missteps early on).

User Interviews

Over the past few days we conducted initial user tests focused primarily on the incentive system. We chose to focus the tests on this portion because it seemed to have the most uncertainty and be a key differentiating element. We were interested in answering several key questions, (e.g. what types of incentives should be available for users to select? what incentives would really drive users to continue engaging with the tool?).

The interviews suggested that incentives are very personal and differ for each user, but broadly they could be categorized into the following groups, psychological rewards, experiential rewards, or physical rewards.

Here are some excerpts from the interviews that help to illustrate how users prefer to structure rewards for themselves, and what would motivate them to continue engaging with the tool (grouped by our classifications). It is also interesting to note that for some users the desired rewards change, even between classification; this is an indication that the incentive system should remain flexible to allow users to adapt their individual incentives based on their changing preference.


Individuals are motivated by the feeling they get after accomplishing a task. These users could likely benefit from the tool because it creates a record of good financial behavior, and can notify them that they've accomplished their goals. These users may or may not engage with the game or the formal rewards system.

“No reward. I just feel good about the accomplishment of a task. It clears my head.”
“I feel rewarded by having the feeling of being in control when I’ve cleaned the house.”
“Rather than a physical reward, however, I think the best incentive for me is really the psychological satisfaction of crossing the task off from a list of things to do (in my head and on paper). Having a physical record of things being done in my planner is a huge thing.”
“The reward is the clean house. I cleaned my studio out on Saturday so it would stop being cluttered and I could get some work done or I do my taxes early so that I can get my refund. I enjoy the orderliness of the effort.”
“If I'm deep cleaning my house, I usually treat myself with a night in to enjoy it before inviting someone over. The aesthetic experience of looking at something neat, clean, and organized is a reward in itself.”


Individuals prefer to be rewarded with experiences that they find desirable. These users would benefit from linking their financial behavior to formal rewards like the experience of watching a movie, listening to a podcast, or planning a trip (mentioned several times).

“Depends on the task. Usually a deadline will be the motivating factor for me. Otherwise, for something paperwork related - an excuse to sit at Starbucks for a couple hours for some alone time.”
“I think Podcasts are my current incentive of choice; I think listening to them makes boring/bad tasks like cleaning seem much easier, and if my weekly podcasts were unlocked through behavior, I would definitely be more likely to stick to something.”
“My favorite incentive is to save up for traveling. I generally work twice as hard and make a conscious effort to save more money if I know my reward is experience-based. Buying material things usually makes me feel bad or guilty afterwards, like I am wasting money on things I will purge during a house cleaning later. I get very frustrated and claustrophobic when I'm surrounded by "stuff". But when I spend money on plane tickets, it sets an escape to be excited about in the future that doesn't create clutter or collect dust.”


Individuals prefer to be rewarded with physical things like objects or special treats. These users would also benefit from the formal reward system, but would likely link their performance to physical rewards like items from an online shopping cart, tickets to a show, or food ordered from a local restaurant.

“I enjoy Having a glass of wine while I do it (computer work / dishes / making lunches) or Having an ice cream or some other little treat (after I work out), or receiving a monetary reward.”
“A long day of work is rewarded by getting a drink with a friend/going out to a show.”
“If I exercise especially strenuously, I have a habit of following up with sushi or something healthy that I don't often afford myself.”