With the advent of social media and greater accessibility to smart technology, most people use their phones for just about everything. From online purchases to in person transactions, smart phones have become a mobile extension for payment service platforms. Even more so, P2P apps like Venmo have helped transform the sending and receiving of money into a type of social networking, especially for Millennials and Gen-Zs. Venmoing someone for a meal, ticket, or activity has become a social norm. And while friends and family enjoy the ability to connect with one another over emoji encrypted transfers, Venmo has users dreading social interactions with more than one person. Why is this, might you ask? Venmo has failed to allow groups of users to split transactions in real time. While sending and receiving money is available at the tap of a button, sharing a meal or activity with a group has become a highly organized venture of highlighting, note taking, and the acquisition of some serious memory skills. Rather, consumers are forced to partake in the tedious, multi-step process of figuring out who owes which person what. And that's where I come in.
First, let me set the scene. You're out to dinner with a few friends on a Friday night. Everything is great until the bill comes and it's over $160. You all decide to split the meal equally. But when the waiter comes back, you realize that you just paid forty-five dollars and you only got the herb chicken! Sure, everyone nibbled on an appetizer or two, but Sarah got the surf and turf and Madison went all out with the lobster. The point is, you feel cheated and you didn't even order a drink. And let me be the first to tell you, you're not alone.
The reason this happens is that it's a pain to manually itemize a check and calculate what each person owes. So what happens more often than not is that the bill gets split evenly and people end up paying for things they didn’t order. Well, not anymore. Introducing: Splitzees, the Venmo feature that saves you from eating the difference.
Today, Venmo is one of the most popular payment apps with 52 million reported users. This new proposed feature of Venmo is the essence of friendship and exists to make all 52 million lives easier. You don't have to worry about only ordering the caesar salad when you know Madison is going to splurge on the filet mignon. Ok, this all sounds great, but how? Well, Splitzees is made possible by the existence of the Venmo debit card.
As long as one person in your party has a Venmo debit card, you don't have to worry about multiple transactions. Instead, whoever decides to use their Venmo debit card for the purchase will initiate a split within the Venmo app. Initiating a split is essentially the same thing as adding friends to a temporary group chat. Only those who are specifically invited can access the split. The leader (or initiator) then scans the receipt with their phone and voila-- the receipt is now not only digital, but each item is selectable! After each person personally chooses their menu items, they are magically transported to a screen where they are shown their total AND given customizable tip options. The best part: absolutely no math is involved and once you're done, you can sit back and relax knowing that you only paid for the meal you ate.
That's a good question. It's FOR anyone, but Splitzees was designed with the average 18-30 year old adult in mind. I say this mostly because young adults are at the point in their life where they are at the beginning of the starting line. Whether they are in school, working, or both, they are just starting to take charge of their personal finances. While Splitzees will definitely save EVERYONE the headache of splitting a bill, older adults are less likely to be as financially frugal as people entering the work force.
When I initially thought of the idea, I knew I needed to put my money where my mouth is (pun intended). I immediately jumped into action and started recruiting participants in my target age group. I knew that I personally had issues with splitting in real time, but I needed to see if other people felt the same way. After informally interviewing my friends and peers, I determined that many others shared my point of view.
After conducting my interviews, I extracted the most significant and repetitive insights from each and created a set of activity notes to then organize. The purpose of this was to probe for patterns within each user's experience and create categories for each.
This list is comprised of insights that center around technical and financial safety. Without prompting, Interviewees expressed concerns about the safety of their transfers. Venmo is the principal app used for the exchange of money and is not consciously connected with a trusted institution. Despite being owned by PayPal, the two are considered distinct entities.
The second list is short yet significant because it reveals Venmo’s flaws when users try to connect socially and its sub-par alternatives. The process of finding people to pay or request isn’t always as smooth as it should be, and the alternative of using cash isn’t considered to be any better.
Multiple participants recognized the uncomfortable silence that takes place at the end of the meal when the bill arrives. This can be remedied by making the payment process live and actionable through everyone in the group.
Most users prefer debit over credit, and then cash as a last resort. With only a few exceptions, credit cards have been deemed as less trustworthy since they are comprised of fictitious money.
This is one of the most consequential groups as it has to do with the actual transfer of money and who does what. The pattern seems to be that users either split evenly, split by order, or take turns covering the bill. There are important exceptions in each case such as:
1. Users not partaking in food or drink
2. Users partaking in only food and/or drink
3. Special occasions.
In my opinion, creating a comprehensive user persona is one of the best parts of UX design. It not only embodies the most important parts of the user group, but it puts a face to the name.
Say hello to Paige.
She's someone that you definitely feel like you've seen before, but you're not sure if she's a friend of a friend or if she just has one of those familiar faces. She's always wearing a smile, and while she might not look the part, she has a wicked sense of humor.
Ultimately, Paige is a facet of every interviewee. She shares in the pained process of splitting a check amongst a large group.
After identifying and creating my user persona, the next process I needed to focus on was visualizing the user journey. I had already identified user pain points and a user persona, but I was missing a visual narrative to describe them.
Below is what a typical user journey looks like. It's smooth sailing until you get to the end. What a nightmare.
After sketching each user interface and creating a general flow, I needed to test my design and make sure it was not only conceptually cohesive, but intuitive for users. The last thing I wanted was to end up with a final product that didn't even work, or even worse, didn’t make sense.
So, what did I do? I pulled out my scissors, glue, all of my sticky notes, and I got to work on my low-fidelity prototype. This step in the design process is essentially the same as sketching the interface, however instead of ‘static’ interfaces, each is now equipped with its very own set of "interactive" features indicated by the blue and pink colors.
And here’s where things really start coming together. After having participants interact with the paper prototype I decided to make some key changes.
First, I switched two interfaces within the user flow. Instead of having the initiator select their friends for a split first, I decided to have the user scan their receipt and then add people to the split. I did this to avoid having group members waste time while waiting for the initiator to scan the receipt.
I also added some “in-between” interfaces to communicate the specifics of how the process will look when interacting with the app. For example, instead of just having one interface to communicate that the user will photograph their receipt, I added a second screen to show what the user will encounter after they have taken the picture. Similarly, I added more detailed versions of interfaces to show every step the user will encounter during the process.
While my low-fidelity prototype captured the big picture, this wireframe focuses on tying in the smaller features that are still relevant for creating a cohesive design.
Finally, the moment we have all been waiting for: the high-fidelity prototype. After reviewing my existing wireframes, I set out to create my first polished version of Splitzees. This mockup is very similar to the mid-fidelity prototype with a few minor exceptions to details. Just like the previous mockup, these frames read left to right, row by row.
And because the design process is not linear, my next steps involved putting my prototypes to the test. I once again recruited family and friends to interact with my high-fidelity model. My goal this time around was to see how participants interacted with the application add-on and to find potential problem areas for the user through a series of tasks.
Overall, this round of usability tests were extremely helpful in identifying the major pain points. In addition to a few technical bugs, the majority of the issues were cosmetic and stemmed around understanding certain icons and their functions within assigned tasks.