UI/UX design, user research, usability testing, product development
IEOR 186 Project, Fall 2016

Cashü is a mobile personal finance app that seeks to help young people grow their financial knowledge and understand their investments through contextualized financial news, personalized lessons in investment and finance topics, and habit monitoring for personal finance. 

Diagnostic quiz and Lessons hub, mocked up

Cashü introduces new features to an existing product, Acorns, with the intent of creating greater personal relevance. We envisioned Cashü as the "next iteration" of Acorns, with the goal of diminishing distrust of financial markets and improving financial knowledge by providing users the means of genuinely understanding their investments. Users can learn about financial topics through bite-sized lessons and assess their progress with quizzes, see the market movements that impacted their investment value, and receive behavior-triggered notifications about their spending.

This project was a part of a Product Management class at UC Berkeley in Fall 2016, in which I worked in a team of seven to ideate, research, design, prototype, and test our product using Agile product management principles. I served as the primary designer for the group.


Team Cashü: Brandon Chau, Mallika Ashani, Sonali Verma, Peter Norton, Joeson Chiang, Jessica He, and Tina Xu



Competitive analysis showed that while investing and budgeting apps exist, they did not offer meaningful educational aspects that addressed the knowledge gap and were not effectively tailored to individual needs. Without this core knowledge, product offerings were sterile and lacked personal relevance. Furthermore, poor feedback mechanisms made it difficult for users to learn and change their behavior, and contributed to a lack of stickiness of existing products. With this, we sought to build a solution that would create better understanding of investing in itself, and to provide financial education tailored to the individual's existing knowledge level. 


User Interviews

With a general product direction in mind, we defined target user groups and conducted primary user research. We conducted semi-structured interviews with UC Berkeley seniors and recent graduates working in the Bay Area. We asked users generative questions to understand their user experiences and pain-points associated with monitoring their finances and investing. We also sought to validate our assumptions related to our target user’s interest in tracking their budget and learning about investing. Due to time limitations, we also supplemented user research with casual conversations, surveys, shorter interviews of college students and recent grads.

Through our research, we found respondents largely agreed that they should pay more attention to their personal finances and start investing. The main issues were spread across domains of investing, spending, and understanding.

Major Pain Points

  • Lack of resources--time and learning opportunities, time and energy to use tracking/budgeting apps
  • Learning barriers--complex vocabulary and concepts that loop to each other created difficulty understanding financial contexts
  • Confusion on where to look for situationally relevant financial advice.
  • Poor structure and lack of incentives for independent learning
  • Lack of actionable suggestions in the apps they currently use, such as budgeting apps like Mint. 

Our research showed a need for educational features we wanted to build, as well as a call for personal content relevance and actionable suggestions.

With these insights, we set out to develop the app in a way that would bring relevant financial knowledge to the user's fingertips and reduce the friction between wanting to learn and acting on it. We then developed 3 personas, based on user spending patterns and investment knowledge, to direct our designs around the needs and goals of our personas. 



With an ambitious goal of more or less making an "everything" finance app, our team was faced with an overwhelming number of interactions and features. We returned to our user research and personas to critically assess and re-prioritize our user stories to limit ourselves to interactions that allowed users to  understand changes to their investment accountdigestible lessons pegged to their level of financial knowledge, and overspending alerts. Below are our early lo-fi user flow and wireframe sketches.

Early sketches of user flows.


I mocked up our main interactions, namely lessons and quizzes, finding news relevant to the user's investment account, and spending tracking, in Figma. I placed prime importance on how to effectively structure a content-laden app, especially how to present large amounts of information (lessons, news articles, etc) for shorter mobile attention spans. As we were building on the Acorns app, I paid attention to creating cohesive interactions for our new features that would integrate into Acorns' existing visual language.

The diagnostic quiz calibrates the user's familiarity with financial topics and generates lessons based on the user's quiz results. 


Compare investment account performance to the market by asset class and time period.


Users can see the projected impact of market movements on their investment value.


Simple budgeting features provide an overview of spending. 


Usability Testing

To assess usability of the app, we conducted testing with five recent grads working in the Bay Area. We asked the users to complete our core tasks, including taking the a quiz, finding market trends, and setting a budget goal with a prototype made with Marvel.

From our interviews, we received positive feedback for our contextualized news but also learned there were issues with feature and information discovery in the market trends and budgeting flows, as well as some confusion on the meaning of different numbers displayed, confusion with weekly vs monthly budget goals, and how we visualized data. A flaw inherent with our Marvel prototype was that some tests were completed on desktop, which obscured swiping actions and limited discoverability, which created the need for further usability testing with a more accurate prototype.

In response to the feedback from our usability research, we made several alterations, including:

  • adding help screens (that were consistent with those existing in the app)
  • clarifying what trend lines and numbers represented
  • addressing discoverability issues
  • tractability of data visualization, time options
  • decluttering the main menu
  • improving the overall information hierarchy.

Across the board, our users expressed desire for notifications when they were near their spending limit to help align them to their spending goals and reminders based on their investment performance and spending patterns--a feature that we had on backlog but had not yet prototyped.


Final Design

The ultimate goal of our app is to demystify personal finance and create healthier financial habits by providing the necessary information for our users to build financial knowledge, understand their investments, and grow awareness of their spending patterns. Through this start-to-end research-guided design process, I believe that our team saw the value in simply connecting users with relevant information and using behavior-driven design to help them help themselves.

Design is a continuous process of testing and iterating, and I see a lot of beauty in the fact that there will always be opportunities to optimize the app, like leveraging heuristics to motivate action, refining represented models, developing smarter behavioral responses, strengthening the clarity of the data we provide, optimizing copy, and tweaking the visual aspects of the app. However, as a team, we pride ourselves in having built a product that tackles the learning barrier for financial literacy by linking users to financial knowledge in a behavioral manner that has not been adequately explored in existing apps.


Fun fact: As our team was working on building personalized lessons and quizzes, the Acorns dev team released an update that added an educational component centered on investment FAQs--some validation of our effort!



With gratitude for icons created by Arthur Shlain, Andrea Mazzini, Mint Shirt, Thomas Helbig, dilayorganci, Icon Fair, Thi Dieu Linh, Rockicon, Gujixsol, Aya Sofya, Oliviu Stoian, and unlimicon via The Noun Project.