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Budget Planner App Design Critique

September 7, 2010

From Alex Sabonge: Alex, do you offer consulting services? take a look at my app at mybudget-planner.com. i have tried everything, and keeps going up and down.

Alex Komarov: Can you tell me what are the major issues people complain about?

Alex Sabonge (Developer): Intuity, slowness if thats a word. People dont understand what the software does. But people who learn the software love it.


Alex Komarov
September 9, 2010

The main idea of this app is very good, and the App Store description shows off its functionality well.

“Budget Planner tracks your Bills, Budget, Calendar, and Transactions by displaying your balance on a calendar view, letting the user know how much money they will actually have on any particular day. Like a balance forecaster.”

Here’s an overview of how Budget Planner works:
1) Users input their monthly salary info and plug in their fixed monthly expenses (utilities, phone, car payment, etc).

2) Using this data, the app allows users to track their cash flow and predict the amount they’ll have in the bank on any given day.

Most folks would find this extremely useful. So why are people complaining about the app? Why does it have an average 2.5 out of five rating, and sales lower than you hoped? Let’s look into the main sources of the problem. For now we’ll set aside lesser, though important, usability factors such as not following iPhone UI guidelines and improper use of standard controls.

We’ll start at the beginning. People invented money so they can buy things, right? Your core audience’s main goal is to know what they can afford and when they can afford it — whether it’s a new pair of shoes, a new car, or a solid retirement plan.

You’re not planning a budget just for fun. You make the effort because you hope it’ll allow you to make better purchasing decisions (read: buy more stuff you like) and without having your rent check bounce.

Your app is getting there. But there are several key factors getting in the way of a great user experience. Let’s take a closer look at the app’s “Landing Screen” — the calendar — the main element that differentiates it from other budget apps. First of all, I think that the calendar is a great idea. It’s much better then a categorized list of experiences that many other apps have. The calendar is all about how much money you have, or will have in future. A list basically shows how much you’ve already spent. Knowing that your money is gone doesn’t really help achieve a financial goal — purchasing a shiny new laptop, for example.

Here are some downsides of the calendar view:

I believe there’s a way to visualize informatiovn so as to uncover patterns and information that are “invisible” within the current design.

Discovering those details and patterns behind spending habits will allow users to get new ideas, make informed decisions, and eventually achieve their financial goals — praising your app in the process. Users will better understand their bad habits, and be able to put steps in place to correct them.

A graph can provide richer possibilities for visualizing financial information. It’s much more flexible and scalable then the calendar. Using a graph as your “landing screen” you can dramatically increase the density of meaningful data, while reducing visual noise. Here are some ideas we came up with. It’s a draft put together merely to illustrate our points and get your ideas rolling. This is not a final design suggestion.

Next steps:
People love apps that help them achieve their goals. What if your app allowed users to input and compare different financial scenarios, shown through several overlayed graphs?

This capability could help users think through their options:

  • If I put my kid in this private school, will still I be able to get the Beemer I’ve always dreamed of?
  • How many hours of overtime would I need to afford both?

These are few examples of typical questions people ask themselves. If your app can help them get answers, I think it’ll really catch on and you’ll soon be driving a shiny new Beemer yourself.

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Comments

Thanks alex. We made several modifications based on your ideas amd feedback and we are releasing the app with bunch of new tools this coming week. I will keep you posted of the progress of the app. You realy helped a lot with your critique. THANK YOU.

Alex sabonge
September 12, 2010

Alex, thank you for helping me with the Accordeon app. Turning the phone off and rebooting it solved the problem and the app works like a charm. I am impressed with your prompt attention, patience with my lack of knowledge and the fact that you stuck with me until the app worked. Love the Accordeon app BTW. Showed it to a few people at work and they all want one!

Maria Morton
December 15, 2010

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