How It Was Done: Propel
Propel (http://www.joinpropel.com) is a fintech startup based out of New York behind FreshEBT (http://www.freshebt.com). FreshEBT allows food stamp recipients to check their balance and transaction history.

Propel worked with us to analyze a database of their users' spending patterns, and find ways to help their users make their food stamps last.
# Considerations:
After analyzing 20,000 users and over 260,000 transactions, as well as interviews with Propel employees, industry experts, and food stamp recipients, these were the key insights discovered:
  • Background Research
  • There are over 45.8 million people who benefit from food stamps.
  • The average monthly allowance per household is $250.
  • Because benefits are distributed on a monthly basis, it creates a "windfall" effect, which causes people to not think about future expenses.
  • Interview Insights
  • Small and frequent dollar purchases are the norm.
  • Food stamp benefits deplete quickly.
  • The average food stamp recipient spends 80% of their benefits in the first nine days. (By day 21, the average recipient has spent their entire food stamp balance.)
CURRENT CONSUMPTION RATE A graphical representation of our discovery data regarding consumption rates.
# Current Flow Analysis:
FreshEBT is a relatively spartan app, with little extra content visible from the dashboard. It primarily focuses on showing the current balance (the primary benefit of using the app), and a list of previous transactions.

DASHBOARD (LEFT) The original FreshEBT dashboard design.
SIDEBAR (RIGHT) FreshEBT has some other side features that are included in the app, such as nearby locations that accept food stamps, & recipes to encourage users to cook at home.
# Design Process
One of the major considerations that became apparent while working with Propel was that they wanted to maintain the simple to use and understand interface.

The important thing to remember is that while the feature list of Propel might not be very extensive, it's main draw is that it removes the difficulty of having to figure out your food stamp balance before any purchase, and makes it as seamless as checking your bank account balance. This means that for a solution to be effective, it must be presented in a similar fashion- interpretable, understandable, & actionable.
TAKING IN CONSIDERATIONS Working through different ways to incorporate behavioral principles into the design.
EARLY ITERATIONS Using behavioral principles as a guide, I created several versions of the FreshEBT dashboard that could potentially influence the way users felt about their spending power.
USERTESTING One of several sessions of external validation run through UserTesting.com. Drawing on my experience running behavioral studies in school, I try to not only ask what someone thinks about a particular design, but why they may feel that way.
# Redesigned Product
After taking into account all of the considerations with this design, it was decided that the best counter-nudge for the windfall effect would be to show users a "recommended weekly budget" at the top of their dashboard.

One major factor was maintaining the "glance value" of the current design- that the first number a user's eyes should track to is the amount they have available. In doing so, we could avoid having to teach new visuals or ways to operate the app, and let people find their total balance in a relatively similar screen position.
REDESIGNED APP The newly redesigned FreshEBT app.
# Closing Thoughts:
I really enjoyed how much this project challenged my preconceptions that a redesign needs to radically change users' behavior (not only in-app, but in real world application as well).

How can I make this claim? Well, below I've included the results of tracking users' behavior three months after roll-out: (Analysis below)
AN EVENING OF SPACING Users in the experimental condition spent 80% of their food stamp balance in 11 days, as compared to 9 days in the control group.
An average extra of 2 days might not sound significant, but for a family that relies on food stamps, this would equate to an additional 6 meals. 6 meals, from a simple design solution.