January 23, 2017
by Jeff Walls

Designing for Partners in Saving, Spending, and Doing

When we set out to build Simple Shared accounts, we believed in creating something based on how people think. Simple product designer Jeff Walls is here to explain the benefits of designing with a beta program, and how the final product will be something that our customers want, and need.
Simple product designer Jeff Walls and pantone color book

The product design team at Simple is a small, tightly knit group of designers from a variety of backgrounds ranging from computer science to fine art. We work with user researchers, data analysts, and developers to turn user feedback and new product ideas into buildable, clearly defined designs.

Over the years, we’ve consistently heard that one of the main things holding people back from going “all in” with Simple was that we didn’t have anything to offer to replace traditional joint accounts. Earlier this year, all the pieces fell into place for us to finally take on building joint accounts in the Simple way.

One of the guiding principles for our design philosophy at Simple is that we try to design for how people think. We want users to feel a human, personal connection to their finances and help them develop a healthier relationship with their money, free of anxiety and confusion. These ideals are reflected throughout our products, and as we set out to design Simple Shared accounts, we wanted to ensure that all of these same principles guided our efforts.

A team of workers at tech company Simple discuss product design

People before products

We believe that to design for people, we need to listen to people, so before we even thought about designing Shared, we hosted research sessions to learn more about current and prospective customers. These intensive, multi-day sessions were a glimpse into the financial and personal lives of a group of people trying to manage their money, both as individuals and in their relationships. Conversations in these sessions helped us understand how our users view their personal and financial relationships, and allowed us to know more about the strategies they use to share their money.

One clear takeaway was that there is no one “right” way to share money. Just as every relationship has its own unique constellation of understandings, boundaries, and affinities that make it work, every financial relationship has its own internal logic that either helps it succeed or holds it back. So, the challenge in front of us was to design a product that not only allows users to share their money, but also helps them to grow together.

Simple product designer Jeff Walls talks about design in open plan office setting

Designing for growth

We knew from demographic research that there are a lot of people out there who could benefit from sharing money but who weren’t using traditional joint accounts, or had only just started sharing money (a little further down the line in a relationship than you’d expect). Knowing that financial stress is a major difficulty in many partnerships, we wanted to make sure that Shared accounts were a fit for anyone who wanted to combine their finances, whether they were romantically involved or not.

We believe that in any good partnership, financial or otherwise, each partner brings their own unique perspective and skills to the table. That’s what makes cooperation and sharing so powerful. While research indicates that many of our users will be romantic couples, we designed Shared to work for any two people. We want people who might not feel like a traditional joint account is the right fit for them to feel more comfortable with the model we’ve designed for Simple Shared accounts.

When two people sign up, they each get access to their Shared account. Outside of the Shared account, they each get to keep their individual accounts, which gives both parties the benefit of a shared financial life while still maintaining their own independence to whatever degree works best for them. Whether that means sharing all sorts of day-to-day expenses, or keeping personal budgets mostly separate but saving together for big things (a few weeks in Europe, or a cool new piece of furniture you’ve been pining for), Shared accounts can meet your needs.

We also believe that having access to a Shared account on top of individual accounts can help people “grow into” the product as they become more comfortable with using the product, and with sharing their finances. For example, two partners could start out using their individual accounts primarily, only using their Shared account to pay for a few monthly expenses (such as rent and utilities). As time goes on, people might start feeling comfortable enough to pay for things like groceries and dining out with their Shared cards. Eventually, the pair could grow to view their Shared Safe-to-Spend and Goals as their primary budget, with their individual accounts used only for personal purchases and gifts.

Simple product designer Jeff Walls smiling

We’ve designed Simple Shared accounts to aid the point at which two unique financial perspectives meet, and we’re hoping that everything we’ve created—from the design of the physical card each partner receives to the written and visual language created by our brand team to the smallest details in the user experience—complements the partners who use the product.

We also went to great lengths to make the process of starting a Shared account as quick and easy as possible, so that partners can get up and running with their cooperative finances without any hassles; specifically, without having to go into the same physical bank branch with a folder full of documents. All you need is a Simple account and a computer or phone, and you can start an account in minutes.

The beta finish line, and beyond

After we completed our research phase, we began to create high-fidelity prototypes with Sketch, Invision, and Principle. Iterating on this level and creating prototypes is an important step in the design process, but one that we took with the desire to drive hard toward a public beta release; there is simply no substitute for having a product in the hands of real users who can help us gather feedback and insight. We wanted to get Simple Shared out to our beta waitlisters quickly, while still ensuring we were delivering a highly stable and completely secure offering.

As the beta has unfolded, we’ve been able to work research rounds into site design updates. We work in two-week sprint cycles, and for each one, we have fresh research findings to bring to the table. These research learnings are discussed among the team, translated into mockups, and eventually made into fully functioning features. We are continually analyzing and incorporating user feedback into our updated product design as more users enter the beta program, which means that every new customer who comes onto the beta program is receiving a better, smarter product, a result of learning from those who have come before them.

Even once we launch Shared, we’ll continue to use research and data to make frequent iterative improvements, and we’re excited to keep exploring new ways to apply everything we’ve learned about how people share money. We’re also excited to explore new ways to add innovation to the product. What could Shared look like in the future, and what different situations could we cater to? Parents and children? Friends on a vacation together? The possibilities are endless.

Most of all, we’re excited to keep finding ways to make our users’ financial lives better. It is a huge honor to be able to help craft a product that users form a deep and beneficial relationship with. We hope that by applying what we’re learning during the beta phase of Shared accounts we’ll be able to give our customers a superb user experience from the first day that Shared is publicly available.

UPDATE 2/27/17 – Shared Accounts have launched! Get started below:

Get Shared

Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple nor our partner banks, The Bancorp Bank and BBVA Compass, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.