Harnessing User Research to Increase Conversion Rates

Skills Practiced


I collaboratively-led a team of user researchers for a Fintech startup (MaxRewards) as they prepared to rollout a new feature for their personal finance mobile app.

My roles

I was the team leader, responsible for establishing our project plan, ensuring our efforts remained within the scope of the project plan, and ensuring tasks selected by the team members were completed according to the plan and scope or the project.

I was responsible for creating the clickable prototype, user testing, and final mock-ups.

The Challenges

It is challenging to manage both a client and a team.

To overcome that challenge with my team I relied on daily stand-ups and weekly debriefs with my team.

To overcome the challenge with our client I asked our communications person to check-in with our client and debrief us.

Time-boxing and reducing scope-creep

I had team members who were often unable to maintain their focus on the larger project, or conversely members who were too focused on the larger picture and unable to connect to specific tasks that were necessary to accomplish the larger project.

To overcome this challenge with my team I used time-boxing as a means of reinforcing our agreed-upon planning and I also insisted that we limit ourselves to only working on what was feasible to accomplish within the narrow scope we had before us.

I also had a client who was focused on their larger project and so often had to remind them that we were working on parts of that larger project and the changes they were making were also impacting our ability to complete our work.

Methods Employed

The Process

Team Building

Because Project 3 has become a broadly-understood synecdoche in the Atlanta UX community (meaning a dissatisfying project), I wanted to be sure that we had effective communication among us specifically of our individual expectations and desired outcomes.

Planning & Identifying Deliverables

Our client had to apply and be selected to be able to work with my team. In their application our client stated that their top deliverables were “take aways from user research,” including user journeys, prototypes, and insights from usability testing.

Scrum Poker

We met as a group and agreed to the shared software we’d be using and also to the overall planning document. We also played a round and a half of Scrum Poker. The first half-round of the game was stopped when we realized that collectively we each had different understandings of what we were doing. Once we understood that disparity, we got onto the same page and started over delegating sections of the planning document.

Brand & Product Research

To understand the business ecology of MaxRewards and identify areas of strength and opportunities for refinement I conducted a comparative analysis using apps offering similar services to their own.

We noticed that:

  • All of the apps have a simple design
  • AwardWallet and MaxRewards each offer bank-level encrypted data security
  • AwardWallet and MaxRewards both require their users to give the apps access to their personal credit card account details in order to take advantage of the whole suite of features available.
  • Smorecard, Maxivu, and MaxRewards each deploy a GPS feature
  • MaxRewards provides the highest volume of credit card rewards but AwardWallet has the highest satisfaction rating according to available user reviews.

I also completed a heuristic analysis to understand industry best practices.

We found that MaxRewards had opportunities in the areas of Recognition and Efficiency of use. From this we understood that instructions for use of the application ought to be visible or easily accessible for users.

Current-state Task Analysis

Margaret, a former education researcher, suggested conducting current-state task analyses with users to gain insights into opportunities for our own design. I asked her to do so with two users.

She asked users to complete four tasks: find and download the app, add some cards, explore the app a bit and then finally connect an account.

As we recorded their interactions with the app, we made sure that our participants thought out loud about their process, and to share their thinking and feelings about their use of the app. These served as the basis for our user journeys and were integral to our persona creation.

Recruiting and Interviewing Users

It was agreed upon with our client that we would conduct two separate surveys: one for existing users of the app, and one for potential users.

We sent this survey out using google forms via a convenience sample. We utilized our friends, family, and colleagues to spread the word to get a maximum amount of users in a short amount of time.

Initial results from the existing MaxRewards users indicated that:

  • Users are very familiar with personalized offers
  • The majority have activated and used offers (automatically enrolling users into their credit card offers is what MaxRewards intended to offer as a premium feature for their users)
  • Absolute dollar amount is the most important factor for deciding on whether or not to activate an offer from a credit card issuer
  • AMEX and Chase card holders are heavily represented in the sample
  • Users want to earn rewards, track offers, and their increase savings.
Survey results from existing users

We were able to find about 60 respondents for potential user survey.

We asked questions about our respondents’ banking and financial planning mobile app use. We wanted to know what users were already doing to manage their finances and track their rewards.

We found:

  • Our respondents are already using their AMEX, Capital One, Discover, and Chase mobile apps.
  • They are overwhelmingly interested in credit card rewards.
  • And, they don’t currently use an app to manage their rewards.
  • Our respondents were of two minds about sharing their credit card details in mobile applications.
  • Some reported concerns about security of their personal financial information, particularly the security of their password and user login details.

Our survey was designed to help us see trends that would inform our design and also to act as a screener for interviewing and user testing at a later date.

Synthesizing the Data

Some of the most useful findings from the affinity map included:

  • Clear instructions & scaffolded instructions are needed
  • People expect good usability & will engender trust
  • Easy to use
  • Quick to find what is needed
  • Convenience is necessary

After completing the affinity mapping, we were able to move forward with a clearer idea of who the current and potential users are as well as where their needs and pain points lie.

Persona Creation

We noticed that the two primary concerns users had with credit card reward-accruing apps were centered around convenience and the data security of the mobile application.

We developed two personas who represented these issue perspectives, Jackson and Grace:

Problem & Solution Statements

MaxRewards users want to manage their credit card rewards securely and conveniently; and they want to learn how to get the most rewards and bonuses for all added credit cards.

Our solution is to provide informational copy in the mobile application that will increase user trust and clarify the purpose and use of MaxRewards.

We will know our solution is working when the number of in-app user-conversions increases by 50%.

Design Studio

With our questions in mind, we covered the walls with sketches and plans to narrow the proposed solutions down to those that were the minimally viable product for our upcoming Friday release.

User Testing

We now had personas, user journeys, happy paths, and current state sketches and wireframes of how the app behaves. We were now in a position to begin creating screens that presented the solutions that our users identified.

At this point it was necessary to create a clickable prototype that we could put in front of potential users so that we could get a sense of what needed to be improved. I took on this responsibility and created a pixel-perfect clickable prototype that reflected the findings from our user research. I conducted the user testing and collected both observational data and also interviewed the users about their behaviors and responses to the prototype.

I used these responses to guide further refining of the prototype and included some discussion of my findings in our presentation to the client.

While I was creating the prototype and conducting the user testing, my team was busy preparing the slides and packaging our deliverables for our presentation.

Clickable Prototype

I Most Enjoyed

I most enjoyed being the manager of the group and also being the primary visual designer.

I found the product itself interesting because I had worked in the finance industry earlier in my career and this was an opportunity to return to that work. I also found the similarities between how a startup and a nonprofit organization operate interesting.


I was surprised at how often it was necessary to clarify communication among the teams. Things that I thought had been effectively communicated were not.

The lesson learned here is: referring to checklists and explaining my design process early and often will do a lot of heavy lifting for my communication efficacy.