What the X: Financial Literacy for Low Income Teens
What the X: Financial Literacy for Low Income Teens


"What the X" is a class project for a course on Human Centered Design (HCD), which was hosted +Acumen and IDEO. The focus of the course to come up with a solution for a pre-made challenge (described below), while concentrating on HCD research methodologies. 

Project Role

Due to the small team sizes outlined by the course, my teammate Elizabeth Sarobhasa and myself shared the tasks associated with this project. Our shared roles included: concept and ideation, research, user interviews, analysis of insights, wireframes, and final course presentation. Our team had the additional challenge of working remotely through multiple Skype and Stormboard sessions.


Our team's chosen design challenge was to come up with a tool that reinforced the in-class teachings on how to manage financial goals, and targets low-income teens in the Chicago region. This challenge focused on not only coming up with a solution within the four-week duration of the course, but to also come up with a strategy that outlines how we might address the social impact for having such an app as well.

My partner Elizabeth and myself started with a brainstorming session and did some research into how teens and young adults keep track of money, if at all. In order to flesh out other possible sources of information, we also listed out possible contact persons that teenagers may contact for guidance, which included figures such as teachers, counsellors, and of course, parents. This was done through user interviews within our network, with an attempt to try and interview people who fit within those roles.
Our team also built an interview guide, starting with general questions to get the interview subject comfortable with us before delving into the deeper questions for our research. These questions decided upon as a team by voting.
In regards to selecting interview participants, we were careful to screen participants by ensuring that they fit within the targeted age range (ages 14-20), and verified if they were working or not, lived at home with their parents, and their plans after high school graduation. For this assignment, we were allowed to use test subjects who fit our profile as a proxy, as neither of us were able nor had appropriate contacts for low income teenagers in the Chicago area. We also supplemented our independent research by doing research online to verify that our proxy interview participants were aligned to our target users.

Once our interviews were completed, we then sorted our interview responses to track patterns in how teenagers saved. Our findings showed that, despite being low income or having limited means, a common trend was that the usage of mobile devices. Our secondary finding was that users also relied on small notebooks to note down expenses.
Organizing our collected interview data and putting them into categories.
Keeping these in mind, we decided on building an app that not only tracked expenses, but also provided a visual in regards to saving up for a goal, such as school tuition or clothes. We also included a feature where you can scan a receipt or manually enter in the expenses, to mimic the notebook method of tracking expenses.

Another feature that we added was the easy calculation of taxes, which our interview participants mentioned as being useful. A portion of our participants mentioned using the calculator on their smartphones to calculate tax, whereas others simply made a rough calculation or estimation, if at all. Others didn't bother making calculations and guessed.
Project Wrap Up and Lessons Learned

As the main focus was on human centered design thinking and research methodologies, we weren't required to build a prototype.

Overall, we did relatively well during our peer reviews, with comments focusing on our logical approach to researching our target users and using a combination of test participants and online research. Should the project have continued, I would've taken things a step further by building an interactive prototype and taking the device for testing by actual teenagers. It would be interesting to record and note the reception of this app.

The additional challenge of working remotely from my partner and conducting all of our work via Skype was another interesting challenge, but a useful one. One of the issues was time zones, as Elizabeth was in Vancouver, BC, and I was in Toronto, ON at the time of this course. Finding online collaborative tools, such as Stormboard, for our whiteboarding sessions was useful as it allowed us both to replicate the brainstorming and ideation process with sticky notes easily within a virtual environment.