The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Freshening up your budget: Mobile experiences matter, too

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the financial service Mint. It’s a free service that tracks all your accounts, bills, transactions and lets you set up budgets to stay on track. I was a big user several years ago but fell out of it in favor of more manual spreadsheets until recently. Getting married and combining finances was a great time to get back into it to make it easy for both of us to stay on track.

Getting everything set up on my laptop was a piece of cake. Adding accounts was much easier than it used to be. Setting up budgets has been streamlined. Going through your transactions is very intuitive and you can pretty easily only see exactly what you’re after.

I got it all set up, and went to get my wife set up with the app on her phone so she could check in on the budgets and help me categorize our transactions. However, what we found was that the mobile experience has some room for improvement in two key areas; general navigation and transaction filtering.

Let’s look at general navigation first. On desktop, it’s quite simple. You have a standard top navigation bar with access to everything you need; ‘Overview’, ‘Transactions’, ‘Bills’, ‘Budgets’, etc.

Mint’s desktop navigation bar

On mobile, however, there is no “one stop shop” for navigation. There’s a bar across the bottom of the screen that gives you 4 options; ‘Updates’, ‘Overview’, ‘Offers’, and ‘Settings’. Let’s say you want to look at your budgets for the month, where do you go? If your answer was go to ‘Updates’ and then scroll halfway down the page to find an easy to overlook link to ‘View All Budgets’ then you were right. Or maybe you’d go to ‘Overview’ and select ‘May Budget’. But I bet those weren’t your answers, because it’s not a clear way to navigate the mobile app. I spent all this time on the desktop version working with ‘Budgets’, not ‘May Budget’, so I was looking for the mobile app to mirror the desktop site. The hamburger menu has become a best practice for good reason; it’s a persistent, easy way to access the main content of a mobile app and it mirrors website navigation so learned behavior can carry over. A hamburger menu would make this Mint app quite a bit easier to navigate.

Now let’s look at ‘Transactions’ on the mobile app. Transactions in Mint are really key to the whole experience; it’s where you go in and make sure that it’s categorizing all of your transactions appropriately for the budgets and goals to work properly. On desktop you have options galore; filter by type, filter by account, sort by date, sort by category, search for any of the above, etc. On the mobile app, however, you merely get one long list of every transaction with no filters and no sorting. The search box remains, but that’s it. I was planning on showing my wife how to go look at transactions from her main credit card so she could verify the categories periodically, but it’s literally not possible to filter it down to a single account on the phone. We ended up getting frustrated with it and just decided that we’d sit down together at a laptop twice a month to take care of it; kind of defeats the purpose of a mobile app doesn’t it?

Mint is a fantastic service that I frequently can’t believe they don’t charge for, but nothing is perfect. Their desktop experience is wonderful and intuitive, but the mobile app just doesn’t deliver in the same way. Just a handful of changes could change that, though; just another example of how user research can help improve customers’ experiences.

-Cameron Duggins, Senior UX AnalystUsability Sciences

Learn more about mobile usability research to ensure your websites and apps present a consistent user experience.

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