Creating Magic in Digital Spaces
Creating a tool for 9-14 year olds is a particular challenge, because there’s a lot going on with tweens during this time. At this age, tweens are exploring a higher level of independence and responsibility than they have had before. Many tweens start receiving an allowance at or before this age range; now they’re starting to enjoy more independence that allows them to spend that money on their own terms.
To contextualize what kind of tools would be developmentally appropriate for this age, the team began our research by digging into data about our demographic.
We found that at this age range, tweens are exploring a higher level of independence and responsibility than they’ve had before. However, their prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls long-term planning is still developing. This makes it hard for tweens to anticipate the long-term results of their choices, like spending or saving money.
We surveyed parents and found that they had a strong preference for strict supervision of the financial instruments their tweens are using. Our data also suggested parents were pretty leery of digital tools, so we knew transparency and supervision on the parental side would be important for our app to be successful.
Using the data that we gathered, Erin created personas to codify our understanding of our two user groups. Parents are really looking to help their child learn and succeed, and we want to make sure that we’re sensitive to their concerns about technology, and the ability to supervise their tweens as they grow. For the youths, we know they’re curious and ambitious, but our approach with them can’t be strictly educational, or they’ll lose interest.
Name: Brandon Smith
Family: Married with 2 tweens
Work: Tech, $85,000/yr
“My wish is for my child to learn and grow. Their success and safety matters to me. I want to understand the financial technologies they are using, and be able to keep an eye on them to make sure they are on the right track.”
Name: Jessica Smith
Interests: Pokemon and soccer
“I have big goals, but my income is small, and I sometimes struggle to reach them. I want to understand how money works, but I don’t want extra school. I take play very seriously, and having more money will enhance my playtime.”
In order to understand our youth users’ goals around money better, Erin and I conducted user testing with 9-14 year olds. They gave us insight into the education level of our targets. Vocabulary, copy length, and the use of percentages had to be revised on the tween’s app.
Although our surveyed parents were very interested in an app focusing on education on personal finance, our interviewed tweens were pretty mixed on that idea. Half of the tweens we spoke to admitted there were things about finance they had heard of but didn’t understand, they did not express much enthusiasm for a strictly educational model.
When we talked to the tweens about savings goals, we saw much more excitement. Each of our subjects had a goal in mind already, with an average cost was around $750. These goals ranged from practical (“saving up for a car when I turned 16”) to whimsical (“I want to see what kind of Pokemon I can catch in Europe playing Pokemon Go”), but all of the goals our subjects talked about had a purpose in common: facilitating fun.
Marshmallow is a supplemental tool that partnered banks will recommend to parents in order for them to help develop their tween’s financial skills. The app lets parents send certain amounts of money, depending on chores accomplished or allowance. Tweens will be able to deposit other forms of money, such as parent approved birthday checks. The money will be tied to a tween debit card that is associated with the parents primary bank account.
- Built out more complex screen flow to test look and feel of final app
- Designed parent app using same color palette, but with an mature feel
- Similar layout, but tools and options oriented toward oversight of child account
- Tabs added for multiple children
We understand that parents will not use an app that lets their tween go crazy with their spending habits. We wanted to have transparency so parents can supervise their tween as much as they choose with customizable notifications about their tween’s activity. By letting parents be able to watch their tween’s spending habits they can step in to critique how their tweens are doing, award them by matching savings goals, or block the tween’s activities.
To help separate ourselves from conventional banking apps and to entice our tween audience we gamified the app. We introduced achievement badges, savings goals, and customizable UI themes to give a sense of progression and rewards for reaching savings goals and finishing educational mini games.