User Experience

User Engagement – The wonderful case of YNAB

Do you also have so much month left at the end of your money?

It could be a message on a kitchen tile (and it probably just is). But it is often a frightening reality: transferring a little money from the savings to the checking account every month. Not a life-threatening situation but unsustainable in the long term. Okay, time to take the bull by the horns and start budgeting!

And how nice is it to discover a piece of software that not only helps you manage your household budget, but also teaches you how to do that and offers a great user experience. In UX Terms this is called “user engagement” and YNAB  (You Need A Budget) is doing a great job.

User engagement = onboarding + engagement in the long term

What is user engagement exactly? User engagement is about two things:

  • How do you teach people to work with your software (also called user onboarding)
  • How do you keep those users engaged over the longer term (user engagement, user loyalty)

YNAB is doing a great job on both accounts. Finger licking good actually (don’t do that btw, not a good thing to do in these times of COVID-19) . What is it that makes YNAB so terrific for me? I’ll just give you a couple of examples.

Your daily step by step mail

As soon as you start working with YNAB you receive a short e-mail every day. No newsletter that is sent to everyone en masse but a series of messages that take you step-by-step through the learning curve and let you discover new functionalities.

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Do you celebrate wins?

People need a sense of progress and the feeling that they are getting closer to their goal. YNAB leverages this by reminding you to celebrate any wins you may have. As a user this keeps me motivated.

Video, the human way

The excellent e-mails lead also to videos in which they explain the most important principles of their budgeting system. The videos last ca 1 to 1,5 minutes each, perfect for our short attention spans in this high tech world.

In most of the videos a person is addressing you directly, but they added a little extra. Many movies start with a small piece of subtle humor. Nothing hilarious, just something that paints a light smile on your face. A nice example is the intro of this video  “And where are you going with this?”:

You’ll notice that sometimes at the end of the movie there are still 20 seconds of video left. Keep watching because you’ll get a sneak peak of what is happening behind the screens. From a speaker that asks if the take was okay to a number of bloopers. All very human, like this movie from minute 1:30 onwards:

The information you need, when you need it

All information is contextual, meaning that you get that specific information where you need it and when you need it. The information is to-the-point but also written in a fun and motivating way.

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How much time do you have now?

If you click on the Help topic you go to the Help center. This is set up in such a way that you can move through it step by step. But a very nice element is this: “How much time do you have?” I have a short lunch break, so what is best to have a look at when I want to learn something?

From me to you

Finally, many YNAB emails in a very conversational tone and is signed by Jesse or Todd of YNAB, a very nice personal touch.

These are just a couple of small examples, but they make working with YNAB a great experience. Even if the matter is quite complex (checkings accounts, savings accounts, transfers, cleared balances…) YNAB guides you through and keeps you engaged.

This approach is also important for them as a company; They frame it like this: “we are actually a learning company dealing with financial software”.

More and more it is not only the quality and user friendliness that make a product a success, but the whole user experience and user engagement is an ever more important part of that. We all need to become a bit more of a learning company.

In conclusion

In many cases user onboarding is reduced to a first time use and that is it; but to be effective it needs to be a story on the long term. Often it is also just an afterthought on the product roadmap. Something that we think of at the very last minutes: oh right, this I something we still need to do.

User onboarding and user engagement deserves more attention. It needs to be an integral part of your UX process. So get that UX team involved and bring the engagement of your users to a higher level

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