Kiva’s newly redesigned homepage.

Part 2: The story behind Kiva’s redesign

6 min readJun 17, 2016

By Abraham Wallin, Design Director at Kiva

Last week we shared the story behind Kiva’s recent brand and logo refresh, now learn more about the redesign and user experience changes.

Since Kiva’s founding in 2005, 1.5 million lenders have used the platform to make over $850 million in loans. While these stats speak to an impressive first 10 years, we see a future where hundreds of millions of people support billions of borrowers, both locally and around the world. Building a platform that makes lending easy and compelling for mass participation was at the heart of our recent redesign.

To achieve broader participation, Kiva needs to go where our lenders are, and increasingly they’re on mobile devices. So we approached the redesign work with a mobile-first mindset, embracing the advantages and constraints inherent to mobile devices. Considerations such as small screens, portability and touch screen interaction were central to the design from the very beginning.

Kiva’s new responsive homepage on desktop, tablet and mobile.

You’ll find the new design is “responsive,” meaning it adjusts to fit the device you’re using, and making a loan is possible now in just a few taps of your mobile phone. At launch not every page of the website is responsive, but over the next few months we will continue updating pages on a rolling basis to make the entire website mobile friendly.

Defining our scope

Early in the project we identified two key audiences we would focus on.

First time visitors
Motivating visitors to become lenders is central to Kiva’s ability to grow the movement. Based on our research we found two big hurdles prevent people from making their first loan on Kiva. First, the basics of Kiva can be hard to grasp — how does lending work? How is it different than a typical charity? — much of this information was scattered in the previous website so we worked diligently to clearly communicate the basics and offer additional depth for common questions to ensure it’s easy to “get” Kiva.

On Kiva’s home page a broad overview presents the basic steps of how to make a loan and links to a more detailed “How Kiva works” page.
On the “How Kiva works” page, the steps a loan goes through before and after funding offer additional insight into the mechanics of Kiva’s model, and a series of FAQs were particularly effective in user testing in answering any remaining questions.

Second, selecting a borrower from the thousands of people fundraising at any given time can be overwhelming. Over the years we’ve spent a lot of time researching this problem which led us to focus on “categories,” a new way to organize and display loans based on sector or interest.

Existing lenders returning to Kiva to lend (prompted by an email)
When we ask lenders what prompted them to return to Kiva they almost always tell us they got an email notifying them they had a balance of $25 (or more) in their account to relend. In fact, we see a spike of lending on the 17th of every month when repayment emails are sent. This is the power of Kiva, a system that lets your money work smarter: instead of a one-time donation, you can leverage your money again and again to create more impact, and the moment you receive enough repayments to relend again is joyful. But, after a few years lending can start to feel repetitive and that moment loses some of the spark. We wanted to find a way to help people discover new types of loans, understand the different ways they could get involved and regain that interest.

Redesigning the finding experience

Even before we officially began a project to redesign Kiva we started testing new ways to help lenders find and choose the borrowers they wanted to support, and avoid feelings of being overwhelmed. We began by soliciting ideas from our staff and sought advice from product development teams at organizations facing similar “finding” challenges such as Indiegogo, Netflix and Etsy. We then spent a considerable amount of time understanding how and why people make loans on Kiva.

After exploring various ideas and hypotheses through design iterations (prototype → user test → learn → repeat) and A/B testing, it became clear a category-based loan-finding experience offered a simple, elegant solution. Grouping loans into categories around themes such as “Single parents” or “Food” created a jumping-off point for new and low-volume lenders allowing them to quickly narrow their choice from thousands to dozens of borrowers.

At the same time we can create categories around unique borrower traits, such as short-term loans or expiring soon, to excite long-time lenders and introduce them to new loans. We also identified a number of improvements, such as a detailed list view that can make the process of choosing a borrower easier for power lenders who consider criteria such as Field Partner, loan length, default rates and delinquency rates. These powerful features were not part of the initial redesign but will be included in subsequent releases over the next few months.

Defining a new aesthetic

Since 2005, Kiva has developed brand recognition and a passionate community of lenders with a leafy, green identity reflected in the logo and color touches on the site. The visual metaphor made sense as the vast majority of Kiva loans were originally focused on agricultural (and often to women in Africa). But over the past 10 years Kiva has broadened its offerings far beyond traditional microfinance. For example, you can now lend to U.S. small businesses or students seeking loans for tuition.

From a visual standpoint we wanted to remain rooted in 10 years of success but evolve the look to highlight the growth of lending on Kiva. Two elements come to play a central role in the new Kiva aesthetic:

  • Photography
    To reflect the visual diversity found in the 84 countries where Kiva works, we showcase inspiring photos of borrowers and their communities. This brings Kiva’s story to life while at the same time expanding the color palette beyond the two-tone green established years ago. All of these photos are taken by Kiva Fellows and staff while visiting borrowers. They help us convey Kiva’s vision and mission while shifting the perceptions and stereotypes often associated with traditional aid and charity work.
  • Typography
    As we design at Kiva we’re always trying to find a balance between playful optimism and a trustworthiness essential for an organization that holds people’s money. As noted by its designer Josh Finklea, the typeface Post Grotesk fit the bill from its very inception.

“The intention was to build an amiable typeface with maximum usability and an overall sense of neutrality. Post Grotesk reduces the typical rigidness of a grotesk through subtle additions of personality and uniqueness.”

With its versatility and various weights, Post Grotesk is a work horse for Kiva, appearing in headlines as well as body text. Marty Grasser and Marian Chiao even employed the typeface in their redesign of Kiva’s logo — which also evolved Kiva’s identity while honoring its history — creating a harmony through all aspects of the brand.

We believe this redesign serves as a powerful foundation for Kiva to build on the success of the first 10 years by bringing new people into the movement and re-energizing existing lenders. As noted we still have a lot of work to do — additional tools for power lenders, making every experience mobile friendly and of course fixing bugs and adjusting based on real world usage. We’d love for you to try the new site, maybe even make a loan and give us feedback.