Product critique: Wealthfront Mobile app

I personally have used Wealthfront mobile app for a long time and really enjoy. I will try to break it apart today to practice my product thinking and critiquing skills. Everything below is my humble opinion and please take it as a grain of salt.

The product description

Wealthfront is a long term automated investment service, a so-called “robo-advisor”.

The users and problem

Primary users: Young people who actively want to do financial investments to grow more value out of their current financial assets.

Secondary users: People who are new to investing.

Problem: People don’t have enough time or skill to invest. They’re looking for a smart and passive way to engage with investing.

Core company value

Utilize machine learning technology to do smart investing decisions which could be better and more efficient.

Strongest Competitor

Bettermont, in the same market, with a similar product.

Business Goals and their strategy performance

Attract people to do hands off long term investing with the tool, both from desktop and mobile. Currently it has been pretty successful and have already attracted more than $12B.

Initial Setup experience

A simple guided experience that doesn’t require many steps of upfront setup.

Engaging visuals and simple forms to let user select their type of investment and tolerance of risk, which will impact the investment constraints and strategy going forward. Clear messaging and use of negative space reduces noise and friction in the setup experience.

I followed the steps to verify my connection to a bank account and made a first deposit. The steps were easy to follow and there weren’t any hiccups.

After a couple days I came back to the app and found the transfer has been made and now I can start tracking the performance of the portfolio. The app auto-pilots itself and requires no additional effort from me.

First impression/visuals

Visually the design is really modern and clean, the color palette feels smoothing to the eye. A combination of typography reduces clutter and makes the important information really easy to scan and consume.

I notice that instead of continuing using cards, as I scroll down, it becomes sections. It’s not as consistent as I want it to be, but it’s a minor thing.

Navigation Menus

The app uses a bottom tab bar for navigation, with simple iconography indicating the few key items.

Homepage includes all the important high level monitoring information. The icon for the homepage is not very intuitive — it shows a navigation pin, maybe it’s conveying where you’re current at. I personally think should be replaced with a more generic icon, like a home icon.

The second tab is Transfer funds. It is the place that hosts all the major actions like opening more accounts, depositing, withdraw, etc. It’s interesting that you need to go to a separate tab to perform those high level actions.

The third tab is Notifications. It shows all the notifications for recent system activities, and allows me to filter by notification type. Interestingly, the selected filter shows up at the bottom, which is unconventional. Typically you would see those filters really close to the top because it is a factor that changes all the information displayed below.

The last tab is invitation to friends. Although attracting user is not a user goal, I can see it’s a business goal. It’s interesting that Wealthfront has prioritized this over educational material.

Overall the key menu item iconographies feel minimal and modern. The highlighted menu icon gets bolded and has a subtle 3D effect. I would want to test it with people with accessibility issues and see if they could notice the subtle changes.

Homepage

A very prominent chart takes up a lot of screen real estate, indicating the growth trajectory of your total worth over your lifetime. It paints a really nice picture of the outcome of using this tool, and serves as a key motivator for users to keep building on top of it. The only problem with it is that there’s no transparency in how this graph gets calculated, and that could potentially lower the credibility of the graph. To improve that, I think adding a link to “how it’s calculated” or some tooltip would help tremendously.

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There’re a couple interactions you could do from this graph. First I could tap and drag on the graph to see how I’m worth at different ages which is very engaging.

It’s a bit unclear to me what the “Plus” icon does, so I’m hesitant to click on it. By tapping on the plus button I could add goals/expenses that would impact my investment growth, for example, buying a home or getting married. The graph then re-calculate the based on individual , which I think is really smart. My saved plan/goal would be displayed as a small icon on the graph, and also within the carousal cards in more detail. The micro-interaction here between the carousal cards and graph is very interesting, as I scroll through the plans, a subtle scaling animation of the corresponding icon on the graph correlates with the plan/goal in display below.

The placement of the button is a bit awkward, it’s floating in the bottom middle of the graph, making the goal section disconnected from the action and the graph above. This plus button pattern is typical for frequent users/power users, but will require some learning for new user in terms of what to expect. What I would suggest is to explicitly call out “Add your Plan/Goal” in between the graph and the section below to better connect the two and be more friendly to less frequent users.

The design works when user don’t have a lot of items/goals. When user have a lot of goals/expenses, the scrolling through the carousal might not work as of now.

Below the scrollable section shows an overview of all the investment accounts in terms of current value. One thing that I might want to know here is not only the account’s current worth, but also how much I’ve contributed. However, I will need to talk to others to see if this is equally important for them.

The app also provides a lot of ways to integrate with other existing parts of my financial life like bank accounts, credit cards, assets and liabilities to help make better predictions and suggestions for saving. It serves as a coach for cultivating saving and investing habits among its users. I haven’t found much value other than tracking those as of now. If Wealthfront wants to add more value for customer, one suggestion would be to incorporate more educational content that’s personalized for each individual. For now, I can get access to a list of random educational content via the book icon on the top right, but it’s not very accessible nor meaningful. I would consider moving it to the bottom tab nav, and make the content more rich and personalized.

The app has a demo mode that protects privacy during sharing, which I think is a genius marketing idea.

Individual Account page (e.g. Roth IRA)

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By drilling into an Roth IRA account that I own, I spend most of my time examining the graph. Under the really prominent current value text, I’m able to tell whether today’s a good day or not. An accessibility comment: I’m not sure if an arrow is enough to convey the status because it’s tiny. Robinhood, for example, explicitly uses text label “Up”and “Down” in addition to colors to communicate the status.

The interaction with the graph: I’m able to tap and drag on the graph to see account value as well as contributions for a specific day. This is very informative, but can be difficult to go to a specific day because the distance between two specific days is very tiny. One opportunity here is to allowing more detailed segments, e.g. adding options to view by month or even week.

The graph could be more educational or informative in terms of sharing more analysis of what happened that contributed to certain fluctuations. Robinhood has really informative “News” section related to each Stock that gives helpful information.

Now that I have been investing for more than one year, I could use tabs to choose a specific year and look at my portfolio back in time. I can see it going into a scrollable nav if more than 4 years.

I really like how the tooltip component is contextualized on mobile. It utilizes the whole screen width and harnesses the “focal point” Gestalt principle by using a popup sliding from the bottom and shading the rest of the screen. This makes reading and digesting educational content more easily.

The diversified portfolio and recent transactions sections are useful,

but a few observations:

  1. User can’t really adjust the Risk Score since they first configured the account, which violates user freedom. There might be some business limitations that I don’t understand.

2. There’s no way to track different item’s performance over time.

3. When I enter Recent Transactions, it lists all the different transaction types together, although you can distinguish them by reading the text and the icons, there’s no content hierarchy. I think there should be a way to filter them or see them in categories. It’s also a bit repetitive from information in the notification main tab.

The big Call to Action button “Add Funds” is pretty below the fold. I would consider elevating it, since it seems to be an important action.

Add funds / Making a deposit to an IRA flow

What’s notable in the add funds form is that there’s a little blue bubble icon next to the input field. By interacting with it, it gives out detailed tips in terms of how much we could invest in the account because there’s an annual limitation on how much one could save in an IRA account. Additional information like this is always helpful, it elicits transparency and cultivates trust with users.

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There’s a double confirmation screen once we finish the form and move to the next step. At this step, I review my planned deposit and use a slider to confirm. The visual here for the slider micro-interaction is really effective in communicating the idea of depositing. I’ve seen it used in security verifications before, but really like it being used in this scenario because you’re literarily moving money from bank to Wealthfront.

Once you’ve confirmed, a visually enticing celebration moment kicks in, with a splash of confettis. This curated animation brings delight to the users, adding joy to the whole experience, making this moment really rewarding for the users.

After I scheduled my recurring transfers, the UI changes and shows “recurring transfer” section below the graph above portfolio section. It’s odd to me to see “Edit” button there because it’s not consistent with the other Edit design patterns I see across the whole UI. Besides, upon tapping on Edit, it doesn’t allow me to edit the value of the deposit, but only allow for deleting the recurring transfer, and that mismatched my expectations. I would suggest to remove “Edit” and replace it with a trash icon following a double confirmation modal. Or could also adopt native device deletion gesture (e.g swiping or long press for iOS).

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Overall, I really appreciates Wealthfront’s product experience, in which there are a lot of elements that I really like. I think it’s excellent execution and it is satisfying to use. The UI feels responsive, trustworthy, reliable and secure. The app has made investing a really easy job. That being said, no one is perfect and I only hope the experience to be better. What’s your thought about this app? Welcome to comment below.

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