Going out with a big group of friends is fun until the bill arrives at your table. Can the restaurant split it eight ways? Who’s covering the bill? What about the guy who ordered two entrees and dessert?
Venmo has become one of the most popular ways to digitally send money. It’s easy, convenient, and downloaded on almost every phone. However, when you are awaiting multiple incoming payments, it can get confusing. Why?
- It’s difficult to keep tabs on everyone.
- There is no incentive to pay a request.
- The payment division is confusing.
Group Payment allows users to create groups of users, divide a bill, input custom amounts, and easily keep track of who has paid their portion. For the first time in Venmo, users can allocate different amounts to multiple people all within the same screen.
Understanding the Problem
During the ideation stage, I wanted to understand how users currently interact with Venmo. What was preventing people from having a seamless experience? Are Venmo requests doing their job?
- Users keep track outside of Venmo
“I sometimes jot down how much people owe me in the Notes app… but I usually keep track in my head and just end up forgetting.”
2. Users give up on reminders
“It feels aggressive to bring it up in person and a reminder through Venmo can only do so much… the request usually just sits there on their phone.”
3. Users lack incentive
“I mean if it’s less than $20 and they still haven’t paid me, I’ll just let it go, but I’m starting to realize those amounts add up.”
From my user research, the problem was evident: Venmo was lacking a space for multiple users to access and interact with a payment. From here, I started to explore what this could look like.
With the help of my lovely friends Brandon, Melika, and two hundred sticky notes, we were able to narrow our many solution ideas into three problems spaces:
- Splitting: How can users split a large bill in multiple ways?
- Incentive: What will make users feel the need to pay someone back?
- Tracking: How can users easily keep track of who owes what?
Low Fidelity & Inspiration
A group feature: you select multiple users, decide how to divide up the bill amongst the group, and send out user requests. This low fidelity sketch hit all the right points, but it needed a design revamp.
How are other apps doing this?
To help being this feature to life, I pulled inspiration from apps like Zelle & Bank of America that having a payment splitting feature, and PayPal, which only allows one-on-one payments.
Although these features carry out different end goals, they provided great insight into what users could potentially be looking for when they want to make digital transactions.
Zelle provided a clear information hierarchy: users and their respective amounts are listed under a grand total. PayPal, on the other hand, had the amount front and center of the screen. Both these apps successfully displayed information with purpose and clarity. So, how could I transfer these qualities into Venmo?
Medium Fidelity & Visual Exploration
After many explorations, I landed upon a flow that had an affective entry point, group creation system, and payment screen.
- The first screen is just as Venmo is now. To access Group Payment, users can navigate to the Venmo “Pay/Request” button as they do whenever making a transaction. Feasible and simple.
- Under the existing QR code option is the new Group Payment feature. Selecting users can be done with a simple search and tap.
- After inputting the total bill, the app will automatically divide the payments for user convenience. Users are able to tap and edit amounts for each specific group member — the remainder is evenly divided after editing an amount.
Visual Design and Exploration
How could I make this feature feel like a Venmo update? What would add to the concept, but not detract from the app design itself? These were questions I kept in mind when designing Group Payment.
Keeping with the Venmo blue and white colors, I created the group payment icon based off of the existing friends icon. As seen in the first screen, instead of two people, I added a third, which gave the appearance of multiple people to represent a group.
The second image shows what a group payment icon looks like. Considering the dimensions of user profile photos, I pondered over what image could fit in the parameters. The initials of the group creator? Or maybe just a blank screen? After many iterations, I realized the best display would be one where everyone is visible. Taking inspiration from iMessage group messages, each user’s profile photo would appear as smaller bubbles. Intuitive and familiar.
Last but not least, the group payment status. Unlike anything currently in the Venmo app, this page was tricky to design. The screen above is what the group creator can see, which entails a lot of information:
- Who has and hasn’t paid?
- What did each person owe me?
- What was the total again?
I wanted to include the answers to all the questions above easily accessible within a screen. After user feedback and testing, I was able to solidify this design.
After conducting user testing, I came to learn that users like everything simple and easy to locate. I kept these ideas in mind as I moved toward my final iterations.
After finalizing the group creation flow, I wanted to focus on both ends of the stick. We know what this feature looks like for the group creator, but what if we are just a member? Someone who wants to simply see how much their drink costed and pay it back.
Sitting in the Pending category, the group payment acts similarly to an existing Venmo request. Users can pay directly within the group and see who has and has not paid. However, until every member has paid, the group payment will sit in everybody’s pending. Why? Incentive.
herd men·tal·i·ty (noun): the tendency for people’s behavior or beliefs to conform to those of the group to which they belong.
People like to follow the crowd. If you are Rachel and you see that Jennifer already paid, wouldn’t you want to as well? Leaving the group payment request until it has been completely fulfilled was an aspect of this feature I wanted to implement because it directly tackles user incentives to pay what they owe. The more people who may, the faster the group creator gets paid back: a win-win!
At last, the final flow:
What I Learned
As this is my first design project, I have learned tremendously throughout this case study. From initial ideations to exploring Figma for hours, this process has been incredibly fruitful. A new skillset aside, this project has taught me the importance of consistency, reiteration, and creativity. Creating a UI kit, testing and editing flows, and thinking outside the box have all challenged me to produce ideas that I would have never expected to be included in my final outcome.
This ten-week process has given me ample time to grow as a product designer, but not enough to create everything I had envisioned from the beginning. If given more time, I would add features such as creating permanent groups and new payment distribution methods.
However, given this timeline, I am extremely grateful to have been surrounded with the resources and creative inspiration from my peers and mentors who have helped me along the way. This has an incredibly rewarding journey, and the first of many to come.
My name is Lindsey Cheng, a current sophomore at Cornell University majoring in Hotel Administration. This case study is for a project in Introduction to Digital Product Design — a student-taught class at Cornell University.