When Can I Get It?

When Can I Get It is a proposed personal savings application for mobile phones. It helps its users find the lowest available price of a product online and create a plan to save money to purchase that item. The system will display how long it will take the user to save enough money to buy the item at their specified rate of savings, and update this value as the price and savings progress fluctuates. Its goal is to improve users’ savings habits by tracking their goals and holding them accountable through email reminders and other notifications.

I helped design When Can I Get It between February 2011 and May 2011 as part of Chameleon Designs, a group of Georgia Tech students formed by random assignment in CS 3750, User Interface Design. Students in this course must create an idea for a software product within a general domain and research, design, prototype, and evaluate it throughout the semester. I cannot take credit for what Chameleon Designs accomplished without acknowledging the work of my teammates:

The idea for When Can I Get It has its genesis in one simple word: “Wealth.” As we discussed our ideas for products in this domain, a trend emerged: we shared in an interest in creating a product that improved the user’s knowledge or behavior when it came to money in some way. In the following weeks, we analyzed and researched existing products and the attitudes of potential users. We discovered the need for an effective personal savings method. Many existing solutions to the problem of managing one’s savings were bundled into a larger software package: for example, creating a spreadsheet to manage one’s spendings, or creating a budget in Mint. Although this research presented ample opportunities to expand the functionality of our design, we opted to keep the focus narrow, so that it could accomplish a small set of tasks very well. From these discussions, When Can I Get It was born.

Next, we began sketching interfaces for various platforms. We concluded that a mobile phone interface would be the most effective choice for our design due to congruency with typical usage of phone apps—We considered it important for users to check up on their savings while on the go, and access their information quickly without needing to start up a desktop computer and open a web browser. Having settled on a target platform, we created a prototype in Java and carried out an evaluation study on a sample of twenty volunteers.

Although we could not perform this evaluation on a mobile device due to the lack of necessary equipment, it revealed some applicable information about the visual effectiveness and navigability of our interface. We were encouraged by results in the post-study questionnaire, in which feedback from participants indicated that the system was learnable and somewhat easy to use. However, review of our quantitative data, such as the time required to complete each of our evaluation tasks, revealed common stumbling blocks when trying to complete particular tasks, such as the lack of an effective metaphor for a savings plan. If, at some point in the future, Chameleon Designs revisits this project, we hope to incorporate this knowledge into an improved interface, to create the best possible experience for any person who needs a simple solution for savings.