About the project
Access to capital and funding is notoriously hard for many small business owners. The process is also long and tedious because traditional lending institutions like banks require large amounts of paperwork that really only give a snapshot of the business performance. QuickBooks has a unique advantage in this space because it already has all the data! Here is where QuickBooks Capital can step in to help small business owners.
I was the Senior Interaction Designer on the project for Intuit, working with a cross-functional team of developers, data scientists and product managers. I conducted user study sessions, mocked up early concepts, tested and refined prototypes, executed on visual design and worked with development on production assets and final touches.
The problem...and opportunity
About half of all new small businesses fail within the first five years. The crazy thing is that many of these businesses are actually profitable but go under because they face cashflow problems as they are trying to grow. The classic scenario is a business getting new work, needing to purchase inventory or hire people, but the client doesn't pay until 30, 60, or even 90 days later. This leaves the owner with a cash gap because they had to front costs in order to do the work.
A short term infusion of working capital can help alleviate these pains and also set the business up for sustainable growth. However, the vast majority of small businesses don't get the funding they need. Traditional lending institutions have difficult and long lending processes and often flat out deny businesses or give them significantly less than they asked for.
This is where the idea of Quickbooks Capital came to life.
Building a new product from the ground up is a difficult task as it is, but building a product in the lending space adds so much more complexity. We conducted numerous user interviews and research sessions to truly understand the problem space and how we could help.
Early concepts and visioning
Through a process of looking at what is already out there in the lending space and taking our learnings from our own user research, we started to brainstorm and create an ideal state vision for our team to align to and work toward. This stage had cross-functional work with our developers, data scientists, marketers, product managers as we slowly carved out what the Alpha launch product would be.
Get it in our user's hands
As we explored what the ideal state experience was, we also knew that we needed to get this out the door and into the hands of users to really learn. So we built out an Alpha version of the product and released it to a very small set of customers in order to get their real feedback.
We leveraged as many existing services and components as we could from the QuickBooks ecosystem in order to build out our Alpha product and test drive it. Being scrappy got us all the super valuable learnings early on that helped to guide us toward our official launch.
Some key things we learned with the first 10 users:
There's a lot of expectation that we know everything about their business already.
Being transparent about loan costs up front builds upon the already trusted Intuit brand.
Users expect an end to end experience of getting the loan, managing the loan, accounting for the loan, all in QuickBooks.
There is confusion around what APR means, especially in short term business loans.
Flushing out the experience
With our Alpha launch feedback, we iterated on the designs and also flushed out the rest of the interaction flow since our Alpha launch was a bare bones version of the experience. Through out this process, we continued to work with internal teams on making sure we built a compliant and transparent experience. We also continually sought feedback with users to make sure we were on the right track.
I want to focus this section on a part of the experience that has gotten great feedback and delight from our users. Applying for loans is often a very opaque process in which there are hidden fees, costs, and other surprises. Our principle from the very beginning was to always be fully transparent up front so that each borrower knew exactly how our loans worked and how much it would cost. That's what guided my designs for this crucial part of the experience.
Designing the loan card itself was also a fun challenge on how to communicate several important pieces of information in a structured and concise way. We also wanted to clearly communicate that the only cost to our loans are interest, with no fees whatsoever.
Our Alpha release involved only the process of getting a loan, but not actually managing it. For our official product launch, we knew that we needed to complete the experience by allowing users to view, manage, and pay their loan in QuickBooks. Through several rounds of user research and design iterations, we created a loan portal where users could easily see the history of their loan and plan ahead on if they want to pay the loan off earlier to save on interest cost.
While our credit team is constantly working through how to improve approval rates, we inevitability will decline some applicants. In line with our guiding principle of transparency and education, I wanted our decline experience to be one that explained clearly the reasons and possible next steps for the applicant.
Select final designs
Check out a prototype of the experience here.
For users that receive a loan from us, our Net Promotor Score is about 70! Next steps to build an even better experience is to develop more products (Merchant financing, invoice factoring, larger short term loans) as well as delivering insights on loan impacts.