UX Reflection: Oh baby, does your budget have what you need?
The usability and accessibility of YNAB. The education organization that sells budgeting software.
“Everyone’s moving on without me, into a world I don’t understand.”
― Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic
You know that when you find yourself relating to the main character in a book about poor financial decisions, that it’s probably time to take a closer look at what you’re doing. A few years ago I was reading blogs, watching YouTube videos, and scanning books I fully intended to read later… about finances. I was going to grow up and start being smart about money.
Enter YNAB. I regret that I don’t recall where I first saw it, but it was likely a long list of “Best Budgeting tools of 2018” or the like.
YNAB — You Need a Budget.
I won’t dig into the utility of YNAB today, just trust me that it does what it’s supposed to do. To keep our discussion moving along; it’s a budgeting app that is essentially a digital envelope system. You give each dollar a job as soon as you get it.
You’ll find similar integrations available as part of banking apps or as stand-alone products. It’s an established norm for tracking upcoming expenditures. They make it their own with their “Four Simple Rules For Successful Budgeting” which I encourage you to explore if you are so inclined. I have been a YNABer for going on two years now and would happily recommend it to any and everyone. So do with that what you will.
This is NOT a Product Review
At least not in a traditional sense. What I want to explore here is the usability of the site, and how accessible it is. By digging into each of these areas I hope to relay the importance of thought around these topics when it comes to creating a new site.
I know it works, but what else have you got?
Most people don’t find themselves on this site randomly. I found it at the end of a financial makeover exploration rainbow. It was true. I did need a budget.
Arriving at the landing page, you wouldn’t immediately know that there is a wealth (pun intended) of information at your fingertips. It’s clean and simple:
- One line defines what you’ll accomplish (Gain total Control of Your Money).
- A quick section describes what it is. (software + a proven method — that works)
- A call-out of a major benefit seen by users (save $600 in the first two months) with a link to a video showing how it works.
- Then some super positive reviews. (of which there are many)
- All of that sandwiched between a simple menu focused on Learning, Inspiration, and Support, at the top, and the obligatory Company, Legal, Technical, and Social links at the bottom.
The home page layout is traditional, familiar, and therefore confidence-boosting. I know exactly where to go to sign up or learn more with clear headings and a simple color scheme.
In reality, once you’re a confident YNABer, you never have to come back to this page, unless you want a refresher. At that stage, you’re primarily visiting your budget page.
This landing page is hyper-focused on encouraging you to fully understand the YNAB mentality so you end up feeling like you don’t just need a budget, you need YNAB.
And then you sign-up!
It took only a bit of time exploring their site and I was intrigued.
Try YNAB Free for 34 Days — That was oddly specific, not “for a month” or “for 7 days”. Immediately they grabbed me with a unique view on what it meant to let someone really experience your product before committing. They understood that a few days more would allow you to get through an entire pay/bill cycle and really see the benefits of all of your setup.
Subscription-based services have become standard. From streaming music and movies to getting your toothbrush head replaced every three months. Along with that comes the expectation of some incentive to make that commitment. Either you can “cancel at any time” or you “get your first month free”. If that doesn’t exist, you’re losing out on so many commitment-phobes.
Everybody Needs a Budget
For this portion, I want to step away from the landing page. You’re sold. You want to get started “changing your life” with YNAB. So the question, as you get started is, “Do I belong here?”.
YNAB approaches this in a couple of ways. There is the fully utilized talent of their illustrator who makes a point to represent a diverse community, so immediately, I can see myself as a user of the product. Look ma’, I’m right there!
While that’s awesome to see, at its core, YNAB is teaching you to think differently. In many of their publications and in comments from users, it is very clear that YNAB is more than a budgeting tool. It is, as they put it, an education organization that sells software. For them, the software is secondary to the information they are sharing with the community.
Their illustrations do a great job of adding to the content, but each article can easily stand on its own, with ideas clearly expressed.
Each video course is captioned and all of their podcasts have transcripts available. So whether you want to listen, read, or watch… whatever your learning style/need demands… they have you covered.
The cherry on top of their financial knowledge deliciousness is YNAB for Good. This is their commitment to non-profits who can apply to give donated subscriptions of YNAB to those they serve in their communities. In this way, they are helping to change the financial futures for individuals in underrepresented and marginalized communities. Access for all!
It’s tempting to take all of this knowledge they are offering up for free on their website and make the truly frugal approach of going it on your own (yes, people have done it), but for me, I am very glad that I made the investment in my sanity, and purchased the annual subscription.
Now, in this one area of my life, I can “adult” with the best of them.