Senior Manager of Product Design @ NerdWallet


I lead the team through strategic vision and conceptual work that established the new product strategy for NerdWallet to shift from a content company to a product company.



At it’s core, NerdWallet is a content company. Their mission is to provide clarity for all of life’s financial decisions. NerdWallet does this really well  by providing unbiased and in-depth information, financial advice and education as well as access to free financial calculators and simulators. Nerdwallet has developed marketplace experiences that not only help people understand their options, but provide tools to make decisions and take steps towards improving their financial health. In 2009, NerdWallet started by helping consumers figure out which credit cards are right for them, and since then NerdWallet has replicated their SEO strategy to expand beyond credit cards to offer financial clarity across banking, personal loans, home mortgages, insurance, and investing.

Evolving a content, SEO-driven company
NerdWallet does SEO really well. But the challenge is this: nobody knows NerdWallet. With over 1700+ SEO optimized articles and content pages covering most financial topics, the current experience is still a rather shallow one that goes something like this: type in any financial question in Google, for example “which credit card has the best airline miles program?” then land on a NerdWallet article, and use the free advice and tools before proceeding to a financial partner’s site to get a better product. Once people have their answer, they leave NerdWallet and rarely come back. NerdWallet’s current product strategy introduced the following challenges:

  1. Shallow experience. NerdWallet isn’t seen as a product company. It’s not a product people have a relationship with; they have  a relationship with Google. It’s Google they trust and use to help them find content on NerdWallet.

  2. Isolated experience. Once people visit NerdWallet, it isn’t clear to them that NerdWallet offers advice and services across the entire financial landscape, and goes beyond just the specific financial question they have asked.

The current NerdWallet ecosystem.

But what about the consumer pain points?
In addition to the product challenges for NerdWallet, key consumer pain points from our research formed the basis for our work. We learned that...

  1. Finances are overwhelming. It’s not something people enjoy thinking or learning about; and when they start, people don’t know where to begin. Challenges such as paying off large debt amounts, or figuring out how to plan for retirement are big hurdles to tackle.

  2. People don’t trust financial institutions. It isn’t always clear to consumers if the advice and recommendations they receive are unbiased, and truly in their best interests.

  3. The experience isn’t personalized. NerdWallet’s advice is written for broad audience segments and may or may not be applicable to the specific nuances of an individual's financial circumstances and profile.

  4. People don’t know what they don’t know. Financial knowledge doesn’t come easy. Finances are complicated, and often people don't know where to learn more, what questions to ask, or if they are making the right financial decisions. For example, someone with a low credit score might not know how to improve their score, while another person with a similarly low score not even know that their credit score is something to be concerned about. In other words, people don’t know what they don’t know.

  5. Taking action isn’t easy. Once people have the right insights, it isn’t always clear what the next step is, or how to take the next step.


Why would anyone want to build a relationship with NerdWallet? Why would they create an account and keep coming back to use NerdWallet? This was the basis for two week design sprint that I lead to define the north star of what the new logged in experience of NerdWallet could be. I sketched and developed initial concepts and features, and I managed a team of designers through the interaction, visual design and prototype phases of the sprint.

Initial conceptual sketches I did to communicate various product features and experiences.

Defining the new product themes and principles
Given our knowledge of the consumer pain points, we started by identifying the product themes and principles for how we thought about the future experience. We asked ourselves if people created NerdWallet accounts, how might we…

  1. Understand the user. In order to create a personalized experience, we have to go beyond what questions people have typed into Google. We need to catalog a deeper understanding of where people are financially, and what they are trying to achieve with their money.

  2. Provide a holistic financial picture. How might we help people easily understand their current financial profile, and give them enough context to trust and understand the personalized advice and offers provided by NerdWallet, based on their financial behavior and profile.

  3. Provide deep, meaningful insights. How might we present people with better insights into their current finances, as well as choices to improve and change their financial situation? In other words, create “a-ha!” moments that encourage people to take action.

  4. Facilitate action. Insights do not mean much if consumers cannot act on them. How might we help consumers take the next step, big or small, towards changing their financial situation and taking control of their financial lives?

  5. Create a human experience. We want to make finance decisions and actions more accessible. We want to build relationships with users around finances without fear or shame, to help people feel empowered to make changes.

With the new product principles in mind, we began exploring solution ideas. Each participant of the design sprint individually sketched out their ideas and concepts that would address the pain points and product goals.

Concept No. 1: The Personal Discovery Feed
One of the ideas I developed during this phase is the concept of a personal discovery feed. Once consumers create NerdWallet accounts, the new feed would become their default “home” experience. It is a relevancy-based feed designed to show consumers only the most important and relevant information. Unlike a dashboard, this feed is dynamic in nature, and will automatically update to display only what matters to consumers based on where they are and what they are trying to do.

With the discovery feed, NerdWallet is now in a position to proactively “push” personalized information to users. It serves as a communication channel to raise awareness and help consumers passively “discover” beneficial information across multiple financial areas and topics that they may not have been actively looking for.

This feature also provides NerdWallet with a scalable and extensible platform to engage its users. Although we defined a broad spectrum of information to be served in the discovery feed, the experience could begin with a sub-set or a limited set to test the hypothesis and evolve as needed.

Concept No. 2: The Financial Profile
Another idea I developed with the team is the financial profile. The more information NerdWallet has about each individual consumer, the better it is positioned to provide a truly personalized experience; something that is implicitly optimized based on the consumer’s current financial situation. The financial profile is where this information is stored and is presented to the user in as intuitive manner that helps them understand where they are and provides context about why and how their NerdWallet experience is tailored to them.

Concept No. 3: Conversational UIs
Knowing that certain financial processes and tasks may be overwhelming to consumers, I was interested in the idea of allowing people to switch at anytime to a chat based experience and interaction that could be used to further assist address any questions they might have or assist them  with their tasks. We determined early on that it to be too complicated a feature to layer on at the time given the technical constraints to develop this feature, and deemed it better suited to address advanced financial tasks in the future.

Concept No. 4: Financial Goals
Another concept that emerged from the collective team was the idea of financial goals. Our user research showed us that consumers are more likely to take control of their situation if they declared financial goals to work towards. When we spoke to people about bigger reasons behind their actions on NerdWallet, we learned that there was three types of goals that people have in mind:

  1. Reducing debt. Eight in ten Americans are in debt and the majority of NerdWallet’s consumers are looking to get better financial products or are looking at ways to save money so that they can pay off their debts faster.

  2. Saving money. Consumers are also looking for ways and information on how best to save money. Everything from saving for an emergency fund or a down payment for their first house, to smaller things like a vacation or a specific purchase.

  3. Growing money. Once people have paid off their debts and have established security with savings, we see consumers begin to think about long-term goals such as retiring on better terms or increasing their existing investment portfolios.

  4. Facilitate action. Insights do not mean much if consumers cannot act on them. How might we help consumers take the next step, big or small, towards changing their financial situation and taking control of their financial lives?

  5. Create a human experience. We want to make finance decisions and actions more accessible. We want to build relationships with users around finances without fear or shame, to help people feel empowered to make changes.

For NerdWallet, financial goals also served as a means to understand the bigger financial state a consumer is hoping to achieve, or the “why” behind their actions and questions. With this information, NerdWallet would be able to guide and orient the user around very specific information and products to reach their goals faster

Putting it all together
With the three new concepts flushed out further, we then began to tell an end-to-end user story of how someone would use the new NerdWallet. We focused on the savings use case, and told the story of Casey, a persona based on user research and our target audience, to highlight and explain how each of the product concepts would together.

Although we were solving for both a desktop and mobile experience for the new integrated NerdWallet, we limited the scope to mobile only during the design sprint. I quickly sketched each interface by hand to tell a more detailed story of the interaction details and the user’s journey while using the NerdWallet mobile app. Using a format inspired by the previous work I’ve done with creating journey maps, I captured the user’s actions at each touchpoint or screen, and facilitated a session with the team to capture any open questions we had as well as new feature or product ideas that came up during our sessions.

Focusing on the design details
Once we had the user journey defined, we shifted gears during the second week of the design sprint and focused on the high-fidelity details of the experience. I picked three product designers from the larger NerdWallet design team to work closely with where my role was to lead the team through the execution of the interaction and visual design of the experience.

The team and I communicated the final pixel-perfect designs by creating a clickable prototype to tell the story of our persona, Casey, and how she would use the new NerdWallet app to save money.The complete prototype communicated the following new product concepts...

Goal setup and details
Casey downloads the app, and uses it to specify the exact details of her savings goal. In this case, to save up for an upcoming wedding. During the setup flow, Casey has the option to connect her finanical accounts, allowing NerdWallet to analyze her spending and show her additional ways to save money and reach her goal faster.

Tracking spending and viewing goal progress
One of the ways consumers can find ways to save money is by finding better priced financial products, or taking the steps to spend less on particular merchants. Any money saved from these actions can be automatically applied towards a goal.

Viewing Personal Discovery Feed
The personal discovery feed serves as the primary home for the consumer. Based on what is most important to the consumer, the feed will show a variety of information and insights to help the consumer reach their financial goals.

Understanding the financial profile
All financial information about a consumer is captured in their financial profile. The NerdWallet app allows consumers to connect as many financial accounts as they like, as well as the ability to get their free credit score.

Getting stakeholder buy-in
One of my other responsibilities during this design sprint was to take the lead in presenting our work to the NerdWallet C-level management team, including the board of directors, and other key stakeholders. We used a combination of the clickable prototype as well storyboards and journey maps to explain Casey's story and the key product concepts for the new experience.

Bringing it to life: Telling (animating) Casey's story
In addition to creating a clickable prototype of the new NerdWallet experience, I also worked in parallel with a sketch artist and video producer to create a full animatic short that told Casey’s story about saving for a wedding using NerdWallet. This animatic served as a communication tool for us to share the vision with the entire NerdWallet organization.


By the end of the two week design sprint, I had successfully lead my team to establish the new logged in experience for the future NerdWallet. We designed in detail how consumers would interact with an integrated Nerdwallet across multiple financial topics and areas and introduced new features and ideas not only to stakeholders, but to the entire NerdWallet organization:

  1. Syndication and entry to NerdWallet

  2. Financial goal creation

  3. Capturing user data and connect financial accounts

  4. Tracking goal progress

  5. Personal discovery feed

  6. Surfacing ways to save (one-time products & lifestyle changes)

  7. Notifications and feedback loops

  8. Financial profile

  9. Future partnerships with NerdWallet


The worked my team and I did during those two weeks helped set NerdWallet down a new path and lead the development of  the 2017 strategy and roadmap for NerdWallet. The focus was to create a better membership experience for NerdWallet users, reducing the dependency on SEO, and rather investing a deep personalized and relationship-based product experience for consumers.

The future, relationship-based and integrated NerdWallet ecosystem.