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Stride Tax is an expense tracking app for freelancers and gig workers. It allows them to keep track of their business expenses (gas, supplies etc) to help them reduce their taxable income and pay less in taxes.
Stride Tax was at a nexus. The company wanted to expand beyond just expense tracking into a more wholistic financial product. However, no one was sure how to get there. This project was the first step in reorienting and getting us there.
My role
I was the design lead on the project and worked with Allison and Bill, two designers on the team.

At this time, there was uncertainty in what the product strategy was. Along with that, we faced severe attrition on the product team. The lack of strategy along with uncertainty meant that the team velocity was 0. I stepped up to lead this project both on design and product strategy.


Defining the vision
In order to figure out what a wholistic Stride experience looked like, we conducted user research with Stride users to understand their current needs and pains around finances. We also tried to understand the market, and where our users were being underserved or not served at all.

Alongside the qualitative calls and the competitive analysis, we also started putting some concepts in front of users to understand what they wanted and what they would pay for.

We unearthed 3 insights from these early rounds of research:
1) Users consistently struggled to understand how much money they're making
Freelancers and gig workers are essentially businesses of one. They earn from multiple sources and clients, each with its unique cadence and pay cycles. They have a lot of upfront expenses. Most of our users didn't have accountants or business partners who could manage a profit and loss statement for them. This meant that many of them were constantly asking, "Am I making any money? Should I even be doing this career?"

2) Users didn't save regularly for taxes
Freelances and gig workers don't get their taxes withhold, which means they owe $1000+ to the IRS at the end of each year. It's a big sum, it's unexpected and many of our users didn't save regularly for it. A lot of them were caught off guard and some even said they had to take a loan to pay their taxes.

3) Current products not suited for the gig economy workers
There were a lot of finance products in the market that served the needs of small businesses and high skilled contractors and consultants. But a lot of these products did not meet the needs of Stride's target audience of gig workers (people who drive for Uber, deliver on Postmates etc.)

These insights helped us articulate our problem statement:

How might we create a single hub for users to manage their finances and taxes?

IA and Navigation

Now that we had identified the problem and knew what we were solving for, we set out to define a MVP for the product pivot that would allow us to scale the product experience and build more finance focused features.

One of the issues with the Stride Tax app at that time was its navigation. It was hyper focused on expense tracking and did not allow us to add more functionality. So we knew that we wanted to design an app that had a flexible IA and navigation that would allow us to test new features, and iterate based on user feedback.

We also tested multiple navigation patterns with Stride users, and landed on a nav that was an all-in-one dashboards with cards representing different pieces of financial information. We realized users were often opening the app to take an action (record income, or an expense) and just wanted a quick overview of their finances.

The flexible nav was also crucial in allowing our product team to experiment and expand the product. We could quickly test content or new features via the use of cards and remove them if they were underperforming without having to rethink the navigation again.

Presenting complex and number heavy information

We also went deep with iterating on the best way to display complex and often times, confusing financial information. This went through multiple rounds of design sprints and user testing until we landed on what made the most sense for the jobs-to-be-done for our users.

Updating design systems

While this project was underway, I had also just come off work to update our design systems. I had worked on laying our foundation with updates to our grid system and type used across all our products.

Our old typeface featured numbers in a blue color even when they weren't links. Our old typeface also used thin font weight to represent numbers. As we expanded our product footprint into the financial space, establishing trust and Stride's brand value of stability was important to us. Our new type hierarchy embodied the trust, stability and warmth we wanted to convey to users.
Motion design
We also wanted the Stride app to be a delight to open up - users often talked to us about how anxiety inducing finances can be. We wanted to use animation and motion to drive that joy and warmth. We all grew our motion design chops as a team, and it was very satisfying to hear users repeatedly mention how joyful the app was to interact with.

Early animation study

Early animation study when we hadn't figured out the right easing in of the graphs.

Final experience

Here is what the final load animation and experience looks like in the app.

Final designs
Here are the final designs for the app on Android and iOS.
What users said

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