Project Context

If you had to, could you quickly locate your financial statements, wills and powers of attorney, trusts, insurance policies, tax returns, or instructions for your end-of-life wishes? More importantly, would your spouse or partner know where to look if something were to happen to you? It’s questions like these that lead Josh Leavitt and Chris Orebaugh to create ZokuVault, a cloud-based platform that let’s you safely store, share, and organize all of your family’s important documents and information in one place.

The majority of ZokuVault's users, however, were not actually uploading any documents or information into their vault. This realization is what prompted Josh and Chris to solicit my team’s help in answering the following question:

How do we convince users to upload their family’s important documents and information to ZokuVault?

Research and Insights

We started by conducting usability tests with the existing product. I personally designed and moderated these tests, being careful to both observe users interacting with the product as well understand the reasoning behind their actions.

After mapping out what our users were doing and thinking on each screen, we identified three major pain points that prevented them from uploading items into their vault.

Lack of privacy controls
Users saw the value in having their advisors or family members upload items into their vault. However, the thought of “adding” someone to their vault and letting them see everything was unsettling.

Unclear value props
Users failed to understand how they or their family would benefit from uploading items such as their will, insurance policies, financial documents, and identification into their vault.

Information overload
When users arrived to an empty dashboard, they were overwhelmed. Seeing everything all at once made the process of populating their vault seem like a very arduous task.

By the end of our initial round of product testing, we realized that we were dealing with a messaging problem. If we wanted our users to upload all of their family’s sensitive information into ZokuVault, we had to do a better job of answering the following user questions:

Initial Concepts

For our initial concept sketches, we decided to create three distinct concepts, one for each question we needed to answer. Our first concept addressed the question of “What if I don’t want to share my entire vault with someone?” We based this concept on the premise that we should treat ZokuVault like a home safe. Users would never give their accountant the keys to their home safe, so why would we ask them to give them the keys to their ZokuVault? They would, however, give their spouse a spare key to their safe if something were to happen to them.

Concept 1
Your vault is your space

To alleviate any confusion as to who had access to what, we created a primary folder labeled "my vault" and used a guided walkthrough to explicitly spell out that everything in this folder was totally private.

To remind users that giving a family member access to their vault was a good idea in case something were to happen to them, we changed the language from "add family member" to "grant emergency access."

For cases where users needed to get files from their advisor, we gave them the option to "request files" so they could get what they needed without having to worry about an advisor snooping around in their vault.

For cases where users needed to send files to their advisors, we gave them the option to create a "shared folder" with only the files they wanted their advisor to see.

Our second concept addressed the question of “Why should I upload any of this? What's the point?" We based this concept on the premise that our users didn’t buy their house to keep stuff in it, they bought it to raise their family. Our users, likewise, didn’t sign up for ZokuVault just to store their files, they did it to make sure their family would have everything they would need after they were gone.

Concept 2
Upload with a purpose

Our third and final concept addressed the question of “How do I get started and what do I do next?” We based this concept on the premise that choice is not always a good thing. Our goal here was to minimize cognitive load as much as possible by walking users through the process one step at a time.

Concept 3
Empowerment through direction

The core ideas behind each of these concepts really resonated with our users as well as our clients during testing. There were, however, a few additional questions that we had not yet considered:

With concept testing complete, we knew we were on the right track by creating a step-by-step onboarding flow that gave users a reason to use the product while alleviating any concerns over privacy. But before merging our concepts together into a single cohesive experience, we had to address these three issues.

Design Refinements

As the most experienced storyteller on the team, the time had come for me to put my persuasive writing skills to work. I started with the task of convincing users to trust ZokuVault with their most sensitive data.

Refinement 1
Alleviate data security concerns

In an effort to broaden the potential user base, we went back to our initial round of research and identified additional use cases for a product like ZokuVault. I then put myself in the shoes of the user and wrote out three first-person answers to the question of “What would you like to do first?”

Refinement 2
Create additional use cases

For users who were tired of having to look in a hundred different places to find what they were looking for, I gave them the option to “consolidate my documents and information.”

For users who were wary of sending sensitive documents (especially ones with their social security number) via email, I gave them the option to “transfer files.”

For users who were worried about what would happen to their family after they were gone, I gave them the option to “protect my family’s legacy.”

Unfortunately, we did not have enough to time to build out a separate onboarding flow for each of these use cases. Given that many of ZokuVault’s users were referred to the service by their estate planners, we decided to focus on the “protect my family’s legacy” flow. After speaking with several subject matter experts and looking to other estate planning products such as EverPlans for inspiration, I created a comprehensive list of everything your family would need in the event of your death and why they would need it.

Refinement 3
Explain which documents users needed and why

With all of this new copy, we now had an answer to the questions that mattered most. I had addressed the major concerns over privacy and security. I had given users three distinct end goals for setting up their vault and explained what they needed to upload and why in order to achieve those goals. However, we lacked a narrative structure to bind all of this content together. It was at this point that I assumed the role of UX architect. I started by quickly sketching out the key screens of what would become our final prototype. I then drew lines between the screens to indicate the order in which they should flow.

Because our research suggested that users were unlikely to enter any information (even the name of beneficiary) until they were sure that data would be safe, I decided that the screen addressing security concerns should be the very first thing users see after logging in. I then mapped out the rest of the onboarding flow with a research note below each screen explaining when it should appear and why.

After getting an overview of what lies ahead and adding a co-owner to their account, users were asked to select a category and upload just the items in that category rather than upload everything at once. Based on the testing results of our “empowerment through direction” concept, we were confident that this strategy of breaking down the uploading process into categories with smaller substeps would make the experience less overwhelming overall. However, we still had to figure out what those categories were. After conducting an open card sort in which users were asked to sort the 32 items they would need into categories, we decided to create the following six category flows:

With our flow maps complete, we finally had the structure we needed to tell a coherent story and address the concerns of our users without losing them along the way.

End Result

When it comes to storytelling as it applies to the digital realm, language and structure are only half the battle. In order to bring our onboarding story to life, we had to focus our attention on the visual and interactive elements. It was at this point that I brought my skills as a motion graphic designer to bear and created a visually engaging prototype using a combination of Axure RP and After Effects.

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In order to visually reinforce the story of ZokuVault’s security measures and increase page scanability, I drew a series of custom icons.

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I brought each use case to life by animating the icons as users hovered over each button.

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Instead of listing out all 32 items together, I used cards to group items by category and bring visual order to a previously busy screen. I then created a custom hover zoom interaction for each card to indicate clickability.

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Rather than bog down the overview page with line after line of text, I created a separate lightbox for each category that users could scroll through to learn more about the importance of each item.

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Just like the “Emergency Access” feature in my initial concept, our final prototype asked users to add a “Co-Owner” to their account. By changing the icon when hovering over the yes button, I subtly reminded users that this co-owner would be granted full access to their vault.

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I laid out each the category buttons horizontally so as to suggest the proper sequence of steps while still giving users the freedom to start wherever they wanted .

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I created a progress tracker on the top of the item upload screen to show users how many more items they still needed to upload and what they were called.

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If users did not have a copy of a particular document, they could request a file from an advisor. I designed the request file form with Nielsen’s usability heuristics in mind, including error states and a “request pending” message.

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After users had successfully uploaded all the items in a category, I created a custom animated check mark to further enhance the experience and delight the user.

After a final round of user testing, it was clear that there was still more work to be done. Trust, for example, was still an issue for many users. However, our results did indicate that users were more likely to upload items into ZokuVault with our onboarding flow in place. In the end, that was enough to satisfy our clients and convince them to implement the key aspects of our designs in the latest product release.

Looking back on this project always brings a smile to face. Just knowing that your designs are out there in front of real users is a great feeling. Furthermore, this project was an incredible opportunity to not only showcase my skills as a UX designer, but also my skills as a visual storyteller. Thanks again to our clients Chris and Josh for believing in us and thanks to you for reading!