Venmo is a popular transaction app commonly used in youngsters. In this project, we're trying to improve user experience of Venmo by studying user concerns and providing design solutions. We conducted the contextual inquiry and build affinity diagrams to immerse ourselves in the users' world to know their pain points, synthesize findings and drive insights. By analyzing data collected, we come up with design ideas and product concept.


Course project

Oct-Dec 2018 (7 weeks) 



Monikka Ravichandran

Yirang Choe


My Roles:

UX research

UX design


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Design solutions to improve the user experience of the mobile transaction app, Venmo.


Project focus & interview focus

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Contextual inquiry and affinity diagram

We recruited 10 participants to conduct contextual inquiry. The participants comprise adults in the age group of 20 to 39 from various education and occupational backgrounds.

With lots of complex and unstructured qualitative data from contextual inquiry, we built the affinity diagram. It's an inductive process of grouping affinity notes. The labels synthesize the findings and drive design thinking. We built the affinity diagram after interpretation sessions. To better keep track of all the data,  we also built the digital version.

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Experience model

This is a data visualization created to represent how Venmo is used under different scenarios, environment and time frames in users' daily life. The model communicates the data and shows how a target activity is accomplished as people move through their world. We could then use it with the affinity notes to analyze user's pain points and come out with insights for potential product concepts.

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What I like...

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  • Easier to split bills
  • Sending reminders for pending payments
  • Using emojis in payment notes
  • Require money in a less awkward way
  • Free to use with debit cards and bank accounts
  • Low transaction fees for credit cards
  • Less processing time for bank transfers 

What I don't like...

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  • Security and privacy concerns
  • Unreliable search results
  • Lack of profile picture
  • Default “public” setting for privacy
  • Some features are not discoverable

What I wish...

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  • More emoji options
  • Improve search results accuracy
  • Better ways to organize my contacts
  • Meaningful sort order for the search results
  • Default privacy setting set to “Friends”
  • Splitwise like features such as keeping a running total, more options to split etc.


Identify major problems and design implication

  • Lack of social features - Users talked about they want to have more social-media like features in Venmo to make it more fun.
  • Some important features are not discoverable - Users mentioned that it's hard for them to find pay and request button for the first time or when they haven't used it for a while.
  • Unreliable search results -  Even though the users entered the correct names, sometimes the results didn't show the correct person they're looking for, and since this is related to money, users became very cautious when adding friends. They preferred to add friends in person or use QR code.
  • Lack of organization of contacts -  Users mentioned they would like to find their contacts more quickly and efficiently.
  • Security and privacy concerns - Users expressed their concerns about security and privacy concerns due to public settings. Their daily activities could be inferred by the transaction feed.


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How does it work?


Home Page

  • Notification and Incomplete pages are combined together
  • Users can search people or filter transaction feed by categories.
  • Users can pick different transaction page here, it disappears when they scroll down
  • Users can upload images or Gifs
  • Most used features show when users open the app at the bottom as global navigation
Group 3

Search Page

  • Shows most recently used people on the top.
  • Users can group friends.
  • Friends are listed alphabetically.
Group 4

Pay & Request

  • Transactions can be grouped using pre-existing categories such as Food, Transportation, Entertainment etc. Users can choose to add or not at their wish.
  • GIFs and images can be posted in Notes.
  • Privacy settings can be changed easily for every transaction.
Group 5

All screens

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Asking why instead of asking what

In this project, I learned a lot on how to write research proposals, conduct contextual interviews, create affinity diagrams and experience models. With the step by step process, we came up with some unexpected results with confidence because we knew it's truly grounded in the user stories. 

For me, the most important and difficult part is the interview. We need to capture and notice what could be the hints for gathering the data we're looking for, but in the meantime, we should guide interviewees to focus on project goals, which I found it hard to strike the balance. Besides, it would be better if we could dig out more "why" than "what" because that's where the insights come from. After all, users don't know what exactly they need and it's our responsibility to discover their real problems and reasons behind their behavior.  

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