Case study

Talk about Debt: a new website aimed at breaking the stigma of debt.

The Finbora Group – parent company to a portfolio of leading UK debt management brands, including Creditfix – wanted to create a new service that erased the stigma of debt and how people think about it across the UK.

The end goal was to create a new channel that people could return to more than once; one that would create awareness of their other brands, while also building an audience for the purposes of lead generation.

Learning from the competition

I organised some remote user research and observation sessions, watching participants navigate around the Step Change website.

Having discussed the project in great detail with key stakeholders, there was a clear feeling that Step Change had the biggest brand exposure and trust from the British public. We recruited six users – two from the key ‘debt years’ age groups we’d uncovered from previous Creditfix user research – who’d all been identified in screening as people currently struggling with debt. We asked them a series of questions, both in relation to their own personal experience with debt and in relation to the Step Change website, so that we could understand more about their major concerns and what Step Change are doing – or not doing – to help address those concerns.

Understanding the data

I analysed the information we uncovered from the research and observation sessions, putting it into a presentation for key stakeholders.

From the data, it was confirmed that Step Change is seen as a trusted, reputable debt service. However, this was because they’re recommended by Government bodies and creditors alike, rather than anything they’re specifically doing directly.

There were some features of the Step Change website that were highlighted as extremely positive, so it was agreed to use the “why” behind this in our own designs. There was also an interesting divide between age groups when it came to the use of imagery, with the younger audience suggesting that they didn’t feel represented by the older models being used in shots. Ultimately, the feedback was that people in the imagery weren’t diverse enough.

Mapping the customer journey

I created a customer journey map, so that we had a better understanding on touch-points to focus on for the end user.

This was completed with input from members of the marketing team, in order to get a good grasp of the resources at our disposal to create the best customer experience possible, and which ones we don’t yet have.

Feedback from the marketing team was overwhelmingly positive from this session, as it helped them picture the key steps and stages in the customer journey – something they hadn’t considered previously.

Hosting a design workshop

I led a design workshop with the marketing team to come up with the name of the brand, as well as the key features.

Everyone in the team was asked to contribute ideas and solutions based on typical pain points and touchpoints of the target audience. These ideas were then prioritised in a pairwise comparison exercise, focusing on time to achieve, cost involved and biggest impact to the end user.

Using this method, we identified a list of key features to introduce initially, as well as settling on the name ‘Talk about Debt’ for the brand.

Creating an identity

I designed a simple brand identity for Talk about Debt, which I could then use to flesh out wireframes later on in the process.

I kept the logo simple, creating different lockups of it for the canvas sizes we knew we’d be including it on, such as our website and social media.

The blue colour palette was a decision made from the stakeholder briefings, when it was identified that one of the main objectives was to build trust with the audience. Using basic colour psychology and the information from the user research sessions, I chose blue, as it was repeatedly mentioned as a positive colour alongside the purple of Step Change.

Introducing ‘Tad’ the robot

We commissioned 3D artist and designer Ross Barnes to create a positive brand mascot that removes any attachment to gender, age or race.

It was identified during the design workshop that a potential solution to certain genders, age groups and ethnicities feeling excluded or under-represented in brand imagery would be to remove the human element altogether, in favour of a mascot.

The group consensus was to create a robot called ‘Tad’ (acronym for Talk about Debt), given the intention to include debt scores and debt calculators onto the site. As well as this, a robot has no gender, age or race, and isn’t capable of judgement.

The original concepts for Tad the robot. The marketing team were asked to vote for their favourite design to take forward for revision.

One of the initial revisions of an original concept. In the end, this felt slightly too basic for the vision we had, so it wasn’t taken forward.

A further revision of an original idea, which was regarded as the favourite among the members of the marketing team.

The final iteration of Tad, fine-tuning and finessing his face to be less narrow and look slightly happier.

Creating the prototype

I used Adobe XD to create a clickable prototype of the website, evolved from initial sketches and low fidelity wireframes.

I worked closely with the development team at this stage in the project, so that we could focus on simple solutions to complex ideas that we’d gathered from the design workshop.

Once complete, I gave the stakeholders a quick demonstration for any feedback, making any final iterations to the design ahead of testing.

Conducting usability testing

I recruited, scripted and observed 20 remote user testing sessions using Lookback over a four-day period.

We decided that we’d like to gather regional data from across the UK for these sessions. However, due to restrictions on time, it wasn’t possible to travel across the country and conduct the testing in a face to face setting. With this in mind, we settled for remote testing.

We spoke to five users from London, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow – all of whom were struggling with debt and fell within the key ‘debt years’ age groups previously identified.

The device testing was split 50/50 between desktop and mobile, as we didn’t have any concrete data to suggest what device preference would be among users.

Final analysis

I analysed the findings from the usability testing and presented this to the key stakeholders.

While there were many positives to take from the tests, the two most polarising things on the site were Tad the robot and the ‘Debt Score’ concept.

The robot mascot was – very narrowly – well received, although it seemed to cause some confusion and feelings that it was cold, sterile and disconnected from humans. With the ‘Debt Score’, people loved the concept, but associated it too much with a credit score, which confuses things for them.


Ultimately, the website was launched as a minimum viable product, however much of the ideas we wanted to implement were not feasible within the timeframe or budget given to the project.

With more time, I would have loved to implement some of the requests from user testing, including customer accounts that allow users to sign up and improve their debt score by taking certain steps.

I would also have liked to conduct more user observation on sites that gamify finances incredibly well, such as Clear Score and Money Saving Expert.

The takeaway is that we’ve created a website with a strong foundation to build upon, but this is an iterative process and we’re a long way from having a polished product that achieves gamification.