Darnell Baker's Portfolio

A Web Tool to Help Tackle Student Debt


Defynance, a Fin Tech driven company, is determined to help tackle student loan debt by offering alternative options for students. They needed an interactive web tool that not only educated their users on student loan debt but also explained the benefits of Defynance’s services. 


Designated lead designer and researcher for a client’s web based, high fidelity prototype for an onboarding tool.. This tool is to be housed on the home page of their current website in order to provide and educate users with financial literacy information and educational content on student loan debt. Additionally, Defynance looks to use this tool to generate qualified leads for the company.


We needed to gain an in depth understanding of the users’ current perceptions and experiences with their student loan debt in order to gain useful insights into potential users’ needs. I led the development of a Typeform questionnaire in order to gather user insights and experiences with student loan debt and lenders. Also facilitated in drafting of interview questions for more quantitative data.

Defining The Problem

With the help of the preliminary user research, we were able to develop two user personas. Both personas have the same overall problem and goals but each had different pain points with their previous student loan debt experiences. We wanted to develop a problem statement for each user to give insight on the different pain points.

Mike’s Problem – Trust
Mike needs a reliable and transparent source about student loan refinancing so that he can learn about the implications alternative methods have on helping him get out of debt and save for his family’s future.

Sarah’s Problem – Education
Sarah needs a way to easily access and understand personal finance information because she needs better guidance when applying for refinancing services so that she can make educated decisions.

Initial Research Methods

  • User Surveys
  • User Interviews

Analysis Methods

  • Affinity Mapping

Upon synthesizing research, I was able to develop the following 4 insightful key takeaways:

  • Users wanted to be guided through the student loan journey
  • Users wanted to be educated throughout the process
  • Users wanted a personalized journey tailored to their particular life goal(s)
  • Be able to trust the company along the way

“We believe that creating an engaging and interactive lifestyle tool will help guide users through learning how they can benefit from a Deyfnance ISA as a solution to our users while helping Defynance obtain more qualified leads.”

Design Mission

With the problem statements and user needs now clearly defined, we developed the design hypothesis: 

Following up the design hypothesis, we then asked ourselves –
how might we:

Competitive Analysis

Next steps were to take a look at Defynance’s competitors while also looking at companies with similar user experiences; overall, identifying any areas of opportunity while building the web tool.

The key takeaways discovered from the competitor analysis were that there was an opportunity for Defynance to differentiate itself with this lifestyle tool. The data aligned with our survey results where 
data visualization, an interactive calculator tool, and including informative text were what users ranked during surveys as the three most effective ways to convey information to them.

Comparative Analysis

During the comparative analysis to take a look at other companies with key aspects users expressed they felt were necessary during a user journey learning about student loan debt. We wanted to focus on 3 key aspects we needed to include in our journey tool which were an effortless journeyeasily digestible information, and personalization of the journey. Here’s a breakdown of the companies we found and the aspects we chose:


Conducting a design studio with 6 fellow UX designers, we brainstormed aspects and features based on user research. This resulted in creative concepts and sketches such as interactive calculators, gamification, and some type of user journey experience as features of the tool.

With our design mission and how might we’s in mind, we drafted a few initial screens keeping Defynance’s brand and existing tone in mind.  We wanted to keep the UI clean and simple while at the same time provide information to users in a digestible way.  Here are the initial designs:

Usability Test

My team and I collaborated on a script as a guide to use during usability testing.  I personally conducted an observational usability test with two users via screen share on Zoom. The users I interviewed were currently paying or had paid student loan debt at some time in the past. We used a card sorting method in order to discover key areas of improvement and insights.


Initial Test


Useful Insights


Areas to Improve



Key Takeaways


Now we were cooking! With feedback from the first round of usability testing we saw that we were heading in the right direction with the design and meeting users needs. We went back to the wireframes and made over 20 modifications to the design based on user feedback. Below are some of the key iterations made.


Pain Points
  • Navigation during life goals area was not clear with the different arrows
  • Placement of bar on bottom of screen seems congested with other elements 
  • Refined design of progress bar to incorporate labeling of goals
  • Placed navigation bar at the top of the screen to solve confusion
Original Version
Modified Version

Building Trust

1. Tone of copy
2. Brand identity
3. Clean, uncluttered UI

Interactive Journey

4. Choosing life goals
5. Interactive Calculator


4. Life goal content
5. Tooltips
6. Defynance resources

Business Needs

4. Lead generation
5. Contact Information


After a 2.5 week sprint, hours of user research, and days of design, we were able to produce a final MVP prototype that:

  1. Educates and informs users in an interactive way
  2. Build a tool users can trust
  3. Create a personalized journey
  4. Meets business goals

Feel free to view the full deck presentation for the Defynance user journey tool here.