From Netflix to Spotify to Amazon, online subscription services are an increasingly dominant aspect of our economy. These automatic, recurring payments are great from the companies’ perspective, as they extend the life of a customer until cancellation.
However, it’s not as easy for the user. Difficult cancellation processes, the increasing need to have multiple subscriptions, and a lack of transparency in price changes and credit card charges after free trials, all contribute to what can be a frustrating experience.
While there is a wide variety of subscriptions on the market, is there a lack of tools for managing subscriptions?
The idea of Scription arose from this gap in the market. How can we simplify online subscription ownership? The solution is twofold: it not only addresses the issue by providing users a reliable app to manage multiple subscriptions, it takes simplicity one step further.
By allowing users to browse, purchase, manage, and cancel in one unified platform, users have more control and freedom in subscription ownership than ever before. I created the Scription mobile app as part of a solo project where I was the UX Designer, UI Designer, and Usability Test Moderator.
Specs: Designed in Sketch for Android, prototyped in InVision
Time Frame: Jan-Aug 2021
Role: UX Designer, UI Designer, Usability Test Moderator
The research process began with secondary research to discover what exactly contributed to this rise in the “subscription economy.” This would help me best understand the target audience.
This trend in paid subscriptions emerged from a few key factors:
A cultural shift in consumer needs. People want to acquire experiences and not things. A subscription is much less like a product and more like an exclusive club that is integrated into the user’s life in a convenient way. From the company's perspective, this increases the lifetime of a purchase.
The COVID-19 pandemic and online convenience. COVID “has redefined self-service and increased customer expectations, expediting the shift to a digital, customer-centric, subscription-style of commerce and living.” —Matt Wujciak
The COVID-19 pandemic has also expedited the problem of a lack of control over subscription finances, as Millennials, the first digitally-native generation, are the generation most financially impacted by COVID.
"The average US household has 9 paid subscriptions spread across video, music, and gaming."
Based on the initial secondary research, I conducted a screener survey with the goal of finding out if managing subscriptions is a financial stressor for users with multiple online subscriptions.
The key questions of the survey involved how users were managing their subscriptions, how satisfied they were with their methods, and if they were a financial stressor.
Only 2.6% of participants thoroughly kept track of their subscriptions, and 0% used a budgeting or subscription manager app.
As I wanted to target users who had multiple subscriptions, I selected five of those users to participate in more in-depth, 30-minute interviews to further investigate subscription management trends and needs.
Some of the key questions aimed to understand how users were managing their subscriptions, and what they believed would help them to improve how they were managing their subscriptions:
- Can you walk me through the process of how you manage your subscriptions?
- What do you think are some ways you can improve how you manage your subscriptions?
"It would be convenient if there was a way to see all my subscriptions in one place."
Some key findings of the evaluations both inspired initial designs of Scription and informed me of what not to do. Find the full report here.
Truebill - Visibility of System Status ✅
is the leading finance tracking app, which links to your bank accounts and automatically categories expenses, both everyday withdrawals, deposits, and recurring payments. It has great reports and visual representations of spending, by calendar, bar graphs, and linear graphs.
Mint - Aesthetic & Minimalist Design 👌
is another leading budgeting & financial management service, which is from the same company as TurboTax. Its design is a bit outdated and relies too much on the visual lingo of online banking. It has too many unnecessary features. It also could have more visual representations of reports.
Subby - Consistency & Standards 🚩
is an undeveloped and practically unusable subscription management app. Although it is fairly highly rated on Google Play and the App Store, it is an extremely poorly functioning app. I was unable to use its main features as the button to add an app was broken.
Based on results from the 5 in-depth interviews conducted, I began to synthesize the research with multiple methods. For the first method, I used affinity mapping to categorize the interviewees’ responses based on similarities. I broke it down into 10 categories.
"It shouldn’t be difficult to cancel subscriptions"
The interviewees fell into two main categories: those who felt their subscriptions had a negative impact on their finances and those who weren’t stressed about their subscriptions. In this second method of synthesis, I created two empathy maps based on these two groups.
After identifying the problem through the process of research and synthesis, some of my initial ideas for the solution were based on ideation methods including laddering, brainstorming, and user stories.
Before beginning wireframing, I mapped the flow of the way a user would use the app in order to outline the screens I would need in the wireframes. I mapped the flows of two users, a returning user and a new user.
Wireframes & Wireflows
The first wireframes I created were of the two key flows or red routes: purchasing a subscription and setting up an account.
A few features of the wireframes were the Dashboard view, which allows users to see an overview of their spending, from all their subscriptions, to a schedule of when they will be charged, and a breakdown of categories.
From the standpoint of browsing and purchasing subscriptions, the Marketplace aspect of the app functions by being able to scroll through apps, see how much they cost per month, and subscribe.
"Expenses should have transparency. Everyone should be able to control their finances with ease."
My first drafts of high-fidelity mockups contained an introductory onboarding in order to set a new user up. This included adding a bank account to automatically detect subscriptions or linking subscriptions manually.
I wanted to give users the freedom to link their subscriptions manually if they didn’t feel comfortable with the app having access to their bank account and transactions. During this process, there was always the option to “skip for now, add later,” in case users did not want to go through the onboarding process initially.
Key Features Screens & Features
Animations & The Prototype
I completed The Scription prototype & animations in Invision. Please feel free to interact with the prototype here. The prototype was designed for Android.
The first round of usability testing on the Scription prototype was geared towards finding out if the app was usable. I asked participants to complete a series of basic tasks by providing them with 4 scenarios.
One of the main findings from the first round of testing was that users don't want to enter more information than necessary, and they want the onboarding process to be as quick & easy as possible. Based on this, I eliminated the "phone number" from the sign-up and simplified the creating the account process.
"The best part about it was seeing a visual display of all subscriptions that I had and itemized monthly charges for a subscription and total monthly costs."
After the first round of usability testing, I synthesized the research collected through another affinity map based on categorizing themes in participants’ responses.
Another key takeaway of the first round of usability testing was that there should be some way to download the app after starting a new trial. So, I added the “Launch App” feature.
Key Findings from 2nd Round of Usability Testing
In order to evaluate if many of the changes made after the first round of testing solved some of the issues, I used the same scenarios from the first round of testing for each participant. The second round of usability testing sparked an interesting debate about how obvious the “cancel” button should be.
Conversations on favoring company or favoring user
After speaking with a few potential users and other designers, there was a debate around if the “Cancel” subscription button should be obvious or not. By favoring the company, in this case Amazon, the Cancel option would be a part of the dropdown menu under the settings icon.
However, Scription should be for the users. The original mission of Scription was to make expenses transparent and allow users more control of their finances. So if they’d like to cancel, that button should be as obvious and clear as possible.
Inspired by a lot of amazing suggestions from users, I came up with a lot of ideas that I would have loved to include in the MVP but instead would have to push to the later releases.
Customer Reviews. Adding some social proof for each subscription in the marketplace would elevate the browsing experience and give users more information about the app before subscribing.
Easy Sharing Subscription Info with Family and Friends. Many users I interviewed share subscriptions with their family and friends but always have issues staying up to date with usernames and passwords, who’s paying, how much they owe, and subscription information. Easy sharing would enable a smoother experience.