ReadyForZero is a free, online financial program that helps people get out of debt. It automatically pulls in all their financial data, helps them make a plan, and tracks their progress as they change their financial behavior for the better. The tool focuses on using research based, data driven, and user tested design to empower people. It takes an the aging industry of debt relief and applies new technology to make both people and banks happier.
ReadyForZero attempts to solve a huge social problem: debt. People who are struggling with debt typically have a series of calls with debt collections agents (at best), or end up getting victimized by shady services. When people are in serious debt, it can become the main source of stress in their life and lead to real suffering, both emotionally and financially.
The challenges are numerous: People have trust issues after seeing so many scam services online. Financial data is confusing, especially when it comes from multiple accounts. But, by far, the hardest part is truly changing financial behavior for the better.
We want ReadyForZero to be an empowering tool. We designed it to clarify the numbers and simplify confusing statements. To change behavior, we looked at successful programs like weight loss and addiction treatment. We placed a strong emphasis on persuasive design, understanding that behavior is not changed by a fancy dashboard, but by designing in accordance with principles of human psychology.
With the recent financial crash and consistent unemployment, the time could not be better for a service like ReadyForZero to help people take control of their financial lives.
We launched the first version of the site just over nine months ago, in February 2011. It has been a success: to date, we have over $100 million in debt tracked on the site, and $5 million has been paid off. The data is showing that users who regularly use ReadyForZero pay off their debt twice as fast as those who don’t. This is clearly a boon to ReadyForZero’s users, but it’s also good for their banks. Banks lose billions of dollars annually to collections activities, bankruptcy, and defaults. Preventing even a small fraction of people from getting into trouble saves the banks a lot of money. Beyond the data, our user feedback has been wonderful. The design gets compliments on its simplicity and clear focus. We receive many requests for new features, some of which we are carefully designing and implementing. The best feedback is always when one of our users pays off their debt entirely. We’ve had quite a few of these now, and have profiled a few. You can see one profile here.
Our craft is the only way that we can make a successful product. It comes through in every facet. We perform constant ethnography and let user data drive the design, so that it solves the right problems. We repeatedly go through the exacting iterations that result in a simple and usable interface. Our visual design is critical as well: without careful attention to detail, visual hierarchy, and consistent style, it wouldn’t inspire trust in our users.
We’ve worked hard to maintain this level of craft. In a startup environment, it’s easy to rush a product out. Our team is purposefully built of true craftsmen and women: people who care about every pixel, word, and function.
For us, the human element of maintaining a high level of craft inspires trust. A well built tool builds a relationship with its user. As people go through the program, it becomes clear to them: “The ReadyForZero team really thought hard about what it’s like to be me; about what I need. I am beginning to trust their judgement and will listen openly to their advice.” This also motivates our users to actively work with us on improving the tool.