This project was my master’s thesis that I collaborated with Great Works (a digital agency in Stockholm). The work for the company covered only the usability evaluation of Walter website. I took a new feature that Walter would introduce to public and would differ from other companies in the same industry as my thesis topic which was the use of profiles in Walter. After I formed the topic, I researched several areas and aspects. The objectives were to see if there were already studies around the use of profiles or similar in any area and to gain knowledge of research methods and other relevant subjects. The areas that I looked into were usability evaluation of online banking and investment services, long-term investment services, consumers’/users’ behaviour, measurement of trustworthiness, decision making, and usability evaluation methods. Then I defined research questions and started to plan the tests. I wanted to get data from both usability experts and end users, so there were 2 tests in total which were heuristic evaluation and user testing with think aloud protocol. Each test included an interview. After I finished the tests, I analysed the results together, summarised the analysis and made the report of my study.

Walter is a website that provides a solution for long-term investment in Sweden by using profiles of famous people. Each profile as an investor has their own portfolio that invests in different investment securities. All the profiles are supervised by fund managers from Danske Bank. Walter allows users to follow and invest money in the profiles that match with their interest and preferences. Apart from financial information, the users can obtain the information of the profiles such as biography, strategy, and blog posts.

This is how Walter looks like comparing to other investment services on Swedish market.

To use Walter service, users go to Walter website. Check and read information of the profiles and their portfolio that interest them. Once they are certain about which profile or portfolio to invest in, they can proceed by clicking the invest button and following the instructions in Step 4.

Walter is a newly developed website that involves several assumptions regarding concept, design and development. The service also pertains to the process of decision making for long-term investment because it incorporates the profiles of famous people as investors and uses them as investment options. For this reason, the website is of different way of thinking comparing to other existing products and it is likely to provide different user experience. Accordingly, this thesis aims to investigate the concept of Walter, especially the use of the profiles to see if the profiles can affect the decision making process of the users when making long-term investment. So, user experience and usability of Walter are taken into account.

From the needs to study Walter, tests to validate the assumptions used in the developing process are needed to prove that the concept and design of the website are understandable and usable. The results will be analysed to see if the profiles can affect the decision making process. The main research question is: How do the profiles affect the decision making process in long-term investment service website? Besides the profiles, other elements such as visualisations and information in the website should be taken into account as well because they all are presented to the users at the same time. This study will look into what information they are concerned with when making investment. The usability of Walter as a holistic view will be accounted. Another question regarding this holistic approach is: What information should be incorporated with the profiles?

It is suggested to use a combination of heuristic evaluation and user testing methods to get better results comparing to conducting only one of them alone. This study was carried out with both methods. I conducted the heuristic evaluation followed by an interview. Then, I summaries the data. Due to the development process, the user testing was conducted with the newer version a couple of weeks after the heuristic evaluation. So there were some differences in the details of the website. Participants in the user testing had to do the System Usability Scale (SUS) questionnaire. After that, they were interviewed. Then, I summaries the data. I combined the summaries of the 2 tests to get the final results and made the analysis.

The evaluation used the heuristic rating scale and Nielsen’s 10 heuristics with 3 additional heuristics concerning trustworthiness, knowledgeability, and security. There were 6 scenarios included. This evaluation aimed to find usability problems of Walter interface. I recruited 4 evaluators from master’s students in Human-Computer Interaction program at KTH. After evaluating, I interviewed them to collect insights and feedback about their experience and understanding of the concept of the use of profiles. There was voice recording during the interview.

Quantitative data were collected from note papers that the evaluators listed errors, predicts usability problems, violated heuristics, and severity of each error. These data were used to asset the usability. Qualitative data were collected from the interview. The questions concerned the use of profiles, the overall usability, and the comparison to Avanza in term of the ease of use, the ease of understandability, and the investment security representation. When presenting Avanza website, the fund investment section was presented as the profiles in Walter were conceptually similar to funds as they represented a collection of investment securities like stocks. These data were used to assess both the usability and the use of profiles.

The test incorporated 6 user tasks. I recruited 4 users through social network channels. They were among the target group of Walter (native Swedish at the age of 25-50). During the test, they were asked to think out loud and I sat next to them to take notes. After the test, they did the SUS questionnaire to evaluate the usability of Walter in general. Then I interviewed them to collect insights and feedback on the Walter system. In the last part of the interview, Avanza website was presented to compare to Walter. There were screen, video, and voice recording. The whole session was broadcasted to the development team.

Quantitative data were collected from the number of completed tasks and the SUS questionnaire. These data were used to assess the usability. Qualitative data were collected from the think aloud protocol, the comments in the questionnaire, and the interview after the test. The questions concerned the personal experience in investment, the usability of Walter, the decision making process, the use of profiles, and the comparison to Avanza in the fund investment section. The objective of the comparison was to investigate the decision making process and the overall service.

Here are the scenarios and the tasks used in the heuristic evaluation and user testing. Because Walter was still in the development process at that time, the website was not fully developed. So these were the important user tasks and some other tasks that were ready to test.

The quantitative data collected from the heuristic evaluation and user testing were not the main focus in this study, rather they were used to complement the qualitative data collected from all methods. For the heuristic evaluation, there were 26 unique usability errors found by all evaluators. A majority of the errors were rated minor problem followed by major problem, usability catastrophe, and cosmetic problem respectively. The top 3 most violated heuristics were "Visibility of system status (Feedback)", "Be honest and reliable (Trustworthiness)", and "Consistency and standards (Consistency)".

All users managed to complete all the 6 tasks. Because the test website was not completely finished on the test date, I only counted the number of the completed tasks. Other factors like the taken time and the number of help access were not considered. For the SUS questionnaire, since there were only 4 users, it might not be appropriate to draw any statistical conclusion from the quantitative data but I still accounted the qualitative data from a comment section in the questionnaire. So, the qualitative data from the think aloud protocol and the comments were analysed together with the interview.

The results from the interview are analysed and discussed under 2 themes (the profiles and the incorporated information) according to the research questions. The first them regards the first research question: How do the profiles affect the decision making process in long-term investment service website? All participants understand that the profiles represent investment securities and consider them as investment options. The profiles can gain more interest from the participants because they recognise the profiles and read through the profile information such as their biography. Almost all participants agree that it makes sense to use the profiles to represent investment securities or financial products (stocks and funds). One evaluator uses the word “humanise” to describe how Walter uses the profiles to represent the investment securities. As a results, using human approach to represent financial products can make the products more relatable and easier to make a decision. Although the profiles can gain interest from the participants, they don’t choose to use Walter because of the famous people and half of them prefer Avanza which doesn’t use famous people. This suggests that fame might not have effect on how users make a decision for investment, rather they consider profiles of people, financial information and website usability altogether.

However, the use of profile may cause distrust. One user is quite sceptical about the service and wonders if the profiles increase the service fee and take away the focus from what investment is actually about. There are also some concern among the evaluators. They say that the website should make it clear that users invest money in a person (profile) or a portfolio. Because of the use of big images on the website, it makes it look like a fashion or design company rather than an investment service website.

The second theme regards the second research question: What information should be incorporated with the profiles? In most cases, typical financial information is still needed. This information includes the holdings inside a portfolio, development history, portfolio performance, risk, rating, fees, and principal investment strategies. In some cases, the profile is prioritised over risk, fees, and return. Some participants seem to trust in the profiles that they like and don’t consider other information.

When comparing to Avanza with regard to ease of use and trustworthiness, all evaluators and one user agree that Walter is easier to use because there is less information. However, having a lot of information makes Avanza look more trustworthy although it makes the website look harder to use. This reflects that the amount of information affects the perception of ease of use and trustworthiness.

When comparing to Avanza with regard to understandability, there is no clear judgement because there are 2 sides of opinions. On the one hand, the participants say that Walter is easier to understand because it’s easier to read and the design is friendlier. On the other hand, the participants say that Avanza is easier because there is more data and information and the interface is clear. This suggests that the perception of understandability depends on an individual’s preferences.

When having to choose between Walter and Avanza, half of the participants prefer to use Avanza because of the traditional look and there is more information in Avanza. Some say that it’s because of the usability issues in Walter. Another reason is that Avanza looks safe and secure. (A few prefer Walter. Some would use Walter for smaller amount of money.)

Trustworthiness and security are difficult to measure by user testing method as the users don’t seem to connect usability issues with trustworthiness and security. One possible reason might be that they understand that the website is not finished. So they are aware of bugs or problems in the system during the test. Another point is heuristic evaluation can detect several usability errors regarding trustworthiness which is added to the 10 original heuristics by Nielsen. Financial information is one of the most interesting information but the website didn’t have much information at that time and knowledgeability is one of the least violated heuristics. Several participants mention about holdings inside a portfolio, development history, portfolio performance and investment strategies but they are not aware of risk, fees and return until they are asked about them. For general users, I might suggest that the website should provide more information about investment. For heuristic evaluation method, a “double expert” (with expertise in usability and investment) can possibly detect more usability errors regarding knowledgeability. For the last point, interview is the most powerful method in this study because it can obtain a lot of qualitative data regarding user experience of the participants.

Here are takeaways from this thesis. The profiles gain participants’ interest and the participants tend to be positive towards the profiles. They consider financial information together with the personalities. Concerning the incorporated information, financial information is still necessary because it affects the perception of ease of use, trustworthiness, and understandability of the website. After all, usability is still vital to the website as it can make the users to stay or to leave the website. Read full report here: KTH DiVA.