So it’s been a while since my post on usability helping to pay off your mortgage, and I thought I should give you a little update. I signed up for the money merge account with United First Financial a little over a week ago, and got my welcome e-mail last week, right in the middle of a very hectic week. I didn’t have time to sit down and “play” with it until yesterday, when I finally watched their training video (… they insisted I watch the training before I “touched anything”, so I did) and set up everything. I even scheduled a few bills with my online billpay so I could feel like I actually got started on our plan.
I am almost unsure I really believe that we’ll really have our mortgage paid off that fast. 3.67 years, it says, if I set the “aggressive scale” to 1, which is the lowest, most conservative setting. Did I miss something in our expense list? No, I entered everything I had in the budget, didn’t I? … but did I think of everything? Did I really include all our expenses?
To help in that matter, a couple things it would be nice to have is:
- A more interactive training video or perhaps a setup wizard instead
- They are right–it’s not entirely intuitive to find everything you need to get started without watching a training video. But the training video is entirely passive–you just sit and watch someone do loads of things in a video and then you’re on your own. Sure, you can watch the video again, but it’s difficult to tell where the part that answers your question is in the video. If the training were more interactive, showing you how to do a piece and then giving you the opportunity to do that step, it might be more effective. To give them credit, they also offer in-person training, but I didn’t really want to go through (and wait for) a hand-holding session.
- Some way of reminding you of expenses you may have missed
- Some automatic categories of expenses, perhaps, rather than making me enter all my own categories? I might not like your categories, but why not just have a sample set to start with? If I don’t like them, I could delete them, but at least they would serve as reminders of potential areas of expense I hadn’t taken into account.
- Use user-oriented language in the training video. It appeared to me that they got one of the engineers who built the software to do the training video–I caught some programmer words like “environment” in the training video–normal people don’t use those kinds of words.
Other little things that would help with usability:
- Instead of showing a dashlet at the top that tells me “Interest remaining”, how about “Interest saved”? I want to know just how much I’m saving with this $3,500 piece of software. That’s the most I’ve ever paid for a piece of software in my life!
- When I entered my credit card accounts in, I didn’t know what the balance was (because I pay them off every month, so I really don’t think of it as “having a balance”), so I started with a $0.00 balance. Once I found the credit card statements, I wanted to go in and edit the balance, but it wouldn’t let me! That was a little frustrating. I had to delete the account entirely, then enter them again.
- A way of recommending better ways to pay. If it would help me pay off my mortgage faster to use my credit card for certain payments, I would like to know that, but all the expenses I entered in asked me to specify how I wanted to pay. Absolutely, I want to control that, but how about a button that makes a suggestion on best way to pay?
All in all, though, I’m pretty happy with the software and hopeful that it will really work to get our mortgage paid off faster.