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Hisaab is an easy and fun tool to calculate the study financing, helping students gain insight in future consequences and prepare for unexpected high debts.

September 2021 (3 weeks)


User research, Interview, Personas, UX design, Ideation, Sketching, 
Wireframing, Prototyping, User Testing

Newly migrating International students



Why this matters

I know from personal experience how difficult migrating abroad for studies can be.  Besides dealing with extensive paperwork and emotional stress, predicting financial situation is challenging. Often students don’t know what to do or who to turn to for advice.


Calculating education loan

Many people experience student debt as a real burden later in life. Getting clear and relevant information for financial decision making is difficult — especially from another country.

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Empowering education through Design

Calculating the study financing as easy and fun spending it


Hisaab: Informing Financial Decisions

Hisaab is a dashboard that helps students calculate the required loan amount, analyze their spending while studying, and keeping account of their loan repayment.


User- Centered Design

The idea for Hisaab originated from a desire to create a platform for international students to support each other. Migrating can be stressful, and the ambiguity around finances does not help. So many students suffer due to financial obligations, and regret their decisions later in life. The design process starts with understanding students' mindset before, during, and after they migrate. The research also focuses on students' lifestyle preferences. Upon recognizing the important features, a MVP is created. 

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User Research

I conducted a survey involving 45 international students. The user group was divided into 3 parts:

  • Students about to start international higher education.

  • Students pursuing their Masters

  • Recent graduates

The results of my survey are as follows:

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7 out of 10 international students graduate with education loan

1 out of every 4 students default on their education loan

User Interview (5 students)

The interview was conducted with students who recently moved, or were about to move abroad for their higher education and were relying on loans to do so. The intent was to learn how students budget their spending and calculate education loan requirements. The key points from the interview are:



It was interesting to find out that students rely upon university website data, seniors, friends/ family in the country they are moving to calculate their loan amount. Often they fall short on money, or end up taking and spending extra. Interview quotes:

"... I thought I could survive with less money because huge loans scare me. I realised that it was a mistake and now I am having to live on credit cards"

"... I ended up taking extra loan, and that led to an extravagant lifestyle. I never saved anything and now I am struggling to find a job that can help me start paying back the loan"


Some users create a budget for their weekly spending. Some others look at it on a monthly basis.
Users who budget believe in financial discipline and also have limited cash flow. They often have separate bank accounts for savings and spendings. Key quotes directly from users:

“…I like living in the present moment and choose to live my best life, even if that’s on a loan. I can think about repaying once I am done with my Grad school ”

“… Spreadsheet is unnecessary and too formal. I can’t micro-manage my finances and like to look at it on a monthly basis”

Research Synthesis

Students are short-term-sighted and don't look at the bigger picture. It’s often difficult for international students to manage their finance, with little knowledge of loans, overdue charges, and unforeseen circumstances. 

Students pursuing education often end up in debt, even after years of repaying. Why?

1- They rashly choose the maximum loan amount.

2- They don't pay their installments in a timely manner

Empathy Map

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There is no UX design without empathy. With a goal to understand the user better, I integrated the takeaways from my user research in a structured manner.

Major Findings


Through the interviews and surveys, pain points could be identified. Here is the list of problems faced:

  • Not knowing real cost of living before moving

  • The growing rate of interest on loan and having trouble repaying

  • Overly manual or stressful means of budgeting and loan calculation

  • Missing payment or going through unforeseen circumstances

  • Lack of savings because of spending a lot in grad school

User Persona

Based on user research and Interviews, it was attempted to define the possible user group and their context. It was important to understand the user before defining and solving the problem.

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User Journey Map

After the User Persona, I mapped the user journey to understand and document the stages that Personas go through. I have tried to demonstrate emotions and thoughts, actions, and opportunities for the dashboard.

Jimmy: Primary user persona

Halima: Secondary user persona

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Affinity Diagram

After going through qualitative and quantitative research, I wanted to process and synthesize my findings from user research. Affinity map allowed me to identify and organize problem areas to prioritize the features of my dashboard. 


Problems while migrating



Other factors associated include:

  • Personal Savings/ Family funding

  • Loan processing charges

  • Scholarship

  • Lifestyle preferences

  • Student job

User Flow

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Prior to sketching and building out wireframes, I wanted to figure out the user flow for specific tasks. The tasks prioritize steps to guide loan calculation in a concise manner. The user flow goes a full circle to let students reconsider their loan amount after learning the repayment and later consequences.


Based off the User Flow, and considering the main purpose of the app, I created sketches of various screens. It seemed like a lot of data and long forms needed to be filled to reach desired results.


Mid-fidelity Prototype

I converted my paper wire flows into a mid-fidelity prototype to get a better sense of how each screen would look before moving on the first phase of User Testing.

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User Testing- I

Participants were recruited for User testing that fit the personas used throughout the design process. Main goals for testing:

  • Learn if participants were easily able to reach the required goal.

  • Learn if there was an easy way for error correction, since there are long forms.

  • Find out participants' experience with the app.

  • Test User's understanding of functionality of all features and app buttons.

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Oh! this is seriously helpful
Nice to know the amount 😅

Why does it take so much effort to figure this out? 🤷🏽‍♀️

This already looks boring! 🙄 

Do I have to fill in all this? 🤯 
Oh Jesus, those input fields!
I don't earn the same amount every month 🤔
I actually have to crawl behind the computer for these kinds of questions 👩🏻‍💻
What is rent allowance!! 🤦🏻‍♀️

Not done yet? 🥺
Do I have to do this too?


Based on the feedback from User Testing-1, the app design was re-evaluated. It was identified that the process was long an borin. Thus, the process focused on gamifying the overall experience.

Onboarding: Recognition & Humor
The app starts with an introduction about the features, while building trust about finances, and excitement about student life

Reframed Questions
Gamifying the questionnaire and framing the questions to fit short-term oriented mindset makes filling details a fun experience

Calculating Debt
The app manipulates time to create a sense of future. Looking at future consequences prompts one to rethink their decisions.

User Testing- II

A second round of User Testing was done to identify errors and scope for improvement. The users had a positive feedback for the app experience and minimal design. There were however issues with the app flow. 


Creates confidence about Finances

Makes one look forward to their student life

It's fun not having to type all the details

The nerd emoji evokes negative emotions, and the second one isn't self-explanatory

Design looks minimal

This question should have come up first

The animation is fun

There should be a way to learn the amount break up

It's too early to answer that, and adds stress

This can be ambiguous considering lack 

of repayment details and options

Interesting way to think about loans

Nice to ask this question again, evokes

serious thoughts before decision making

Discussion & Next Steps

Confirming my hypothesis through research
Being an immigrant and a first generation college student myself, I wasn't sure whether a lot of people face issues getting financial information. Through user-research, I could explore many more pain points that I was unaware of. This helped me prioritize features of my app, while defining 'what' I was solving, before discovering methods to solve the problem.

Empathy for the Users
While user interviews, user testing and design process, I realized how painful and time consuming excels can be. Besides, one does not even know the right questions before looking for an answer. While calculating loan, so many people can overlook expenses that come out as unforeseen once they move. Gamifying the process made the process fun and easy.
In order to meet the users' needs, I had to apply appropriate UX tools & techniques, separate myself from the users, and refer to the research at every step.

Here are some features that I would like to add in future:

  • Include Machine Learning functionality with features like a virtual talking friend

  • Create space to upload documents and comparing loan options through the app

  • Build a community to inform new students

  • Design a loan repayment system through the app, including reminders and balances

Thanks for stopping by

Let's Catch up!

Designed & Built by Sanchita Chugh

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