Increasing financial literacy through gamification


Headstart Homes, sponsored by Westpac helps residents living in community housing achieve their dream of home ownership.


The end goal was to create a MVP of a mobile app to help everyday Australians and community housing residents build their financial literacy skills to get on a path to home ownership.  


I worked a UX/UI designer as part of a team with Harness Projects.  I individually conducted the following: competitor analysis, wireframing (Balsamiq), prototyping (Figma), sketching, research synthesis, usability testing, customer journey maps,  client presentation. 

Duration: 6 weeks.

“2 million Aussies have less than $1000 set aside in savings…"

- Ubank Research Insights 

Understanding the problem

How do you make finance fun?

How can you build good finance habits in everyday Australians so that they gain the confidence and skills to get on the path to home ownership?

The client wanted us to go beyond this question, and also explore how we could automate the manual sign-up process for residents through the app. 


I started by studying how competitors were able to successfully motivate and engage their users, particularly looking at apps outside the finance market using gamification. 

We focused more on ideation and prototyping

Ideation and sketching 

Make finance part of your day 

Initial concepts I wanted to explore in my app included:

  • Focus on helping users plan for spending not just tracking

  • Using social accountability to motivate people

  • Gamification needs to be simple and encourage habit building while allowing users to still feel challenged

  • Tracking and insight analysis must be automatic and integrated into the user's daily life

  • Personalisation/customisation of a space or avatar by earning points is appealing to this demographic

I sketched the following screens for my initial MVP:

  • Onboarding screens to sign up 

  • Home page welcoming user with key insights about financial health 

  • Savings page to track savings flow

  • Budgeting page to track expenses 

  • Vault page to lock savings account 

  • Profile page to view points won, virtual house avatar and level progression. Also includes settings functions

  • Learn page to unlock learning 

  • Virtual quest page for learning on-the-go


Mid-fidelity prototype 

Building on the idea

After evolving my ideas, I built the first version of my prototype in figma. 


I started to play around with the brand colours, images, buttons and icons to uplift the fidelity and bring the idea to life. I also started to add in text where there was originally placeholders to give more context for user testing. I then narrowed down the core set of features I wanted to continue developing in the prototype. 

Journey Map 

Creating the ideal customer journey 

To picture the end-to-end customer journey of a community resident using my app, I created a customer journey map to capture different journey phases, touch points and needs. This informed my final prototype design. 

Hi-fidelity prototype 

Meet the Headstart Homes app

I conducted guerilla testing with 2 users. Feedback included:

  • Build an option to skip the connect banking step 

  • Users wanted learning to be unlocked so that they can access content whenever they want

  • Users wanted more context around gamification features used in the app in onboarding and throughout the app

  • Users wanted signposts to help explain features and provide tips 

My final app idea included the following concepts:

  • Building habits is fun. The app is focused around creating good spending and budgeting habits to save up for a house deposit. This is supported by a gamified learning environment (e.g. virtual quests, sun points, virtual avatar house). 

  • Tailored. Learning that meets the user where they are in the home buying journey. Further stages unlocked as user progresses in their journey.


Breakdown of testing results with 5 users and final iterations of the prototype are below. 

Iteration of Hi-fidelity prototype

Onboarding screens 

Improved onboarding experience. Additional context screens explaining how the app works allowed users to prepare for features they encountered. Options to skip the connect to bank step was appreciated by users. However, users would like to see a 'powered by Westpac' symbol to provide more legitimacy to the app. 

Tailoring the onboarding experience for residents. In line with client goals, all questions from the Headstart Homes program form were integrated into the prototype for residents. Residents were given a special screen where they would be able to see their target saving goal and next steps. 

Embarking on a journey. Users appreciated being able to have the option to tailor their home ownership journey and unlock levels based on mastering skills and knowledge. 

Insights and analytics 

Clean layout. Users enjoyed the modular card based layout as it made it easy to find information they needed. They appreciated signposts to help provide tips and tricks (e.g. best way to track savings using app). 

Helpful visual breakdown of spend. Breakdown of expenses by category and by top spending companies and services allowed users to visually pinpoint where they were overspending. 

Need more tailored analytics. Advanced users wanted to access more advanced savings and budgeting insights and data to make more informed decisions.

Nedd an onboarding tutorial. Users wanted an onboarding tutorial on the home page to learn and make full use of the gamified learning features.

Virtual avatar and rewards

Stronger gamification needed. Users enjoyed features such as the animated virtual house and being able to earn sun points and visualise their progress. However, they wanted to be able to have greater interactions with the house (e.g. win different actions for the for the inhabitant of the house). 


Need to use the power of social accountability. Users indicated they would be more motivated by social accountability features (e.g. leaderboards, social challenges) rather than by solely trying to keep a virtual avatar alive.



On-the-go learning 

Earlier warning. Users enjoyed the virtual quest, but wanted to learn about it through an onboarding tutorial so they are not taken by surprise.

Stronger motivation. Users said they would complete virtual quest challenges but on an irregular basis as the motivation factor (winning sun points) wasn't strong enough. 

Learning needs to be tailored. Users responded well to having unlocked learning. However, they caveated that topics need to be interesting and tailored to different knowledge levels for continued engagement. 

Social Accountability 

Vault feature was divisive. Users were happy that the vault feature was optional. Half the users were happy to use this feature as they found the penalty to be a fun and risk averse way of motivating them to save money. Other users wouldn't use the feature as it made them feel like they were being punished. 


More user testing of this feature with a greater sample of participants is needed to determine whether to keep this feature in the app. 

What's next?

  • Developing the features that users liked and testing the MVP with a greater pool of users (community housing residents, users who may not be technically savvy and digitally native to online banking) 

  • Introducing more social features to strengthen gamification elements 

Design system


For the developer handover, we had to provide additional documentation such as the design system used and examples of unhappy journeys the user may encounter in the app. 

See the SWAG project

See the SWAG project

See connecting Darling Square

See Connecting Darling Square

See the NSW government project