Viva Republica (Toss)
Role & Responsibility
Area of Impact
UX Research, Design Strategy, UX Prototyping
When I joined Toss in 2016 as the third product designer, the money transfer app was growing at an exponential rate. Within my 3-year tenure, the product team has grown 10 times bigger.
Today, Toss is a South Korean unicorn fintech superapp, which is currently valued at $7.4 billion; Toss now has a bank, payment company, insurance company, and stock brokerage company under its wing. A half of South Korean population has either downloaded or used the app at least once, and the app is retaining 11 million MAU, with Millennials and Gen Z making up 60% of user base.
In 2019, as Toss was exploring new business verticals to expand and become a bigger and more stable financial institution, a new taskforce team was formed and set out on a mission to build a brand new stock investing experience.
I was invited as the first and only designer to the team of 50+ people and worked together to create an easy, jargon-less stock investing experience.
I started with UX research to understand the market, other players, and pain points. Very quickly, I learned that there's not a single app that is user-friendly or user-centric. This was a huge problem and an opportunity for several reasons.
Existing apps were very difficult to use, therefore, made me (a user and investor) feel discouraged and stupid. They were designed for investment experts or someone who knows what s/he is doing.
But not everyone has expertise in investing. There's a first time for everything, for everyone. Novice or not, investing money is an important decision and anyone should be able to do it without confusion.
Toss's 60% of user base is made up with Millennials and Gen Zs, who has either very little or no investing experience.
It was clear that the new investing experience we want to create would be easy to use, informative yet not overwhelming, and fun to use for our main demographic.
Toss main app's intuitive & seamless UX has brought the fame and crazy virality amongst users in their 20-30s. My goal was to continue the same kind of user experience for a new stock investment service, targeted for young beginner investors.
Insights from desk & field research
As I started with initial field & desk research to gain more insight on existing products in the market, I referenced Robinhood as a benchmark, as its investing UX was geared towards engaging retail investors with easy & simple UX.
Then I took top 3 Korean investment apps from app stores to compare features and survey usability.
Comparing features was very helpful to learn what Toss had to offer in order to differentiate itself from other top competitors.
When I did a few rounds of UX/UI design critique for major competitor apps, I found out that most of them were designed to maximize the screen space to show as much information as possible. The UI layouts focused heavily on showing stock price. General information about the company was treated as secondary.
Perhaps for an expert investor, such design might not be confusing. Perhaps s/he might even prefer to see these screens over a simple version with less clutter.
But is this what a beginner investor wants too?
From user interviews, I learned that novice investors have wants and needs that are very different from skilled investors. Beginner investors want to learn not just about how to trade, but also about everything else too; Company information, financials, market flow, insights and trend. To beginners, these kind of information are harder to understand and digest at first, especially when they were wrapped in difficult terminology.
And I thought this was a huge opportunity for Toss.
for Beginner Investors
Unique value propositions for the new app became clear once I understood users and their wants & needs.
For Toss, the target audience is young beginners who know little to nothing about stock investment but are eager to learn more to gain more; Layman's term would be better for this audience.
Also, users already have deep motivation to learn about stock market, so if the app provides bite-size information for users to learn something new daily, it would be easy for young users to follow up.
Last but not least, investing UX should be as easy and seamless.
Value propositions that embody these values are defined as below:
Usage of layman's term and casual language. Provide further glossary and explanation for more difficult financial terms.
Layout of dense information in small, bite-size pieces. Make the learning curve a gradual increase.
Create seamless and fun experience and avoid confusing visuals and information overload. Provide more information when and if user wants it.
Key UX Strategy & Features
With aforementioned value propositions, I started the process of building out key features into quick prototypes to share with two product owners. The process was iterative and I set up a routine check-ins with every member of the team to get feedbacks on design direction.
A lot of my design focus also went into providing fun elements within the product; I ideated a lot around gamification for easier onboarding or a section for new discovery with lots of fun visuals and interactions.
As I developed the initial UX prototype in 2019, I parted my ways with Toss to accept an offer to work as Head of Design at a proptech startup. (You can read more about that design journey from this case study by clicking here.)
Nonetheless, I take great pride in sharing that Toss Securities was granted final approval from the Financial Services Committee of Korea to begin its brokerage business on November 2020. In March 2021, Toss's first mobile stock trading service was launched within the Toss app. UX design of launched app had few minor refinements but most of core design principles remained the same.
Within first 9 months of launch, 4 million new accounts were activated. For foreign stock and fractional share trade, 1M MAU was recorded since the launch. About 2.5 million users of the service, which takes up 65% of total users, are in their 20 and 30s.