Open Account Redesign


My Role : Usability Engineer

Project Timeframe : Visioning phase lasted 8 months

Problem Space

The design team was tasked with redesigning money movement flows at Vanguard, starting with the Open Account process. User abandonment was high; approximately 75% of users had failed to complete the task online. The number of steps to complete the task ranged from 17-80 depending on the account and transfer type, and a key goal of the design team was to streamline the process and reduce the number of steps for all open account activities.


Over the course of several months, the design team collaborated on novel and innovative approaches to breaking down the task into component parts, leveraging task data to reduce steps, and providing users support throughout the process. Once the task was understood, the team created, tested, and iterated on the interaction and visual design.

As the usability engineer on the project, I worked on a monthly testing cycle; I created scripts, recruited participants, worked with the team to develop the prototype and test tasks, and reported findings on a 3-week turnaround to develop and refine the concept during this visioning phase.


The design leveraged images to tell the story of the interaction and highlight the task breakdown. The innovative one-screen design kept users within the task and provided help content in context of the actions.

The final result of the project was a successful launch of the redesigned Open Account process in 2008 that met project goals and has resulted in significant improvements in online task completion.

Dominic La Cava, the project lead, and I presented on the design work in 2009 at the IA Summit and were asked to revise our presentation into a publication for the ASIST Bulletin:  Gaming the Design.

Lessons Learned

This was one of my first projects in industry, and one of my favorites. Our goal was to take a flow that had an average of 27 steps and get every path in that flow down under 10, which is why the internal name was 27x. I learned to set big design goals and use those to make design decisions. I practiced testing easy paths (Rollover IRA) and difficult paths (Transfer of Assets in Kind) to avoid happy-path optimization.