Jan 15, 2014 KV Kiva HQ
By Brandon Smith
Winter Cleaning: Making a leaner kiva.org to focus on the core lending experience
If you’ve been lending on Kiva for a while, you might already be familiar with our commitment to innovation — from loan products like chlorine water dispensers with Evidence Action to site features like the lending collections page.

One of the ways we promote innovation at Kiva is by testing new site experiments that might be useful — features such as kiva.org/live, loan tagging and the borrower previews that appear in lending team messages. While many of these features end up being wildly successful, there are others that don't catch on, need more polish, cause a large maintenance burden for our team or simply detract from the core user experience on Kiva. 

In 2014, one of Kiva's main initiatives will be focused on improving that core lending experience for our users, and includes things such as making loans, interacting with the community and building a sense of connection with borrowers around the world. With this focus in mind, we're starting off the new year with a new initiative to more regularly prune away what's not working well (less-used features, and those that cause an unnecessary maintenance burden) with the hope that this will free our team to better focus on the core of what Kiva’s all about: connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty. 
With next week’s site release, as part of this “winter cleaning” initiative, or new year “pruning,” we’ll be removing a number of smaller site features. Here's what we've decided to remove: 
Map view on kiva.org/lend: In online and in-person interviews, we've repeatedly observed lenders having difficulty using the map. The reasons vary but include:
  • A non-intuitive interface for new (and even experienced) lenders, due to the need to zoom and pan the map to find countries they wish to select
  • General bugginess (for example overlapping information boxes)
  • Lenders not knowing how to apply their selection, or confusion around whether loans were updating according to their selections
  • Difficulty locating and selecting small countries, and confusion in how to select multiple countries
While less interactive, we believe that a simple list, organized by region, will be easier to use and make the experience of filtering by country faster and more efficient for lenders.
Loans per page drop-down: Similar to the map view, the “loans per page” drop-down menu near the top of kiva.org/lend was originally implemented to help lenders select loans. However our testing showed that the feature was not used often, added unnecessary clutter to the interface and frequently introduced new bugs whenever changes were made to this page.
Lending team goals: Lending team goals were created to help teams rally around milestones for loan amounts and new members. While we believe there’s a lot of value in helping team captains better engage team members and create incentives around lending and growing their teams, the current implementation unfortunately hasn't been used very much across teams. It also doesn't match the level of quality we have set for our site and isn't integrated well into the rest of the lending team experience. (Please note, we will keep old goals visible in a read-only format.)
If you’re interested in the ability for teams to set goals again the future, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below or by writing to contactus@kiva.org — what worked well with setting goals in the past? What other features do you feel would help your team work toward these milestones in the future?
Recent news items: The “Recent news items” on the Portfolio page (not to be confused with “Recent Updates for My Loans”) was originally meant to provide a snapshot of recent lender messages and lending team messages. In our research we’ve observed that very few people use this feature, instead preferring to check messages directly on team boards or in their email notifications. Given that this page is the first thing every lender sees when they sign into Kiva, we feel it’s especially important to streamline this page and remove sections that don’t add a lot of value.
In addition to these four, you may notice a few other smaller changes. Removing these features doesn’t mean there isn’t great potential or value behind these ideas, it’s just that they haven’t been implemented in a way that meets the level of quality and usability we hope for our site. At Kiva we will continue to innovate and try new things, learn what works best for our lenders and make changes accordingly. So if you have any thoughts or suggestions for what you’d like to see, or if there’s a way we can work to make the core lending experience on Kiva even better — don’t hesitate to let us know! We always love to hear from you. 



I would love to be able to have an “Advanced search” slider allowing me to choose a range of Portfolio Yield values. That’s one of my main loan selection criteria.

I personally find it a real pain in my "lending experience" no NOT have my actual Kiva credit balance displayed all the time, and even more at ALL stages of the ending process itself :-(

typo: *lending (not "ending")

I REALLY miss the "recent news items" link from my portfolio page. Now, instead of just clicking once in order to get to recent messages, I have to go to "my teams" and then click on a chosen team, and then click on "read all". At least three clicks instead of one. Definitely not an improvement in my experience.

I also miss the "recent news items" link on my portfolio page. Maybe a better way to have this is for people to be able to shrink it if they don't want to see it. I'm in multiple groups and now instead of being able to see what's going on I have to click into each group, then have a further mouse click to get to the messages section. Please reconsider and put it back on.

I use the 'recent news items' all the tie so I can see if I need to click through rather than having to check every team for new messages, I would really like to see it reinstated as it's very helpful.

What is the purpose of this decision? To destroy Kiva team collaboration? Every day some of us come together to try to make sure loans get funded, to make sure field partners are less exposed to risk, and to share the burden. And the solution is to cut off how we communicate with one another to make Kiva work? Move it down (on My Profile), or put it in a different place (My Teams). But please do not delete the feature entirely. It will hurt the borrowers if you do this.

Could you please bring back the recent news items? I really miss this since I am in multiple teams and I would like to see what is going on in these groups. I also use it a lot to work together with other lenders. It now costs me a lot of clicks to do the same thing.

I miss the "recent news items" link from my portfolio page. Now, instead of just clicking once in order to get to recent messages, I have to go to "my teams" and then click on a chosen team, and then click on "read all". Definitely not an improvement in my experience and team collaboration and communication.

Adding to the choir: Please bring back "recent news items" - it's the first (and sometimes only) thing I check (especially) when I have little time, and it doubles as a quick link to the (then most relevant) message boards. Add a setting for people so that they may decide if they want it or not, but please allow us to still view it.

Please bring back "recent news items" That was where I went daily, sometimes multiple times a day to get the latest messages!!!! This sucks not having it there and having to bookmark each team or not read the messages...

Please bring back the "recent news item". I am on multiple teams, some of them very active, and want to be able to quickly check if there are new messages. Now i have to click through all the teams which is extremely cumbersome and time-consuming. Removing this feature curtails lender engagement and communication. PLEASE bring it back!

Yes, missing the "recent news items". That made it easy to see if there were any new messages, and provided a great quick link to them if there were. Otherwise those were all good improvements.

I have to agree with a number of posters above. I used the recent news items many times a day. If was helpful if you were active on only one team but crucial if you are active on more than one team. As someone stated above, you can often check quickly to see if there have been additional postings. If teams are a priority for KIVA, this is a major step backwards. Please bring this feature.

Yes, please bring back "Recent news items". I don't want to receive e-mails from my teams and since I belong to a number of them, I don't want to check each individual team page for news. Please bring it back, maybe on the "My teams" page if you feel the portfolio is too cluttered...

I agree with the others who have asked to bring back the Recent team messages section. Since I belong to so many extremely active groups, that was the easiest way to quickly se all the news from those teams. Now I have to dig through the list of my teams to find them. And since they are so active, receiving the messages via email is not realistic. Please bring back the team messages section!

I like the map feature that you have on Kiva. I realize that the old map feature had some issues such as the overlapping bands. Could that be changed with more standard bands based on the number of loans a person has made? I also just looked at the current map and the loans I have made to given countries is inaccurate. Is it in a trial or beta phase at the moment? As the other commentators have stated above, I would also like to see a page come back for the recent messages form the team boards. It is easy for me to see which teams have posted comments recently and visit those teams.

I would also like to have the "recent news items" section back - having to click a bunch of links to get to my team messages instead of the one click from the portfolio page is annoying. I used the list of recent messages multiple times a day just to "check in" and keep up with various teams - I can see that ending quickly if it's going to take me so much longer to get to each team's messages.

I agree with many others: Please bring back "recent news items". I used this feature almost every day. Thank you.

Good idea, making all the apps work together.

I also would like to see Recent News re-instated. In addition to reasons stated by others, I want to add that the email option is not a good substitute. You either have to get an individual email for every single message on a given team board, or you get one email but the messages are a day or more old before you see them. The Recent News section was better than either. If you feel strongly about removing it from the Portfolio page, why not move it to the top of the Teams page? And have it show more items - say, up to 15, except that they could drop off once they are 24 hours old (i.e., no longer Recent).

This is really not good - You lost out on the news items. Obviously - lot of active lenders use it and it's of great practical value to many hardcore kivians and add tons of positve user expercience to this group of people. It is kind of odd that Kiva is the only enterprise known to mankind who actviely devalueing communication between members And no - as stated above - the other options don't replace the removed feature - not even close. So, pull yourself together and bring back one of the few meaningful communcative tool used by Kiva.

I have to agree with all the comments about the decision the eliminate Recent News Items. I am really upset with this latest round of "Let's mess with the lenders' heads" When I open up my profile the first thing I look at how much I have to lend (in the hope it will magically jump to $25 in the middle of the month:-) and then I go directly to messages to see which of my many teams are active. Maybe the majority of lenders don't use it but those of us who are the most active and on every day - The hard core Kivians, as Anders said, use it to keep up with our team's activities. These same hard core people are probably the most active lenders who like to join in supporting borrowers that their co-team members have nominated. I do think it is very odd that Kiva would remove a major tool of communication between team members and label it with the double speak gobbledegook from Business School of "improving that core lending experience for our users". I don't know about anyone else but my core lending experience starts with chatting with my teamies.

Exactly. And what makes "Lean" suddenly a reason to pull out features that work?

I want to have the "Recent New Items" back, please! For me this was the most used item on the portfolio page, almost the only thing I looked at when I opened the page. Now I have no chance to see what's going on in my teams: Either I have to browse to "My teams", open one team page after the other, then going back to portfolio (or teams), select again "my teams" in order to be able to go to the next one or I have to wait for the e-mail notification which shows me today what happened on the team boards yesterday (thanks to the time difference for those who are not in California). No real alternatives!

Oh, I had another thought about where the Recent News could be on the site. Rather than at the top of the Teams page, it could be placed where it could be reached from the dropdown box at the top right of the Portfolio page. (It now has choices for Loans, Transactions, My Teams, etc.) The people who use the Recent News the most, are often people who are members of several teams. I find the My Teams list to be not useful -- I'd like it if I had Recent Team News as a choice there, instead of or in addition to My Teams.

The high number of expiries and the partnership with Strathmore drove me to investigate other lending sites, and I have begun loaning through some of them. One of the main reasons that I keep returning to Kiva: the teams. The recent news feed has been the most important tool in my interactions with my teams. Losing it would severely limit my enjoyment of the team function of Kiva, and it would lead me, once again, to question whether Kiva really provides a better lending experience than some of the other platforms.

A shout out for the maps feature from a visual type. Not to mention that I'm sure I've gained a few points on my geography IQ. Same for all the school teams on Kiva. Because it's not intuitive? Then fix it, don't remove it.

As others have said, the loss of "Recent News Items" is a huge inconvenience for me. It makes it much harder to get from my portfolio to my team's message board. If the item didn't perform well in tests, can you maybe make it optional, so those of us who rely on it can get it back?

Very few people use the Recent News? You clearly did not do your research on active lenders. It was great having such a quick way to get the message boards which are the 2nd thing I check after seeing if there are any surprise repayments. Now you have to click on each team and because you reformatted team pages a couple months ago, then you have to click on read all. It's completely inefficient and ridiculous. And the emails are useless as well. Either your inbox is flooded with individual posts or you read all the news a day late. Since I started actively contributing to the message boards, I just ignore the daily emails. Now, however, I am much less inclined to read the boards (and that's where I typically find loans from--I don't search for them often). If you want to clear up space on the portfolio page I suggest you get rid of the Facebook Friends Activity instead. It makes the page take forever to fully load and is completely useless, seeing as I don't have any Friends who are active Kiva members (and if they were, why would I even care that they made a loan in Burundi?).

+1 to this Please reconsider

As a very active Kiva lender and a captain on three teams, I found Recent News the single most useful tool to efficiently maintain communication across my team universe and to facilitate the interactions that generate support and ultimately funding for loans. None of the alternatives are remotely as useful. As Ariel says, using email is either resulting in a flooded inbox with individual posts or in getting information a day late. And having to go to all the individual team boards to search for messages is totally inefficient and unworkable. This change really devalues the Kiva experience for me, and as many others have noted, it disproportionately affects the true hard core Kiva lender. It seems Kiva is much more interested in the lender who makes a single loan and never shows up again than in the dedicated 100th percentile lender who checks in almost daily and spends hours seeking to get loans funded. This is very discouraging.

One think I liked about the map is that it highlighted countries in which you had made loans. I would like it if the new list view also indicated this info somehow, like with an asterisk or something.

I question the validity of Kiva's reseafch on the following point. Did you weight the sampling for the number of loans each person consulted makes? I believe the frequent lenders were relying heavily on this feature that you have now removed. Recent news items: The “Recent news items” on the Portfolio page (not to be confused with “Recent Updates for My Loans”) was originally meant to provide a snapshot of recent lender messages and lending team messages. In our research we’ve observed that very few people use this feature, instead preferring to check messages directly on team boards or in their email notifications. Given that this page is the first thing every lender sees when they sign into Kiva, we feel it’s especially important to streamline this page and remove sections that don’t add a lot of value.

BRING BACK RECENT NEWS! Like everyone else, this was my first port of call upon visiting the Kiva site and one of the most important features for me. Maybe casual lenders don't use it, but I bet most active lenders do! Email notifications are no substitute. Also, I liked the map and would like to have that back, too. Not sure how that could have been confusing to anyone...

Please bring back the recent news feature. It was central to how I use Kiva and communicate with teams. The work arounds I'm trying aren't nearly the same.

Apparently winter cleaning did not help much to make this website easier to maintain. I do now see Unable to create CTools CSS cache directory. Check the permissions on your files directory. at the top of this screen. ;-)

Please bring back the Recent News. I am a member of quite a few teams and it is horribly inconvenient to have to click on My Teams, then the Team and then View all for each one. There is no other easy option to get around this!

Please bring back the map view. It was my preferred tool to find new loans - and with that gone I will make "the same" loan over and over again. Also I liked the feature highlighting coutries in which you have made loans.

I LOVED the ability to choose 100 loans per page feature. It made it so much easier to view more loans. I find it hard to believe that very few people used it. If it isn't a drop down feature, it would be nice it there was another way to choose how many loans were viewed at a time. I really miss that.

I keep checking back to see a dialogue on this issue. I am disappointed to see that their are 36 comments and not one single response from kiva to commenters about this topic since it was posted.

Just joining the chorus of "Bring back the Recent News list". Certainly I really miss this!! As a member of various teams, and captain of 3, it's a great little summary that I ALWAYS read. Very disappointed to now have to juggle email notifications. As others have pointed out, those of us commenting here are probably your most active and faithful lenders who promote and encourage others. Changing things clearly frustrates us. The teams aspect is something that makes Kiva really stand out from all the other microfinance organisations, so anything that limits or frustrates team leaders is counterproductive. Please re-instate this feature. . .

Hey, just wanted to say that I'm okay with all of these changes. My primary team (Milepoint) has a site where people communicate (non-Kiva) so Recent News wasn't a really big deal for us. I think that a few suggestions could help some of this. 1) Allow people to like or support a lending team, without joining it. I support LLL and Expired Loans but I don't need 300 emails from team members in my email each week. It renders the digest or email team summary unreadable. I'd like to give them a loan, because I like them, but don't need to be a part of their stuff. 2) Revamp the Team Conversation section. I know that this is something you want to work on, but it needs priority in 2014 the Year of the Lender. Given that the Teams were originally designed for families to loan to people together, they have morphed and evolved into something that none of you could have forseen and thats awesome. But instead of bandaids or existing solutions, let's get some money and time and replace it. If you needed to take the Conversation piece down for a month to ensure it was done right, we could find workarounds, but there needs to be threads and forums and all of the things people expect from web collaboration in 2014.

There's already a possibility to join a team without getting any emails at all. You can go to "Setting --> Email" and set per-team email preferences. Chose "do not send" for LLL or Expired Loans or any other chatty team, and you will never be bothered again by "their stuff". You can still be a member of that team, and you can still receive emails from other teams, if you like.

Dear all, pls bring back the recent news items.

You have removed two features which I used every single time I visit the site (which is often): The recent news items was the FIRST thing I looked at, always. and The map to search for loans. My brain understands countries on a map, not on a list.

Thanks for all the thoughts on the Winter Cleaning process. I like the suggestions I've seen here and in the lending team message boards, and will continue sharing all those thoughts with the Kiva team here. Many of you have also done a great job of this already, but if you have any additional thoughts about what this feature helped you do or how it helped you do it, I know it would be great to pass along. Some of that might seem obvious, but it's helpful to drill down to the core function that you all need so we can best address it. We'll be meeting soon on our end to discuss all the feedback and decide how best to move forward, so I'll be sure to keep you all in the loop as soon as there are any updates. Thank you again for reaching out about this -- it's been incredibly helpful!

I hate the list of countries. Please bring back the map or at least the option to look at the map rather than a list of names. The map was much more interesting to view and showed what countries I had already donated to. I miss it terribly.

So it is all about the Kiva experience. My response is - bring back the 'recent news items'. I used it everytime I came onto Kiva and miss it. It has degraded the experience and removed the community feel it had provided. While you are at it, please decrease the font size of my loan information - stop shouting at me. People can read it and comment on it from across a room. This degrades my Kiva experience as well. I've had my say now but as usual don't expect any positive outcome to come from it - with past experience as my guide.

Please bring back the map selector! I LOVED it--it helped me to find new countries. I used it with my kids to learn geography, and it inspired me to keep collecting new countries to fill my map. I really hate the list. It doesn't distinguish countries I've supported in the past from 'new' countries, it's just a list. For us spatial types, the map was awesome.


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Brandon is from North Carolina, where he studied journalism at UNC Chapel Hill. After interning at Kiva in 2012, he joined the staff full time in 2013 to serve as the Community Marketing Coordinator, Kiva's liaison with the 25,000 lending team communities. In his spare time, Brandon enjoys medium-format photography, biking around the bay, and keeping in touch with friends and family on the east coast.

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