Mar 11, 2013 KV Kiva HQ
By Abe Wallin
A deep dive into lending team design changes
At Kiva, we’re always working hard to improve our website. We believe all interactions on the site should be accomplished with minimal effort and create a memorable experience. With that in mind, we recently made some design changes to lending team pages. 
 
In doing so, our primary goal was to highlight the ways existing and potential members can get involved with a team. To do this, we cleaned up two areas within team pages: the “about” page and team message boards. After receiving feedback from team members, we wanted to write this blog post to dive deeper into both these recent changes and talk about areas where we see room for future improvements.
 
Lending teams are dynamic and passionate communities that interact with Kiva’s website in a variety of ways: members make loans, post messages, recruit new members, measure the impact of their loans and compare their teams against others through rankings. At a glance, we hope the team overview (or “about”) page will be a summary of the team's activity, giving existing members a good sense of what’s going on, while also providing information for prospective members who are deciding whether to join.
 
While long-time team members seemed to be used to the former layout, we felt that the page was less than ideal for new and prospective members. New visitors were often overwhelmed with the amount of information on the page. By cleaning up the basic team information, we strove to make this page more readable and easy to digest for first-time visitors. We also moved recent messages and latest activity higher up on the page to make these dynamic activities more prominent -- and even added a new section to display fundraising loans currently supported by a team.



In making these changes, we adjusted the sizes of text and images on the page. There are always trade-offs as we attempt to emphasize the most important elements on a page, balance the amount of information displayed, and apply a font or image size suitable for a new design.

Some of you have written to us or posted on the message boards that these changes have made certain areas more difficult to read. We sympathize with these concerns and want you to know we are looking at different ways to incorporate your feedback while maintaining an experience that works for the many different types of team members.

One change that we know we could have done a better job with is team message boards. Being able to read and easily respond to messages is essential for any successful message board. Our solution to de-clutter the page by hiding controls such as “Reply” until after you roll over a post overcompensated for the poor readability of the previous layout. However, this came at the expense of people’s ability to respond to a message, and was particularly frustrating for users of touch devices like mobile phones and iPads.

In addition, the placement of other controls such as “Delete” and “Flag” in close proximity to “Reply” caused many people to take these actions by mistake. We’re actively working on a better solution that includes persistent controls and a confirmation step before deleting or flagging a post. Below, you’ll find a sneak peek of our proposed solution, which we expect to release -- pending it’s performance during user testing -- within the next few weeks.





We have high hopes that this redesign will result in an improved experience for new and existing members of the Kiva community. And, as with everything we do at Kiva, we’ll continue to evaluate the performance of these changes to see how well they help us meet our goal of improving lender engagement. 
 
We’ll be looking at quantitative data, such as how many people are joining teams, whether the number of message board posts are trending up or down, etc., but we’re also interested in how this works for individuals like you. If you have thoughts, please let us know.
 
We can’t always satisfy everybody by implementing the changes they request, but we assure you that your feedback helps us improve Kiva’s site by better understanding how you use it, what’s working well and where we can do better.
 
Have questions? Comments? Send them our way at blog@kiva.org.

Comments

Please don't 'clean up' things we love as they are!!! Please don't make us angry at the Kiva we love!!! I don't see here ANY reference to bring back the 'Recent Activity' as it used to be. Also I don't see that message can be read without a second click up the top. These are the two big problems with the new set-up as far as I and many others are concerned. I am so sad that what I loved about using Kiva has been wiped out. You are really risking alienating the most faithful and passionate members (and older people of any sort) by making these changes. I used to rave regularly to people about how easy Kiva was to use, how much fun it was to connect with people, and how the website was the best I had ever used. I no longer will be advocating it at this rate. So disappointing for so many of us. Heather (aged 61, not usually interested in anything technical or IT - until the previous Kiva website)

Thanks, Brandon, well and well intentioned explanations - but . . . please "field test" proposed changes w/different age groups. I just turned 70 and cannot keep up w/ too many "changes" - just finding my glasses is sometimes more than I can do. Also, could you post this on other team boards? If you already have, I haven't got them. As i understand the problem it has come up on a number of team boards: I'm a member of A+, CFSM, Group Loans, Ed Gen, Older Borrowers, Older Message Boards, and KivaLens teams. Peace.

Hi, Thanks for letting us comment before going live. I hope it will actually lead to changes. This is what I have to say about the summary page: * Some teams have very long descriptions. Perhaps you could make the pages more readable with a read more/show less button in the 'About us' section, somewhere at the level of 2 times the hight of the logo? * Location and Check out should be 2 separate lines. It looks ugly in longer locations or site URLs. * I miss the Team start date. * Showing 3 latest messages seems OK, but they should be at least 2 or 3 lines long. Not 2 words, that makes them useless and is also a total waste of space. I suggest to fill up all the space available, which is the height of the name, avatar and the joined date (see next item). * No need to show the 'Joined' date below the picture. Better use that space for a slighly larger image. The 'Joined' date is taking up no less than 3 lines! Even worse: the remainder of those line stay blank. * The combination of 'Team Loans' and 'Latest activity' is confusing. * It looks like 'Team Loans' will only show fundraising loans. In the current implementation, I see "Get things started. Make a loan »" even in bigger teams such as the Team Captains Team. This is the equivalent of a previous-previous implementation where it said something like "Be the first to make a loan." This makes the team look bad! * I don't like the 'latest activity' section, it repeats 'made a loan' in every description. I very much prefered the old way with all the loans in a row with an arow from the lender to the borrower. Please restore that, even if it is only 1 row in stead of 2. Show relevant info for the borrower as it is on the Team Loans page, with country, status, etc. * Perhaps it is possible to add more info (MFI, amount, still needed, repayment term) in a mouseover? Best regards, Astrid Captain of Team HitProfs Member of LLL, PDL, Group loans, Zootopia and many others.

Sorry if that message doesn't look very well, but I that's because the system doesn't respect line breaks ;(

I dislike the changes to such an extent that I am now searcing for another micro loan provider with the intention of moving my assets.

Hi, I would like Kiva to develop a button/check for loans I wish to consider before deciding to loan...... Then i could compare and decide once i'd scrolled through available loans. There are always more loans wanting funding than I can loan to. Is this something you are considering ? Keep up the good work :) Regards, Lynette (Melbourne, Australia)

Lynette, I actually built this feature, if you are logged in you can see a star next to a borrower's name on their loan page, and if you star it, this will show up for you at kiva.org/lend if you check the "My List" checkbox

Why are changes being made at all? the site worked perfectly well all along. It was clear and crisp with so many things to love about it. WHO decided to make changes? You are fixing something that wasn't broken.

Going to have to chime in and say that the site wasn't broke and didn't need fixing in the first place! In particular I agree with the comments that the changes are unfavorable with regards to messages and recent activity. Any changes that make it less awesome to lend, to connect, to be a part of kiva are BAD. Making it easy to scan for contents of messages as well as seeing team loans are a very big part of making those connections and staying inspired. Thanks for always listening.

These look like good improvements to me. I'm glad Kiva is paying attention to design; engineers are often too focused on technical features and ignore the features of effective design. A/B testing, like Eldon suggested, is helping to change that. Thanks for the post describing the changes and the reasoning behind them.

if i look at the list Loans your team is talking about of the late loan lenders I see that all listed loans are either fully funded or expired. This while we are currently working on some loans. The list of the Nerdfighters have only one loan in that list that is raising funds. Therefore this list is not helpful. I miss the old latest activity. The new one is too small and does not give me the info I need. Like country and or field partner of the borrower. I absolutely miss the reasoning behind the flag button. I don't think spam or inapropriete posting is a big problem in kiva that needs to be addressed. Besides it is also possible to write a message to the team captains. Or to the person who wrote the message. I don't see how a list of (half) messages can give a new person an insight in the lending team. I think the description is more important. And if people get curious, why not become a member. It is not like it is a contract or something.

Abe: One member of a team that I'm a member of, didn't leave a comment here b/c he/she didn't want to be "identified" He/she's apparently young - I don't give a shit. Here it is, in full, w/apologies to him/her: Is this the reputation you want to have? "There have been so many excellent comments that gave specifics about our frustrations with the recent changes that I hesitate to add one more. After reading the blog I get the feeling that the perception is of an older demographic both resistant to change, and having trouble with vision. In addition, the comments about the team page having too much info and a barrier to new team members rings hollow when you see the numbers of people who have managed to figure it out already. And if there is real concern in this subject, put in a help file! This whole issue appears to be a difference of viewpoint from the users vs the people who are giving us the tools to connect with other lenders and borrowers. "I believe the request for larger photos and country, from the users stems from seeing each of these as people, rather than as loans or data points. We want to see the smiles, the field, bakery or what have you, because that is what has pulled us in to read their story. Small thumbnails diminish them to non importance, other than as a placeholder for another loan to add to a total. We want the human connection, just as Jessica and Matt originally envisioned this concept. "Much of the time when active members are on the site, we go from team to team to see what is happening and how we can contribute. By making the recent changes, we land on the About page, which we already.are aware. So we have to then select the message tab to catch up with the news. When you belong to multiple teams, it's an irritant since it worked easier before. Contrary to popular belief, most of us are extremely busy with things outside Kiva, and would adjust and not push back if the reasoning behind this was clear. Again, we are back to making that human connection. This change is putting up a barrier rather than enhancing the ability to connect. "I know there were good intentions in these changes, I just hope we are not losing the human element in the race to increase the number of people joining teams because it ups the number of loans they make. That will happen if there is passion that is built with belief in team work. And that requires connecting with people emotionally with more than a nano second of attention span. "I hope this issue is resolved quickly, since it is a very negative distraction in an overwhelmingly wonderful environment." Peace.

My last message disappeared as I was writing it, so some of this may be a repeat I love the look of the team page you have shown above. Would you please check to see how many people really want to flag a message. I think it sends the wrong message. It says that "you may have posted something inappropriate and I'm gonna tell the Captain on you and he'll delete your message." I would bet that less than 1% of messages are spam. Captains already can delete them if they want to. I am a Captain on 4 teams, none of which have ever been spammed. We have had flagged messages by mistake. If I wanted to cause trouble for a captain--instead of spamming, I would just go in and flag all the messages. I think that people who are very active on the message boards would much prefer an edit button. Making a mistake in the loan number or seeing that what you said isn't exactly what you meant never shows up until you have hit "submit message." Thank you for listening to us.

Now is an example of when the edit button is needed. I said that I liked the new page suggested without looking at it carefully. I like "reply" being a big button removed from "delete" and the irritating "flag" buttons. I like seeing the entire message from the minute I go to the message board. Buth then the Nerdfighter example above looks more like the current way. Are you planning to leave it as it is now so that you have to click to see messages and when you do that you loose Latest activity and what your team is talking about? Please don't. The only message that needs to have an expand/reduce button is the captain's featured message because we don't need to see that every time and the team description for those teams who put a lot of information in their description. As far as I am concerned, you could put everything back to the way it was after you made so many wonderful changes (mid- Feb?) I've only been on about 5 months, so I am not old fuddy-duddy who just wants things the way they were. I came in with the intent of loaning $1000 over a 1-yr period and have already loaned 3 times that much going along with teams and individuals who have asked support of someone they like. Remember that loans are more about emotion than logic. We feel that our team members are our friends and I, at least, sometimes loan more to be part of the team than because I want that loan in my Portfolio. Please take our advice.

The latest activity section, with images big enough to see a whole person and imagine a whole story; and team messages - in full - were what made these pages a 'community'. In the new version, we're swapping pictures for numbers. Abe, I like your idea that 'constantly creating' is important to humanity, but so is constantly CONNECTING... and that's what Kiva does best. That's what's important to us lenders. We want ways to connect meaningfully with the borrowers, and with our fellow lenders. I know there's often backlash when websites change their design (oldstyle facebook versus timeline etc...) but for me this is not about design, but about function: any changes that reduce our connectedness are negatively impacting the functionality, however much you might be itching to 'declutter' them. Finally, and sorry to sound cynical, but do we have stats on the number of new members who've rushed on board since these changes, now that they're not overwhelmed? (Or stats perhaps on how many long-timers have left or temporarily stopped lending...) Brandon, thanks for your comments on the boards that you're listening... Let's hope we're able to roll back some of these changes. jo

Recent Activity back as at 19th Feb. please. (Also: I'm surprised to see that for these comments 'your name' and 'email' has an asterisk which says 'The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly'. That may be why I was slightly shocked to see my full name put on my message here!) 'Recent activity' as it was, with big pictures, gave an instant connection. It also showed clearly which loans for the team still needed funding (I like those green lines). The current tiny photos are useless for this. You have to click to see if each one is funded or not. The row of pictures when a team all supported one loan was a great incentive. I'd really appreciate seeing it back again.

I definitely agree with the sentiments echoed about the hover over to click the links to reply and such, it's frustrating on any device. Some of the other changes are nice though. There's good points all around, hopefully things will get back to a point where everyone enjoys using the message boards.

I want everyone to know that I have no strong feelings about the new design, one way or the other.

I agree with the concerns expressed with great clarity and emotion on the Older Message Boards team, and hope that Kiva will take them very seriously indeed, going forward. People who have posted there should not be expected to go elsewhere and repeat themselves in order to be heard. The changes have definitely decreased my own Kiva functionality. In two specific regards I hope we will roll them back: (1) Hovering. I can no longer Kiva from my iPhone. Having the Reply button back will help here but is not a solution. (2) Recent Activity photos. The personal connection — between borrower and lender, and between lender and lender — has disappeared. So has a very effective, efficient incentive to jump in on a team loan. The "lender—arrow—borrower" structure with easy-to-see photographs was just the thing for this. Now the pictures are tiny, and further obscured by text that is hardly legible and wouldn't be useful at that location if it were. Please give us our human beings back.

You did a great job with KIVA. I like to support you. I`m not a native english speaker and every thing you change is a thing I have to understand, before I can explain KIVA to other people. When you think it is better to make a new design for new members I´m not the one you are interest so fare. I have to respect that and make my dessions.

It's about the number of clicks. Now have to click on each message to see the whole thing, have to click on loans to see those that are still needing funding, have to click to see more than 3 messages, etc etc. Would be good to reduce the number of clicks which are now irritating.

I don't find ANY of these recent changes an improvement. I used to enjoy seeing what my team was up to and thus getting suggestions for lending based on that. Also enjoyed reading their messages. This is now harder to do, or at least not worth the effort. These recent changes seem to me like solutions in search of a problem. I found Kiva an easy to use site. Now it seems like more work than it's worth.

Restore Recent Activity! Abe, you wrote: "We also moved recent messages and latest activity higher up on the page to make these dynamic activities more prominent . . ." You seem to have forgotten that Recent Activity used to be right near the top of the page, the first section under the "About Us" part of the team page. Kiva MOVED Recent Activity to the bottom of the page, just a couple of weeks before the Feb 19th release. So you have not, in fact, made Recent Activity "more prominent." Instead, you first put it on the bottom of the page, and then you turned it into 12 tiny lines, in the bottom right corner, that no one can even see. I don't see how you can say that made the page, as a whole, less cluttered. I would like to see Recent Activity returned to the two rows of photos, with arrows from lenders to borrowers, that we had before. And, for the sake of tablet and smartphone users, I think you need to re-work the way the "reply," "delete" and "flag" buttons are positioned in the messages, and not make us hover over that area to see them. Too many accidental flags and deletes.

I hope that you are taking note that the vast majority of us who bothered to comment do not like the changes that you have made to this web page. We home that you will reconsider and make the modifications that so many have suggested. There is nothing that I could add to the comments. Therefore, "ditto, ditto, ditto..."

I don't like the changes to the Recent Activity section of the Message Board either. The old way was better with the loans running along the top, with two prominent photos of the lender and the lendee, the category description of the type of loan, the country, and the funding status. It was super easy to process and it was super easy to see if there were any loans I wanted to join or was still able to join if I wanted to join. This new message board is hard to read and too time consuming. I would be mostly satisfied if the recent activity was put back the way it was. The other changes I can learn to live with. But the change in the recent activity section has degraded my Kiva experience.

I think that reducing the amount of data on the team pages was helpful. I do not like the emphasis on teams and team members over loans being made. Specifically, I think it makes more sense to have to click on messages. I don't want to be bombarded when I don't have the time. Second, it is fine to keep the pictures of the lenders small, but emphasize the pictures and info of people being loaned to. I like to use team pages, like Give Green, to make quick loans that my fellow teammates support without wading through comments! I join some teams because that can make it easier to find specific kinds of loans. Finally, frequent changes can be irritating in and of themselves. Please find better ways to survey more lenders before implementing changes. Thanks.

Add new comment

Abe Wallin

Abraham has long believed in Kiva’s mission of addressing global poverty by creating relationships between individual lenders and borrowers. In 2011 he joined Kiva as the company’s first full time designer. He brings with him a steadfast belief that constantly creating is as important to humanity as eating and drinking. Prior to joining Kiva he worked at Electronic Arts, Wikia and as a freelance web and interactive designer. With over a decade of experience Abraham has designed and built a wide range of products including websites, video games and mobile applications. He most recently launched an iPhone app for fruits and vegetables called Farmanac.

Add Your Comments

LendingOnKiva