Modernizing a Financial Giant



Principal designer
UX Researcher




User flows
User stories
Site map
Figma components
High-fidelity mockups


I was a customer of Vanguard's for years and I slowly built up a resentment for the terrible UX that I experienced on their (old) product. This project was the result of asking a simple question: "What would this look like if it didn't suck?"


Product Lacks Basic Usability

After using Vanguard’s desktop site semi-regularly for over 2 years, I still wasn’t able to remember how to complete very basics tasks.

After hearing from other users that were experiencing similar issues, I knew it was a wide-spread problem. This design exercise explores the question if I were given freedom to re-design Vanguard’s investing platform, how could I increase usability and create a more enjoyable experience for users?


A Value-Driven Redesign

Vanguard stands out in that market because of their business philosophy. Customer’s come to Vanguard because they know that they are doing business with a smart, reliable company and I needed the new design to reflect those values.

Vanguard's core values

  • Balance - Develop a suitable asset location using broadly diversified funds

  • Goals - Create clear, appropriate investment goals

  • Cost - The lower your costs, the greater your share of an investment's return

  • Discipline - Maintain perspective and long-term discipline

To avoid losing focus on these core values through this project, I formulated user stories that lined up with each of Vanguard's core values. These user stories would become the focus of my user testing and provide a measure of whether the project had been successful or not.

Values → User Stories

Additional User Stories

  • As a user I would like to easily log in in to my account

  • As a user I would like to check which stocks I own

  • As a user I would like to check how a specific stock is performing

  • As a user I would like to buy and add a stock to my portfolio


Uncovering User's Pain Points

In order to provide any sort of meaningful measure of success for the changes I would make with this project, I needed to establish a baseline for the existing website through user testing. During this period of testing, the following common pain points stood out:

Weak Organization

Users were regularly confused when trying to find basic functions. There was a serious lack of design consistency which added to the confusion.

Only 20% of Users Could Even Buy a Stock

Given the task to "buy a stock" users had an 80% abandonment rate.

No Mention of Goals

Even though goal-setting is a core value for Vanguard, there is currently no feature for users to set goals for their investments.

Information Architecture

Organizing Mountains of Information

The entire platform has hundreds of links. Although the entire experience hasn’t been entirely fleshed out in my final prototype, I feel like I’ve accounted for the vast majority of actual functions on the site with the core information architecture I mapped out below:

Vanguard site-map


Sketches → Prototype


Was it All Worth It?

Overall, I was very happy with the results of testing this new redesign with users. The same tasks that used to frustrate and confuse, now seemed intuitive and straightforward for users. Some highlights from the redesign's testing:

Finally Able to Buy Stocks

100% of users (5/5) were able to complete the task of buying a new stock for their portfolio.

Consistency Across the Board

Establishing a consistent use of design elements and components removed a layer of confusion that was present with the old design.

Information At a Glance

Users said that they had all the information that they would need in order to make informed investment decisions.



Lessons Learned

Planning. I seriously under-estimated how much work this project was going to be. Breaking this project into smaller pieces to wrap my head around was key to managing the amount of time I put into this project.

  • Establish KPIs. Being able to directly measure the impact of my designs is one of the main reasons I love UX design. Before throwing myself at any future projects I make sure I have proper KPIs in place to measure my success or lack thereof.

  • Future projects. Going forward I want my side projects to focus more on collaborating with others in a real-world environment. Solo design projects help to hone my craft, but I know I will be learn at a much faster pace as I focus on larger projects.