Skip to Content’s Aaron Patzer explains the importance of a simple and objective user experience in design


I blogged in my investment blog some time last week pointing to readers a business example of why Mint was able to become a more valuable personal finance company compared to Wesebe.

I used Quicken for 7 years and have around 7 years of Quicken data and sad to say I am pretty much tied in to it.

This is where Quicken’s parent is a good company to invest in as for a user like me its difficult to switch to another platform unless it promise that it will have no problems importing my 7 years of data.

But one thing Quicken fared badly is that, they come out with  a new version every year, yet you can’t tell the freaking difference between each version.

To make matters worse, it requires some intellect to start using this Quicken to help you.

That is probably why took off. It got so successful that Quicken’s owner bought it up. And now’s owner is task with correcting the so call problems he highlighted in the first place.

What’s the difference between online management startup and personal finance software Quicken?

“Quicken, before, looked like it was from 1996. Imagine that you were going through a castle of 100 rooms, and it’s got all of these loops in it and hidden stairways. And the first time you go through, someone asks you to find the library on the third floor. You’d say, I have no idea where it is, I can’t remember,” says Aaron Patzer, Mint’s founder. “Quicken was designed like that before. It had all these loops: You could get to certain features through multiple different directions, which you might think is convenient. It actually makes it much more difficult to build a mental model of the software, which is what everyone implicitly does.”

For years, Patzer has been airing his frustrations with Quicken and similar services such as Microsoft Money. He says these frustrations were a central reason for starting Mint, which now boasts 4 million users, and was also a central reason for Intuit’s $170 million acquisition of his company last year.

“When Intuit acquired us, they said, I heard you’ve been talking trash about Quicken for a while, so why don’t you go fix what you think the problems are,” Patzer explains.

Since then, Patzer and his team have dramatically overhauled–or Mint-ified–Intuit’s product, streamlining a slew of Quicken features and making it more visually digestible. Big changes included a simplified account setup; an iTunes-like color scheme; infographics; advanced search, sorting, and resizable columns; gradients; nearly doubling the accuracy of transaction categorization; more than doubling the amount of accessible banks; and refining under-the-hood specs with Mint’s back-end.

“As far as the vision on where the navigation should go, what features should be highlighted, which should be deleted, which should be omitted, which should be enhanced, I did that myself, in one weekend actually,” Patzer says. After all, he’s been reflecting on his frustrations with Quicken for years, and lists them off with ease: “In the past, you had to select, do I want Express Web Connect, Web Connect, or Direct Web Connect? No one knew what those meant. They meant, do you want to use a direct OFX connection, do you want to download QIF files, or do you want to use a screen scraping connection? No one should care about the difference. It should just be: get me the information from my bank.”

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