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🏠 Simply Smiles

⏰ Oct 2021 - May 2022
👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Team

Project Manager: Tyler Calabrese

Tech Lead: Zayyad Yunus

Designer: An Ho

Developers: Austen Money, Hamza Ali, Jonathan Liu, Thomas Lai, Loc Mai, Anya Bhatia, Pablo Duran, Llona Lahdesmaki, Matt Hui

👩‍💻 My role

Conduct primary and secondary research

Develop wireframe and high-fi design

Conduct user-testings

Manage UI defects

About Simply Smile

Simply Smiles (SS) is a non-profit organization that builds and manages children’s villages that allow Indigenous children who have been separated from their birth parents to remain in their home community. 

🌋 Problem

The current process of submitting expenses for parents and reviewing them for SS admin is time-consuming and prone to error

SS is opening a new home in South Dakota. With the rising amount of homes and parents, they need a more efficient way to keep track of their expenses, both for reimbursement and tax purposes.

🏆 Goal


Our goal is to simplify the process of:

     1. Submitting expenses on the foster parent side

     2. Reviewing expenses on the admin side

A budgeting iOS application for foster parents &
an expense tracking web platform for Simply Smile accountant
💰 Spending consciously
  • Manage budget effectively with a visualized overview 

  • Log expense in only 60 seconds

  • Notifications come only when you need them

🐙 Multiple accounts? Easy
  • Manage all households in the format that all accountants have known and love - Excel table

  • Export report in the format of your desire

  • Get notified about cost overruns in real-time

Stakeholder and User Interviews


I’ve conducted interviews with Stephanie, Simply Smiles head accountant, and 2 current parents to understand the current expense management workflow and their expectations for the upcoming platforms.

From the conversation, with the help of persona and journey map, I identified some significant patterned behaviors that lead to the ineffectiveness of the current process.

Parents spend without knowing exactly how much they have left in their budget.
It take the head parent 1.5hr/week to process expenses.

Errors are most likely to happen when SS admin enters data from emails into the Excel template since each home uses a different format.

Overrun happen frequently because the admin are only got notified at once a month.

💫 Ideation Workshop

Based on the behaviors, pain points, and goals that we have gathered, I have identified 4 main opportunities and summarized them in the How Might We format for the ideation workshop.

How might we help parents log expenses quickly and accurately?
How might we help them know exactly how much to spend?
How might we automate the data entry process?
How might we notify the admin about overrun timely?

To gather as many ideas as possible, we organize an ideation workshop with the participation of SS accountants, our project manager, and our tech lead. We used the Crazy Eight activity to gather as many ideas as possible and then evaluate each base on their level of effort and impact.


The chosen ideas from the workshop act as a solid base for me to design the key features.

💥 Major Design Decision
iOS Application
1. Review budgets as you go

  • Cost overrun was the biggest problem in the current process. To limit this issue, parents need to be more aware of the remaining budget.

  • Putting the balance near the Continue button will allow parents to compare their spending with the budget without having to exit the flow.

4. Add expense with 1 click

Having the add expense button placed on the menu bar allows parents to log new expenses conveniently, no matter what screen they were on.

2. Customize notification
  • Budgeting apps don’t work because it's too easy to ignore

  • Since the parents only go shopping once or twice per week, they will only need to log expenses on those days

3. Review! Review! Review

Parents cannot edit the expense by themselves after they have submitted it. To limit data entry errors, it’s necessary to have a review step before submission


Admin Web
1. Match with the real world
  • Since the accountant is familiar with the table/Excel format, it’s best to maintain that design for the website view. 

  • By doing this, the accountant won’t have to spend lots of  time learning a new display and finding information

2. Flag budget overrun
  • When there is a budget overrun, the account listing will turn red and along with a warning icon in real-time

  • This will provide a clear visual cue for the accountant and mark the exact account that needs their attention.

📈 Major Design Improvements

To gather feedback, I conducted 3 user testing sessions with 2 SS accountants, 1 session with 2 SS parents, and 1 public review and make design changes accordingly.
iOS Application
1. Simplify budget view

  • The #1 feedback that we got is that the home page is too busy. Some information is not necessary and it does not help the parents make decisions quickly.

  • The new design clearly displays the budget status and flag overrun categories.

2. Edit receipt photo

When going shopping, parents do not only shop for SS, but for themselves as well.


Because of this, they will often need to make notes and crop the receipt photos so that the pictures only include SS expenses. 


Admin Web
1. Improve color contrast
  • Adding a different color to the side menu helps make the layout of the page more distinguishable

  • SS accountants use an older Window display modal so the screen contrast is not prominent

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2. Remove the card-view

SS accounts reviewed that they would not use the card view feature because it’s very hard for them to locate the houses and the information are spatial.

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💫 Key learnings

Overall, I think I did a good job at understanding the customer's needs and delivering the end result quickly and effectively. However, if I were to do the project again, I would be mindful to:

1. Manage stakeholder’s expectations

While the Crazy 8 activity did help me to gather excellent ideas, I will need to do a better job at emphasizing the development and time limit of the project at the beginning of the workshop. Because I encourage them to think of “crazier ideas”, I unintentionally let the stakeholders’ expectations grow greater than what we can provide.

2. Make accessibility become an instinct


Constantly check for visibility, contrast, accessibility of all component designs from the beginning of the design, not just at the end.