Redesigning Wesabe


In November of 2006, we launched the Wesabe site after about two years of talking about it, figuring out what it was going to become, and then building it, one piece at a time. Wesabe was the first of what are now known as “Social Personal Finance” sites, and we didn’t have anything to guide us except the history of Quicken — from which we were explicitly trying to get away. Wesabe was new and the idea was new, and that meant we had to make it up as we went along.

We spent a lot of the year leading up to Wesabe’s launch sitting in our cramped, informal office (in the back of a clothing store owned by my co-founder, Jason, and his wife) sketching, arguing, trying things out, and getting the pieces to fit together. With the graphic and UI design of the site, much of that process took place between me and Jeff, the site’s original designer, sitting in front of the gigantic monitor in his office. We essentially “pair programmed” the design, which helped me enormously as the product engineer, even if it sometimes frustrated Jeff’s better aesthetic instincts.

Now that the Wesabe site has been live for almost two and a half years, we’ve taken a chance to go back to our initial design and redo it, incorporating what we’ve learned since launch, and letting Magera, our designer, have the lead. It has been a chance for us to clean up some of our mistakes, make the site easier to use all around, and introduce a new standard of design for our site. Where with the first design I was extremely controlling about every little piece, this time I told Magera, “Make something you would like” — and it turns out we all like what she likes. ๐Ÿ™‚


Wesabe’s whole site has been completely redesigned — every page is different. Rather than having a developer-led UI, this is designer-led development, and we’re all extremely happy with the result. We hope you will be, too — and please do let us know what you think.

(Note: As part of this launch, we’ve disabled or minimized some of our site’s features to get the simplest version out the door that we could. Some of the site’s graphs, export and search features, and side features like Wesabe Mail and Wesabe Cutback will be offline for a short while. They will be coming back very soon. Our Tips and Goals tabs are on the blocks for more major revisions — those will both return but in different forms. At the same time, Paul has completely revised the new User Manual, so we now have substantial and valuable online help for almost all of the site’s features. We’ve also added in some long-time requests from our community, such as spending target histories so you can go over your budget for months past, and a tag cloud that takes into account how much you spend on each tag.)

40 Responses to “Redesigning Wesabe”

  1. Slarioux Says:

    It looks incredible. I have a lot of minor issues, but i’ll hold the nagging for a few days. I’m pretty sure the rest of the Wesabeans will report them happily to you =)

  2. Marc Hedlund Says:

    Thanks, Slarioux. We’ve gotten comments on currency issues, some iPhone trouble, and text readability. If there are other things, let us know!

  3. Sergi Says:

    Congratulations, it looks great. I have the currency issues, but for such a big change it’s completely natural to have some minor bugs.

    Thanks and keep up the hard work!

  4. Jonathan Says:

    Just signed up earlier today after stumbling upon Wesabe – mainly for the simple graphs and the quick sequential data entry! I was uploading accounts and surprised when I refreshed and the whole designed changed – looks very nice though.

    Will it be long before we can view a graph of each tag again? And pie charts of spending proportion? Editing existing tags?

    Also each time I edit a transactions name/tag the whole list refreshes/rebuilds instead of letting you jump to the next in the list – is this a temporary glitch? If not that might be a major one for me…

    Can’t believe I’m asking so many questions a few minutes after launch (it’s 10.30pm here in NZ) – I work in design for financial websites and know it’s not easy!!

  5. Marc Hedlund Says:

    Jonathan – I definitely agree on the whole list refresh — that will be fixed very soon.

    And yes, pie charts and tag graphs will be returning as soon as we’re able. We wanted to take out anything we knew wasn’t working right before launch to try to pare down to the essentials, then build up again from there.

    Thanks for the feedback, all.

  6. David Wynn Says:

    After you guys announced the Springboard, I was wondering how long it would take to roll some of the changes to the rest of the site. Looks like you guys did a great job.

  7. Jonathan Says:

    Great – thanks for the response Marc. Look forward to the updates. I can already see little things being fixed even as I’m entering stuff…

  8. Mark Says:

    I hope the pie graphs which broken down spending and income by tag will be back they were invaluable.

    Also I can’t enter new transactions now into my Cash account, when I try and then hit save the transaction disappears off into the ether never to be seen again. Also there also appears to be some difficulty apply permanent tags (I didn’t even get the option the 2nd transaction I entered. I liked the old method where you had 2 fields, one for stickied tags and one for one-off tags.

    Other than these problems (which are significant) the site does look better.

  9. Marc Hedlund Says:

    Mark – pie charts will definitely be back very soon.

    New transactions in cash accounts is one we’re working on right this minute. Should be fixed shortly.

    We have changed the tag model to make it simpler, but it requires some explanation — I’ll post about it later.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  10. Matt Says:

    Guys, I started with Wesabe in the early days and migrated elsewhere over time because of better offerings for interface design (I’m big on easy-to-use, well streamlined design). It was sad, but it had to happen.

    However, this new Wesabe is definitely migrate-to-able. This is beautiful, clean, simple, and gives you what you need *up front.* Magera, thank God for you.

    Well done, guys. ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely blogging/tweeting about this.

  11. mikehd Says:

    Nice start, but what’s with the washed out color palette? It’s purty but teal on white? Not exactly ergo friendly.

    Also, no more one time tags?? No more auto math on split tags? Please explain the new tag system, I thought that I had finally grasped the nuances of the old one.

    Give us a button or method to force synching up with accounts. The little arrow graphic doesn’t move to indicate any action and there is no obvious way to see time since last synch.

    GUI design is hard work. Despite my comments above, I’m glad Wesabe isn’t sitting back on it’s laurels. The direction looks great, just needs tuning.

  12. Jessica Says:

    I think it’s horrible. The number one way to lose users is to totally re-format the whole site. I am very adept at using the web and I can’t figure out how to use this new format.

    I’m all for good design, but NOT at the loss of clean functionality.

  13. techrulz Says:

    Wow, what a change! I think I like it overall, but agree with the remark that colors could be more “high contrast” for those with visual impairments. For me the teal “washes out” a bit and my husband couldn’t read it at all! I miss the reports, especially the ability to list only transactions that still need tags.
    Also, I hope we will be able to pick which accounts we want to show up on the “master transaction list” on the home screen.
    I had trouble figuring out the split tags before – perhaps they’ll be easier in the new version?
    Will the phone version have any changes? It’d be nice to do a little editing of tags, at least, on my Motorola…
    Thanks for all the hard work!

  14. LP Says:

    The new layout *looks* good at first glance, but color scheme is very hard to read. Also, I agree with the complaints above about the tagging system — the system decided to apply autotagging where I didn’t tell it to, and wiped out alot of other tags I had used for the same merchant. It would have been a great idea to put a large notice on the home page letting users know that some functions are down now, but will be back. Even better, maybe allow people to switch back to the old version until these significant bugs are resolved.

  15. jonathan Says:

    Aah – thought the new top nav bar looked familiar….

  16. Marc Hedlund Says:

    @jonathan – you’re right that bar is similar, but it is similar to a lot of things – when I first saw it, I thought of:

    I do think menu bars will wind up looking similar no matter what, and I think Magera and the developers have created a lot of unique work in the process.

  17. graham Says:

    Hmm for such a drastic change, it might have been a good idea to release a limited beta preview, or even some screenshots, for some feedback from your loving users before committing head-first to the redesign.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the new features roll out… My biggest hope is that you’ve enhanced the tools to view and analyze financial data.


  18. Arteme Says:

    Um – it is pretty, but I’m here due to financial hardship that I need to track – daily. Right now, it looks like I can’t even upload?? (Can anyone confirm/deny)?

    I’m disappointed and a bit disoriented. Please, get functionality back! I love Wesabe – it’s been a source of order out of confusion!

  19. Elizabeth Says:

    I am also having problems with the new site. My accounts aren’t loading!

  20. Marc Hedlund Says:

    Hi all,

    We know there are some issues outstanding and we’re working to get those fixed. Sorry for the trouble, and we’ll post here with updates. Thanks again for all the kind words about the new look.

  21. John Walker Says:

    What are you playing at? I agree with Arteme. You have sacrificed function for the sake of form. Crucial function I need today, not next week.

    Please sort this out urgently. I don’t give 2 pins what it looks like – and I am a designer – I come here to make sense of a bad situation and finding I can’t get the information I need is going to make me look stupid.

  22. Hugh Says:

    I also like the way it looks now, but I’m unable to use it any longer without considerable difficulty.

    For one thing, although I can sign in easily by going to, the Firefox uploader refuses to accept my password. That means I’m forced to upload account data manually. That’s a time-consuming process, and worse, I often find it difficult to proceed to the upload command for the next account.

    I hope these problems will be ironed out soon.

  23. Jeff Says:

    Love your product, and glad to see you are re-working but as a developer I must agree that there should be a more gradual transition, in particular if major functionality (first I not is by-tag-reporting) is going to be shelved (even if temporarily)

    Also think the colors are pretty as a palette but higher contrast is essential to usability

  24. Mark Says:

    Greetings Wesabers,

    Nothing like a stream of opinions and rants to start off your redesign, right?

    I’m not sure I speak for a majority, but function was over form in your last design, and although it had a one-dot-oh feel, there’s two benefits it had: speed and ease. Looks like you guys looked over at and got UI envy – at the expense of a completely new look with previous features “to come.” Huh? Never have launched a site “incomplete” from a previous version.

    What I liked about Wesabe over Mint (I use both) was Wesabe was the ugly version that was simply faster and simpler, and it won me over for function. Without the function (and key missing features from the previous version, such as one-time and split tags), along with the harder-to-read UI and layout (which is eerily similar to Mint), I…might…as…well..go…to…Mint. I don’t want to. Really. But if I’m going to get web 2.0, I might as well go there.

    I’m not sure if the majority of us feel this way. You can either go the way of Yahoo (who redesigned their my-dot section, half hated it, and they just allowed users to choose which design to use – the old or the new) or the way of Zuckerberg (a la Facebook-I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks-we-do-it-our-way).

    For me, Wesabe is useless without one-time and split tags. I haven’t even tried to update accounts (sounds like there’s a problem there), and I use Wesabe for business accounting needs. Unless you reinstitute one-times and splits, I’m screwed and will have to manually compile my expense reports – which actually could be done at Mint.

  25. Marc Hedlund Says:

    Hey, Mark,

    We definitely didn’t redesign based on any other site — we designed based on what we wanted, and trying to make the site better overall, which the vast majority of the feedback we’ve gotten says we have.

    We won’t take either the Yahoo or Facebook approaches. We definitely do care what people say and think about the site, and will definitely be making changes based on what we’ve heard as complaints and suggestions. I don’t think you’ll have to choose “ugly but functional” or “pretty but useless” — you can have a well-designed site that has all the functionality you need.

    Also, we definitely did not remove one-time tags or splits. Both are still there. I’ll write a separate post talking about tags to better explain how to use the new setup.

    Thanks for letting us know what you think — sorry you’re unhappy with the change, but I think you’ll be a lot happier once some early bugs are fixed and you have a clearer explanation for how to do all the stuff you were able to do on our site before.

  26. “Spending Time”: Online Money Management, Currently Says:

    […] Wesabe has a new look. Check out their blog post here for the details. It has been a chance for us to clean up some of our mistakes, make the site easier to use all around, and introduce a new standard of design for our site. Where with the first design I was extremely controlling about every little piece, this time I told Magera, โ€œMake something you would likeโ€ โ€” and it turns out we all like what she likes. […]

  27. Feeling-vulnerable Wesabe user Says:

    Ok, figured out one-time tags. Got it. Don’t understand it, but got it. Can I not view tag category by month? And are data downloads gone too?

  28. Realign over redesign Says:

    I’m a little disappointed with the redesign. Sure it looks great, but you should never remove functionality in favour of eye-candy. I feel a better approach would have been to rollout the whole thing at once so functionality was not reduced (albeit temporarily) OR do continual incremental design realigns so that functionality stays in place and people are not disorientated. I think you choice was the worst of both worlds. But I look forward to what wesabe will become.

  29. rob Says:

    The new design is terrible.

    (1) The previous design was bright, cheery and fast. The new design is harder on the eyes, has all of the fun and charm of a paper ledger, and is so slow and disruptive it is hard to believe it saw any usability testing at all.

    (2) Where once it was very obvious that a transaction needed to be tagged or edited, now there is just a little pencil. But if you hover over any transaction with the mouse, it ALSO has a little pencil, which confuses things. Where once I could just click “unedited” and get a big open list that I could edit, now I need to click each transaction, wait, edit the tags, wait, and then wait another two+ seconds while the ENTIRE accounts display refreshes itself and I lose my context.

    (3) Basic other stuff is broken. Hitting the tab key causes the window to scroll up to the top (using firefox3).

    If the UI had been like this when I tried it, I probably would not have signed up and started using it. The experience was once streamlined and efficient, and is now a clicky multistep mess.

  30. rob Says:

    And why is “last updated” now gone in the display? If you use a manually uploaded account, this was useful to know how stale the data was.

  31. rob Says:

    And why must we resort to forcing the user to click the itty bitty pencil icon instead of the giant row that is the transaction?

  32. rob Says:

    Uploading not apparently working for balances (upload shows the deductions, but the balance in the accounts left hand sidebar still shows the pre-upload amount).

    The “refresh” button in the accounts list has no feedback and it isn’t clear if it actually does anything.

  33. Katie Says:

    I’ve been a Wesabe user for nearly 2 years and loved it. I don’t get this new redesign I can’t find anything I really need and can’t even find all my spending for the month it only shows up the targets. Don’t understand tag etc etc. I’m okay if you want to redesign the site, but at least give us a how to use it post or a help button to explain it. I’ve spend hours trying to figure it out and just am getting frustrated.

    Please help!

  34. Marc Hedlund Says:


    The redesigned Spending/Earnings Summaries are just down for repairs and will be back very shortly.

    I just posted a description of the new tagging system here:

    Does that help?

  35. Pearl Says:

    I think I like this new update but the fonts are so blurry!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It’s so hard to read anything. I’m on a PC, Windows Vista, running Firefox. The fonts in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer look fuzzy too. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  36. Richie Says:

    I just logged into wesabe and my first reaction was interesting they’ve redesigned.

    More in depth:
    * I think it is pretty clean
    * I like the arrow thing when you click an account, linking it to the right. I think it might be nice to re-use that when you’re mousing over, to make it obvious what clicking is going to do, but not sure.
    * I couldn’t figure out how to view transactions from all my accounts. I just did by clicking “My Accounts”. I originally had written here: “That bothers me since I have multiple accounts in wesabe, and am interested in the summary of all of them, not any particular one.” but now that I found it I think it should be much more obvious that “My Accounts” is a link
    * I don’t have any idea what the refresh icon on my accounts does. I clicked it and nothing seemed to happen
    * I can’t figure out how to get back to the main page and see my spending/earning summary (just figured it out after 5 min that you click the home icon, maybe put Overview instead?).
    * Where did my pie of spending go? That was the main thing I used in Wesabe…
    * No group search?

    I think once the old removed features get put back in it’ll be a nice change. It seems nice that you can do a lot of things from the one screen.

  37. Arteme Says:

    Hi –

    I just wanted to post a further reply to my earlier post.

    **Now that the uploading seems to be working again, I quite like the new design!** ๐Ÿ˜€

    One further bit of feedback I have is that I can’t seem to upload in IE7, only in FireFox.

    Oh – and I miss the “last uploaded” info that used to be in the accounts summary section.

    I guess that’s 2 pieces of feedback. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for a great product that has been a real lifeline for me!


  38. Nimnio Says:

    I came after the redesign, i.e. I just signed up yesterday, and my reaction is mixed. However, I’m pleased overall and am confident that the Wesabe developers are working hard to make things better (my confidence is bolstered by this thorough blog post and enthusiastic, if frustrated, users).

    However… I did find this interview:

    eHub: Do you have a business model? If so, what is it?
    Wesabe: We plan to generate revenue via monthly subscription fees for premium-level memberships, which will be introduced later this year.
    (Posted April 13, 2007)

    I’m open to paying for what seems to be shaping into a great service, but what’s the new time-line on this?

  39. Kate Says:

    Am I the only one Wesabe is frustratingly slow for? It’s so slow I just want to quit and walk away. Loading is slow, scrolling is slow, waiting for the edit window to come up is slow…

    And how are you supposed to update your account. The little circle keeps spinning, but doesn’t seem to ever get anywhere. That’s probably why everything is running so slowly.

    And it’s not like my computer is old and crappy. It’s 6-month old quad core…

  40. Jessica Says:

    My accounts have not been able to refresh since May 18th. The arrow just keeps going around and around and around…..???

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