Anant Saxena is a Senior Engineering Leader who has led numerous teams in the development of mobile and web products, and he delights in handling especially complex projects.
In today’s interview, we’ll be focusing on just one of his many successful projects, but it’s also safe to say that this was one of the most important.
In case you aren’t already familiar, Mint is a FinTech app centered on budget management, and it comes from Intuit, which is easily one of the largest and most influential FinTech companies in the world.
Saxena was chosen to lead a complete redesign of Mint. The app was about ten years old at the time, and there were several key metrics that needed improvement.
So Saxena and his team went to work, beginning a months-long process that would lead to major improvements in the app itself, which would of course result in a better experience for users.
Spoiler: the project was a great success, even earning Saxena and his team a Webby Award for Best Software/App, which is no small feat in such a crowded field.
The interview below is for anyone who’s ever wondered what it really takes to head world-class software development for a major company. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not always straightforward, but with an expert at the helm, great things are possible.
We’d like to ask about your work on the Mint redesign. First, what were the major goals of this redesign?
Saxena: For the customer experience, we wanted to provide a rich native experience that could help them drive better financial habits and help them save more money while looking to ‘do no harm.’ Making changes at the scale we were attempting is risky, and historically, plans like this have had to be rolled back.
Our goal was to keep the following metrics flat:
Week 1 and Month 1 retention. Why? Our plan was to simplify the app to drive growth for new customers. Maintaining retention in the first week and month is critical to longer-term retention.
The other major metric was incremental app store ratings. Why? App store ratings indicate how our new and existing customers feel about the app as a whole.
And lastly, PRS, or product recommendation score. How customers feel about the app covers gauges sentiment for our existing customer base.
So, what was the timeline for this project from start to finish? Were there any unforeseen delays?
Saxena: The ideation and design started sometime in January 2020, and the first release of the re-designed app was launched in December 2020. Development started in February of 2020 as the teams were formed after coming up with the technical roadmap of things that needed to be delivered before we could launch.
There were unforeseen delays in April as the work for certain sections of the app proved more complicated than we expected at the beginning.
What was one of the most challenging elements to overhaul?
Saxena: On the product side, the team was faced with a classic innovator’s dilemma. How do we change the product so that we can grow and appeal to a larger audience while appeasing our loyal customers who have been with us for years and are resistant to change?
On the engineering side, Mint was a 10-year-old app that was very monolithic in nature, so to re-design every experience is not as simple as changing it in one place and everything magically improves. It required breaking the monolithic code base into smaller modules so that each team could work on it in parallel and bring it to life. This also involved rearchitecting complex areas of the product and required an engineering investment and buy-in from the product team.
In what ways did your previous experience with mobile development contribute to this project?
Saxena: I was the engineering leader for a product called Turbo for almost two years, and while leading the team, we modernized the tech stack and modularized the code base so that teams across different locations could work together.
While leading the teams across different time zones for the Turbo product, I also drove innovation in technology by creating mobile data layers and automated beaconing. Because of all the work on the Turbo mobile app, I was chosen to lead the Mint redesign project as all of the above was needed to bring this to reality.
How large was the team working on this project?
Saxena: The team was over 80 people including different functions like engineering, design, product management, and marketing, located across India and the United States.
This redesign earned you a Webby Award. How did that feel?
Saxena: The Webby Award was a team award for the Mint app, and it felt too good to be true as it was a massive project and touched every part of the experience. Honestly, I never expected an award, but once we received one, I felt very proud of what I drove and what we delivered to our customers.
Following launch, what was the user response to the redesign like?
Saxena: User response was very positive. Customers loved the new design while making all the accounts easy to see at once, and the graphs and animations were very easy to understand, driving better financial habits for our customers.
In terms of metrics, our plan was to simplify the Mint app to drive growth for new customers. Maintaining retention in the first week and month is critical to longer-term retention. We delivered the results we intended across all primary metrics, i.e., Week 1 Retention, incremental App Store ratings, and the product recommendation score.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Mike Schuck on November 4th, 2022. It may be periodically updated to reflect corrections and updates.