Confidently Guiding Retirees

Project: Retirement Calculator - Online Retirement Journey

Client: Standard Life Assurance Limited
Role: Design Consultant (Head of Design, NYSE Governance Services)

• UK Financial Services Experience Awards (Best New Product 2015, Best Use of Technology 2015)
• UK Customer Experience Awards (Best New Product: Making the Most of Technology, 2015)
• Technology Innovator Awards (Best Digital Retirement Planning Solutions, UK)
• Corporate Entrepreneur Awards (Best New Product, 2015)
• Technology Innovator Awards (Best Digital Retirement Planning Solution – UK)


The only tool of its kind (until competitors mimicked it about 18 months later), the Retirement Calculator not only allowed Standard Life UK to inform their customers and the public about large-scale regulatory changes as soon as they took effect, but also enabled SL customers to immediately act on new tax advantages by retiring entirely online. Over the course of one very high-paced year, my colleagues and I collaborated with experts across Standard Life House in Edinburgh to conceptualize, design, and build this journey in a way that was clear, navigable, and legal-department-approved. I loved the design consultant experience, and gained a ton of respect for Standard Life’s technology teams along the way.

In the first year after launch, over 33,000 people successful retired using this tool, and the feedback was incredibly positive. Plus, even though many of the specifics and options don’t actually apply here in the US, I now have a much more responsible approach to investing for retirement.

Final Output: Current Implementation

The key to our success was in advocating strongly for the user and distilling all of the complex and intimidating financial jargon into 3 “levels” of information:

  1. Signposting: call out a core retirement/financial concept

  2. Need to know: some details you should you be aware of about 1

  3. Deep dive: an opt-in avenue for further definition or guidance after reading 2

These levels, combined with dynamic feedback depending on specific user interactions, led to a clear hierarchy of information and defined areas for fine print. By working through just 3 web pages, even an uninformed user can fully explore their options when retiring (whether that’s a week away or 40 years from now), understand what it will mean for them long-term, and confidently transact (after log in) by putting that plan in place.

For users who needed more context up front, they could also begin by using the Retirement Pathfinder tool, which used branching logic to outline different retirement options based on a few questions.




pre-viz & Alpha Designs

A theme quickly emerged for how we could structure the flow of the journey: explore, then understand, then transact. The Alpha build was a quick-and-dirty clickable PDF prototype that allowed us to quickly A/B/C test the general approach


Beta Designs

The next pass involved much denser information/charts - anonymous user testing and another round of customer interviews helped suss out how much data and guidance was actually needed for customers to feel secure and informed. In the end, a simple split bar graph (versus layered line graphs over a timeline, which we had expected to be the clearest) conveyed what folks needed to understand about how much money could safely be taken out tax-free, and how it could be used a cash sum, investment, or income.

2015 Final BUild

The final build was extensively vetted by Standard Life’s excellent User Testing group, as well as other SL teams, our own dev and QA groups, legal review, and even (possibly the most challenging) the Standard Life brand team.

Incidentally, the version that went live for April 2015 (seen here) is an interesting artifact of SL UK’s since-backpedaled rebrand to a very purple and teal scheme.