Web UI

Case Studies: Fidelity Investments


In 1998 the retirement services division of Fidelity Investments determined that NetBenefits, their flagship web application that provides customer access to 401k retirement savings accounts, needed to be updated.

At that point in time, NetBenefits had reached the one million customers milestone, and Fidelity, being a market leader in the uses of technology, wanted the application redesigned to make it as easy as possible for its customers to use.

Having designed the user interfaces for two financial planning tools for Fidelity that had been deployed within NetBenefits in the previous year, I was asked to lead the user interface redesign of NetBenefits. I worked closely with a very savvy business analyst and met on a regular basis with business managers in charge of the project.

Design Activities

NetBenefits enables 401k retirement account customers to access information and perform transactions within their investment accounts. Examples include:

The first version of NetBenefits utilized a navigation structure organized around a home page, which allowed users to select various sections of the application corresponding to account information categories or features that would allow setting of parameters or manipulation of investment funds.

There were two main challenges that we faced:

A considerable amount of time was spent in researching how users sought to use the available features, and what their main goals were in using the application. This involved task-flow analysis to determine the main task contexts, and also to uncover where the new navigation scheme could interfere with transactional sets of tasks.


The new design handled transactions in such a way that the navigation options we were adding to most pages (such as information-only pages) were removed from transactional pages in order to enforce a different paradigm of interaction.

This alternative paradigm allowed users to either move step-by-step through the transaction or to cancel it at any point and return to the page from which they had entered into the transaction.

Through two rounds of usability testing in Fidelity’s state of the art Human Interface Design Lab, we were able to determine that users understood the navigation structure and could easily find the options they were looking for.

The resulting design, deployed in June of 1999, was cited in a September 2000 New York Times article, which stated that “57 percent of the contacts made by retirement-account customers have come online this year, compared with 16 percent in 1998.”