The Knot Wedding Budget Tool

“Money Problems”

My last project at The Knot was redesigning the wedding budget tool. It was one of our older planning tools and it hadn’t received very much attention. Research over the last year had made it clear that both engaged couples and wedding vendors were frustrated and dissatisfied with it. I joined the planning tools team and kicked off this project about 6 weeks before the end of the half. The whole team was hungry to ship something impactful. With a lot of focus and prioritization we managed to overhaul the budgeter on an aggressive timeline and create a tool that delighted our users.

User Problem (Couples)

Wedding planning is stressful and complicated. Our goal is to empower anyone to plan their perfect wedding, no matter what their vision or budget is. However, engaged couples told us our current wedding budgeter (pictured below) made them feel particularly overwhelmed, pigeon-holed and “poor”.

Before: The existing budgeter tool with recommended percentages that set unrealistic expectations for interactions with wedding vendors and users said made them feel “overwhelmed” and even “poor”.
Competitive analysis of other wedding budget tools. A common thread we saw was that most of these tools were busy and complicated and felt a lot like the spreadsheets that many engaged couples opted to use instead.

User Problem (Vendors)

Our wedding vendors expect us to have high-budget, well informed couples and they feel let down/annoyed because couples are contacting them with unrealistic pricing expectations—due, in part, to being misguided by The Knot’s budgeter and other online wedding budget tools.

Business Problem

Retention and engagement with our wedding budget tool is much lower than we’d like it to be. How might we create a budgeter that meets our users needs and is something they want to use?

This is a tool released by The Knot’s then competitor, Wedding Wire, that wedding vendors often referenced when talking about how data-based tools can set unrealistic expectations for couples about how much their budget items should cost.

“3-Day” Design Sprint

My design team at The Knot had been discussing an article someone found about reworking the traditional weeklong design sprint into 3 days. Because this project was on a tight timeline, I decided to try an accelerated design sprint (we did it in about 2 days, with a little more flexibility for rapid prototyping). One of the key ideas that emerged from the sprint was empowering users through customization and displaying objective data, rather than “recommending” what they should do. We also explored the idea of “info-tainment” and using fun data visualization to make the user feel more in control and optimistic about their wedding budget.

Sketches from our 3-day design sprint. Many of the winning ideas focussed on “info-tainment” and interactions that could make budgeting feel more fun and like the user was in control.


Hypothesis 1 — If we provide users with market-specific guidance on how much couples spend on different vendors, users will be better equipped to allocate their personal budget with confidence. We will know this to be true when they express confidence in surveys, tests and/or interviews.

Hypothesis 2 — If we make allocation in the budgeter easier to customize and more about meeting a users unique preferences and priorities versus telling a user how much they should spend in an arbitrary one-size-fits-all way they will feel more empowered, less “poor”, and less stressed about their budget. We will know this to be true when they express positive sentiment in surveys, tests and/or interviews.

Hypothesis 3 — If the wedding budgeter does basic calculations, is simpler (easy to prioritize and organize) and easy to customize, couples will find it more useful and use it more. We will know this to be true by measuring engagement and retention.

Prototyping and User Testing

After some post-sprint prioritizing with my product manager, I took the next day and a half to build and user test an unbranded medium-fidelity prototype based on our core hypotheses. I ran unmoderated user tests on a set of 8 people who were engaged and currently planning their weddings.

When asked how the tool made them feel, users used words like “confident”, “organized”, “in-control”, “safe”, “happy”, “reassured” and “helps with my stress”. In contrast to research on our existing budgeter, not one user said they felt overwhelmed or stressed.

This was an encouraging signal. We attributed these results not only to the data visualization and objective tone, but also to the simplicity and bright colors. I intentionally carried those elements over into the final designs.

A white-labeled rapid prototype I built to test our hypotheses about exposing data to users. The results of the test were really encouraging and gave us a strong signal that we were headed in the right direction.

A “Magic Napkin”

I ended up communicating my strategy for how I wanted the new budgeter to feel by describing a “magic napkin”. What I meant was that I wanted to create something that felt as easy as jotting down some numbers on the back of a cocktail napkin, but all of a sudden it comes to life. My anti-goal was creating anything like a spreadsheet — users already had those, and we weren’t going to beat Excel. This tool was designed for users who want an easy, simple way to quickly visualize the money part of their wedding.

The new budget tool with only a max budget added.
We intentionally started the user out with nothing auto-filled so we were making no assumptions about how much they wanted to spend on their weddings. This put them in control of planning a wedding that was uniquely their own.
An example of the budget tool once it had “come to life”.
Budget item detail view with regional pricing data and a vendor a user has reported as booked through The Knot’s vendor management tool.

User Interviews: Vendors

When we began to review our in-progress designs with stakeholders, the team that manages The Knot’s relationship with wedding vendors was seriously concerned about how vendors would respond to our use of data from real weddings in our budgeter. This was based on the negative reaction vendors had to a data-based feature that one of our competitors had launched (see Business Problem, above). Showing data was essential to the success of our strategy, so we needed a better signal to help us understand how our data visualization would make vendors feel.

We conducted a set of user interviews with vendors from our Colorado market segment using a prototype I made with actual data from that market. The results were that vendors were not as upset as some of us had thought they’d be. The participants said the data looked accurate. The reality of the market made some of them sigh, but they said that if more couples were exposed to this data it would actually make their jobs easier.

Another takeaway was that vendors were more comfortable with the data if it was portrayed as objective data, not editorial recommendations. We used these learnings to refine our content strategy for how we labeled and spoke about the data to users.

Budget item detail views from a prototype using real wedding data from The Knot’s Colorado market segment. We used these in interviews with a sample set of Colorado-based wedding vendors in order to gauge vendor sentiment about exposing objective data to engaged couples.
A budgeting form field component I designed and contributed to our design system based on The Knot’s universal form field pattern.
The budget tool on mobile web.


Throughout the design process we received qualitative signals of positive sentiment among both couples and vendors. After launching, the team saw an increase in engagement with the tool, and fewer users abandoned the tool after trying it. Post-launch qualitative tests and surveys also showed a decrease in users feeling like our budgeter was overwhelming or prescriptive.

The strategy we developed for data visualization paved the way for leveraging our rich real weddings data throughout The Knot’s website and app, to give couples useful, relevant information about weddings in their area, without making them feel like The Knot was making assumptions about them or telling them what their perfect wedding should be.

Screen capture of the budget tool in progress.