User Needs Assignment

Bill Share

Vincent DeChacus, Josh Leaverton, Alison Smith, Michael Whidby



I. Interviews and Initial Task List

The Bill Share team interviewed a number of people who are currently using other methods to perform bill sharing among roommates, or don’t yet have a successful method and would be willing to use an application to alleviate some of their issues. The following is an outline of the interviews and an initial set of tasks for our application.

A. Interviews

  1. A 22 year old male who currently lives with 3 other people in a house off campus.
    1. Splitting periodic bills with his roommates is currently handled through his father. He has all the bills for the house shipped to his parent’s house. Then his dad calculates the split and then emails each of the roommates for what they owe.
      1. This system doesn’t work so well as it places a lot of extra work on his father
      2. Places all the responsibility on a single party if someone doesn’t pay.
      3. Can become quite complicated when someone over pays (keeping track of a credit towards future rent)
    2. Splitting other things such as food and non-periodic bills isn’t really done at all since they don’t have any system of doing it.
      1. His roommates all do their own grocery shopping and even though they share food they don’t have any system of keeping track of what each other is buying which often leads to an excess.
    3. As far as splitting bills with other people goes he currently uses a one person pays system.
      1. No actual record or any paper involved.
      2. Uses a trust system and often times things go forgotten even if they don’t mean too
  2. A 19 year old male who currently lives with 4 other people in an on campus apartment.
    1. Splitting periodic bills with his roommates is already handled by the campus system so he doesn’t really have to worry about this in anyway
    2. Splitting non periodic bills though can be a little more complex. Currently has no system to split food bills or other cosmetics so can often lead to an excess or a deficit of supplies
      1. Doesn’t like this system because it really doesn’t let you take full advantage of being roommates if you can’t split the costs of such things
    3. Splitting bills with non roommates is currently handled on paper or by the inconvenience of splitting checks.
      1. Can be extremely inconvenient and difficult to figure out if people all owe different amounts
  3. A 25 year old female currently living with 3 other people in an apartment in DC.
    1. She handles the splitting of periodic bills most of the time.
      1. She doesn’t really enjoy this system as it’s hard for her to keep track of the multiple due dates for different bills
      2. Her roommates have very different schedules so it can also sometimes be inconvenient or difficult to find them in order to remind them of bill due dates
    2. Splitting non periodic bills are also handled by her
      1. She mostly has to handle things such as groceries and cosmetic items on a cycle between roommates.
      2. They each take turn buying the essential items and special things they each of them would want they have to buy themselves
    3. Splitting bills with non roommates is currently handled on a “pen and paper” system
      1. She doesn’t enjoy the inconvenience of this so she usually just avoids any type of situation that involves splitting bills unless she is forced too.
  4. 24 year old female living with 2 roommates.
    1. Each roommate pays their own rent and groceries, but utilities are split. She pays the utility bills, then posts the bills on the refrigerator. Each roommate is expected to pay back their share by the end of the month. They usually pay her by check, which she finds annoying since that means she has to take a trip to the bank.
      1. Would like to use a system that can be connected to her accounts (electricity, water, cable, etc.), that alerts her and/or auto-pays utilities. The system would also automatically split these expenses among the roommates.
      2. Would like the ability for roommates to pay each other back via PayPal or credit card, to save a trip to the bank.
  5. 21 year old female living with 1 roommate.
    1. Rent is split evenly, utilities in her name, and they share groceries. She keeps track of how much she is owed on a piece of paper she keeps on her desk, and tells roommate how much is owed every month, but is not necessarily paid every month (roommate currently owes over $300).
      1. Wants an alerting system that tells her when bill due dates are approaching.
      2. Wants another way to remind roommate (in addition to telling her) how much money is owed, and reminders for the roommate to pay
      3. Place to permanently store bills paid, show history of how much was owed/paid
  6. A 23 year old female graduate student living with 2 roommates.
    1. After paying a bill writes down the amount and what the bill was for. At the end of the month, puts all of the bills paid for on a whiteboard and figures out what each roommate owes.
      1. Should be able to split bill payments by percentages or set amounts
      2. Currently has no easy way to look at past bill/payment history
      3. Because this roommate pays for all of the bills, no way for the other roommates to check that the bills have been paid on time.
    2. When it is time to pay rent at the end of the month and the amounts have been calculated, the student e-mails her roommates with the amounts each owe toward rent, and then collects the checks to take to her apartment office.
      1. Sometimes forgets that it’s time to pay rent, and then by the time all the calculations are done and has gathered all the checks, may be a few days late.
    3. When splitting bills with other friends besides her roommates, will follow a similar paper process of keeping track of the bill, and will e-mail her friends what they owe her and is usually paid in check.
      1. This can be harder, because there is no set date when it is time to calculate payments, instead every time a large bill is split, usually will calculate what each person owes.
      2. Can also be more complex if multiple people are paying for different things.
  7. A 24 year old male who works full-time and is renting from a relative and living with one roommate.
    1. Renting from his cousin (who doesn’t live at the apartment) along with one other roommate. Set amount of rent sent to cousin by check at the end of each month. Bills are also sent to cousin and split 50/50. Cousin e-mails the amount to pay for the bills and that is paid by check in addition to rent.
      1. Only the cousin and one roommate split the non-rent bills.
    2. When the roommates go grocery shopping they split the payment immediately (via the cashier at the store).
  8. 22 year old undergraduate junior majoring in Math.
    1. Recently purchased household goods at the same time as his roommate, because this was done without consulting one and other, resulted in two sets of almost every single item and a waste of money (had been expecting his roommate to refund half the bill.)
      1. System to keep track of what each person purchases for the house, and the amount, so that the other tenants could know in real time how much they owe and possibly what has been purchased already.
      2. The system could be used to keep track of different bills for the house, so everyone will know as soon as the bill comes in the mail the total amount, what they owe, how much has already been paid, and who has yet to pay.
    2. The most frequent tasks for bill splitting will be purchasing household items (soap, dishwasher detergent, ec.)
    3. Utilities and cable bills will be another set of frequent entries the system would have to deal with on a monthly basis.
  9. 25 year old female undergraduate student studying business.
    1. Has an understanding with her roommates that rather than sharing grocery bills, they will take turns to purchase food for the house.
      1. This can be frustrating when at the end of the month, there is a huge discrepancy in the amount that everyone has spent.
      2. System could keep track of how much everyone is paying, since it will give each person an idea of what they have to match financially.
    2. Would like a system that is able to keep track of household bills and dispatch in real time what each tenant has to pay.
      1. Should be able to handle Friday nights and holiday parties expenses as well.


B. Initial Task List

  • Groups
    • Keep a list of all the tenants for each household/number of tenants in house.
    • Groups could be based on households or just friends that go out often and would like to split expenses.
  • Bill type
    • Connect to different billing accounts (cable, electricity, etc.)
    • Handle all types of bills and possibly give each tenant his quota, in real time.
    • Allow any user of the group to be able to post a bill and who owes for it.
  • Bill splitting
    • Allow bills to be split by percentages or set amounts.
    • Allow bills to be split by some subset of the group.
    • Splitting of single bills on the fly for different amounts.
    • System for inventorying and splitting non periodic expenses.
    • Automatic splitting of periodic bills.
  • Automatic reminders/notifications
    • Alert system for when due dates are approaching for rent and other bills.
    • Notification system to remind roommates how much money is owed and by when
      • SMS/tweet
      • e-mail
  • History
    • History of how much each roommate has paid/owed.
    • Have a log for each tenant expense/debt.
    • Allow each member of the group to be able to see when bills have been paid.
    • Budgeting and credit tracking.
  • Various payment formats
    • Ability to pay bills through app.
    • Roommates can pay each other back through PayPal or credit card, rather than just giving checks (or connect bank account to app?).

II. Validation of Initial Task List

After compiling an initial task list, the Bill Share team spoke with additional potential users in order to determine if any tasks should be added or removed as well as to clarify the current tasks. The following is the task list after validation.
Note: Strike-through indicates tasks that were eliminated through validation. (new) denotes new tasks that were identified.

Validated Task List

  • Groups
    • Keep a list of all the tenants for each household/number of tenants in house.
    • Groups could be based on households or just friends that go out often and would like to split expenses.
    • (new) Should not require being a part of a group in order to split bills.
    • (new) Different security levels in order to limit some users.
  • Bill type
    • Connect to different billing accounts (cable, electricity, etc.)
    • Handle all types of bills and possibly give each tenant his quota, in real time. (unnecessary if means instant update)
    • Allow any user of the group to be able to post a bill and who owes for it.
  • Bill splitting
    • Allow bills to be split by percentages or set amounts.
    • Allow bills to be split by some subset of the group.
    • Splitting of single bills on the fly for different amounts. (repetitive)
    • System for inventorying and splitting non periodic expenses.
    • Automatic splitting of periodic bills.
  • Automatic reminders/notifications
    • Alert system for when due dates are approaching for rent and other bills.
    • (new) ability to set up recurring bill (For ‘stable’ bills, e.g., rent, internet/tv bill)
    • Notification system to remind roommates how much money is owed and by when
      • SMS/tweet
      • e-mail
  • History
    • History of how much each roommate has paid/owed. ([new] visualizations not necessary)
    • Have a log for each tenant expense/debt. ([new] “feed”, be able to show only my transactions, or only between you and another roommate [a la facebook])
    • Allow each member of the group to be able to see when bills have been paid.
    • Budgeting and credit tracking.
  • Various payment formats
    • Ability to pay bills through application.
    • (clarified) Allow multiple formats for users paying each other after bill sharing.
      • Paypal, credit card, checks
      • Connect to bank account
  • Other features
    • (new) FaceBook integration, in addition to regular sign-up
      • Single sign on
      • Not require sign-ups if sign in with Facebook


III. Key Users and Tentative List of Requirements

A. Major System Requirements

  • Must Include
    • Groups
      • List of roommates/tenants
      • Not required to be part of a group in order to split bills (can split with individuals)
    • Bill type
      • Allow any user (exception: see [different security levels under Could Include]) to post a bill
        • To a group they belong to, or to individuals
    • Bill splitting
      • Allow bills to be split by percentages or set amounts
      • Allow bills to be split by some subset of the group
      • System for splitting periodic and non-periodic bills
    • Automatic reminders/notifications
      • Ability to set up recurring bill (For ‘stable’ bills, e.g., rent, cable/internet, etc.)
    • History
      • Allow each member of the group to see when bills have been paid
      • History of how much each roommate has paid/owed
  • Should Include
    • History
      • Have a “feed” (a la Facebook) for each tenant, and one for each group
        • be able to show individual feeds
        • be able to show feeds between individuals (history between Roommate A and Roommate B, for example)
    • Automatic reminders/notifications
      • Alert system for when bill due dates are approaching
      • Notification system to remind roommates how much money is owed and by when
        • SMS/tweet
        • e-mail
        • on-site
    • Other features
      • Facebook integration
        • Single sign on
  • Could Include
    • Groups
      • Different security levels in order to limit some users
    • Various payment formats
      • Allow multiple formats for users to pay each other
        • PayPal, credit card
        • Connect to bank account?


B. Key Users

Our key user is someone who needs to split expenses and bills with their roommates. They are looking for a simple way to be able to enter expenses and have them split among roommates by percentage or set amounts. They’d also want to be able to set up a recurring bill (such as rent), so they don’t have to enter it every month. They would like the ability to see a history of previous payments, and how much each roommate has paid/owed over time. For the scope of this project, we are limiting our users to roommates. In doing so, we are excluding people who may want to use this application occasionally to split expenses for a trip or event.

IV. References

  1. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/share-a-bill/id293047420?mt=8
    • Share-a-bill is an iphone application designed to allow groups of friends to share multiple bills easily. Although, this application is not aimed at roommates in particular, it provides a fairly simple interface for adding bills split by multiple people and calculating who is owed what amount of money. This application also provides support for different currencies.
  2. http://splitabill.com
    • Split a bill is a website designed to allow roommates and friends to easily share bills. The website allows users to e-mail invitations to participants with invites to join and being collaborating on bills, and also sends reminders when it’s time to pay up. This application also supports uneven and complex splitting of bills.
  3. http://developer.android.com/index.html
    • This is the official website for android developers. While it may not be necessarily about bill sharing it is the best reference for developing for the mobile platform and thus is a necessary utility for our project should we decide to create an Android application.
  4. http://www.lifia.info.unlp.edu.ar/papers/2002/Schwabe2002.pdf
    • This is an article that provides a number of modeling and design techniques for designing web applications. It even goes into detail regarding designing applications with support for users and user accounts.
  5. http://wesplit.it/
    • This is a system similar to the one we are designing. It keeps track of what each user owes as well as what anyone owes them. It uses an automated email notification and gives a detail report with a timeline of each expense made by each user. It also has a payment due date reminder. Their motto: “bill sharing made easy; who owe who and what? leave the Math to us”
  6. https://www.paydivvy.com/ This website is a similar to the previous one, but at a bigger scale. it has an option for social gatherings, keeping track of users that are not even at the same geographical location and automatically divides and notifies each user. It even has an online payment function that allows users to take care of the payment through the website.
  7. http://www.billshare.org This website was used to be popular, but was shut down by the owner. Users could create groups and add bills. The annoying thing is that the bills would automatically be split evenly between everyone in the group, so if you wanted to exclude someone from a bill or split differently, then you’d have to calculate it yourself and re-enter the information. You could view a history of payments, and there were various statistics, such as who paid the most bills/expenses, where most bills/expenses came from (what company), etc.
  8. BillShare FaceBook app (http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=86871604751&v=info) From description: “Bill Share is a simple application to manage your group expenses with your room mates and friends. It gives you detailed statistics and graphs to let you know how much you are spending and where!” There are only ~100 active monthly users.