Kiva finding experience

As the scale at which Kiva operates has increased, we’ve had to continually rethink many of the organization’s systems and user experiences. The loan-finding experience is one area that had to evolve as the number of borrowers and the variety of loan-types increased – from dozens in the early years, to hundreds, and now thousands.

The goal for redesigning how lenders find loans on Kiva was to reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed by the thousands of borrowers on the platform or confused by the various filter and search tools available.

Kiva categories

The problem

For the first time in 2013 Kiva saw a flattening of total loan volume and it became glaringly evident through user testing, surveys and customer service feedback that lenders had become overwhelmed by choice, confused with the number of filters and disappointed when they couldn’t find a loan that met their criteria. The following lender quote is emblematic of that sentiment:

“I am new to Kiva, and I look at all these stories and they are so touching, so hopeful, they are…well, overwhelming for me…But I want to help.“

The process

In early 2014 we began to test new ways to help lenders find and choose the borrowers they wanted to support, and avoid being overwhelmed. We began by soliciting ideas from our staff and sought advice from product development teams at organizations facing similar “finding” challenges such as Indiegogo, Netflix and Etsy. We then spent a considerable amount of time understanding how and why people make loans on Kiva.

After exploring various ideas and hypotheses through design iterations (prototype → user test → learn → repeat) and A/B testing, it became clear a category-based loan-finding experience offered a simple, elegant solution. Grouping loans into categories around themes such as “Single parents” or “Food” created a jumping-off point for new and low-volume lenders, allowing them to quickly narrow their choice from thousands to dozens of borrowers. At the same time we can create categories around unique borrower traits—such as short-term loans or expiring soon—to excite long-time lenders and introduce them to new loans.

Early wireframes

Early wireframe

Loan cards


Essential to the design was determining the optimal size, layout and interactions of the “loan cards.” Based on feedback from interviews, A/B testing and trial and error, the design evolved. Borrower photos and a short description of a loan’s use serves as the focal point. It also reinforces Kiva’s design principle of “telling stories.” Additional information – such as the amount needed to fund, the country, sector and a space in the upper right corner for contextual details based on the selected sort method – is then layered into the card to tell a more complete story for each borrower.

List view

List view
Using progressive disclosure we also offer a list-view for “power-lenders.” These very active lenders consider detailed criteria such as Field Partner, loan length and delinquency rates when lending, which are displayed in a list-view simplifying the experience for the majority of lenders who have little interest in these details.

Final designs

Mockups for desktop and mobile pages showing categories of loans on Kiva

Desktop and mobile mockups for the "Conflict zone" category

Mockups showing desktop and mobile views of the "All loans" page on Kiva


In July, 2016 Kiva released the most significant redesign in its 10 year history which included the new finding experience. Among first time and low frequency lenders the reaction, as measured through user testing and surveys, has shown a reduction in feelings of being overwhelmed or confused when choosing a loan. In addition, we’ve also received positive feedback from very active lenders on the list view feature which made selecting a loan more efficient.

Perhaps the most powerful indication of success has been a significant increase in conversion rate (the percentage of visitors who make a loan) with a jump ranging from 28% to 35% depending on platform – mobile saw the largest increase. All of which translates to millions of additional dollars for borrowers every year.

Graph shows an immediate improvement in conversion rate in July 2016 which coincides with the launch of projects release.