Proposal: Change "orange" category colors

The category inspector can be different colors:

  • gray
  • green
  • red
  • orange

The orange classification can actually indicate three different scenarios (from the docs):

  • You haven’t budgeted enough to stay on track with a goal. Check the goals section of the inspector to be sure.
  • You haven't budgeted enough for an upcoming scheduled transaction. Select the category and look in the Inspector.
  • You have overspending that happened on a credit card. If you don’t cover this overspending now, it will become debt that you need to pay off.

That is, orange could mean:

  • goal not achieved
  • scheduled transaction needs more funds budgeted toward it (or you'll be short!)
  • you've created credit card debt, but can avoid that fate if you move more funds here

For my use, these are three pretty different cases, each with different causes for concern.  Typically, the former is not such bad news — I am just not hitting a goal (yet) for that month.

But the latter two are problematic — if I've entered a scheduled transaction (like property taxes, say), then it is absolutely important and unchangeable. I need funds to be there, on time.

Similarly, I want to avoid creating credit card debt, though there is less urgency here.

I'd prioritize these as:

  1. scheduled transaction needs funds
  2. credit card debt impending
  3. goal missed

I'd like to propose that YNAB provide a different visual treatment for these three scenarios, whether that's different colors for each (probably too much) or some other visual "flag". Or, even if they all remain orange, could we get a category filter at the top of the Budget screen? You could then filter by scenario — e.g., fully funded (green), or goal not achieved (orange), or credit card debt (also orange), and so on.

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  • Hi Scott !

    We actually just had a discussion about this in another thread. Orange means 'this category needs attention', rather it's for creating credit card debt, not reaching a goal or upcoming transactions. That being said, I completely understand how these are separate levels of priorities for you! I'm more than happy to pass this feedback along to our development team! :)

    The YNAB Toolkit is mention on the post I linked, in case you want to give that a try, but I'll let our developers know you'd like to see this option!

    Like 3
      • Scott
      • scott
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Faness at YNAB understood, thanks. For what it's worth, there is already a baked in assumption of priority importance: red versus orange. Red is really bad, resolve it now or the other numbers can't be trusted. Orange is less bad. 

      I guess what I'm observing after a few months of use is that I'd like even one step further granularity in these priorities to fit my use case. But maybe I'm in the minority here, and for most people orange ("needs attention, if not as urgently as red") is enough. 

      Like 2
      • Brad Hull
      • Since YNAB Pro
      • sinceYNABPRO
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Scott 

      I agree with Scott.

      I would really appreciate having more different symbols or icons to indicate warning levels or status indicators. Could emojis be used, that would provide many kinds  of differentiation’s.

      Like 2
  • Yeah, that orange/yellow/amber or whatever color means "This category needs attention... but we're not going to give you a quick way to determine why it needs attention, so go check all the other places in the app for the possible causes and figure it out on your own."

    If they were different colors, then you'd know what the cause is and go directly to the right place to look into it.

    In trying to keep it simple, it's actually more complicated.

    In addition, having a mix of reasons that require attention and don't really require attention using the same color creates false alarm fatigue, and then you just start ignoring it... like the steady stream of fire alarms in my dorm the night before final exams my freshman year of college.

    Like 3
      • Scott
      • scott
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule Nicely put!

      I've been thinking more about this. Yes, it's confusing to have three different meanings rolled into one category or indicator. And when needs-attention-orange is present, it's not clear at a glance what sort of attention is needed — you have to select the category and read the details to see why it's orange.

      Yet introducing more colors isn't the answer, either. That would add clutter and (likely) more confusion overall, given the challenges of choosing meaningful colors for such specific scenarios.  (What is the "color" of "budget more funds here to avoid creating credit card debt"?) Additional colors would complicate the onboarding process and confuse new users, especially.

      [Not to get to lecture-y, but I geek out on UI stuff…]

      The design of YNAB has a certain worldview and values system baked in, as it should. That's why, after using it for only a few months, I feel less stressed about money, I've paid off a lot of debt that felt out of control, and I have more cash in the bank, with seemingly little effort on my part — I'm just following the system (that is designed to shift my thinking, and it has). Despite this one gripe, it is working!

      The system allows for a certain amount of customization, too, to account for different YNABers' needs. The ideal system works perfectly for everyone, but as a practical matter, you have to make trade-offs. Apple is known for designing for 90% — something that should work well for the majority of their market. If they can reach any of the remaining 10%, that's a bonus, but you can never make everyone happy.

      Point being, for YNAB: the orange category is a test case here. Is it worth lumping these three meanings together under a single indicator, on the assumption that many users won't be bothered by the distinction? Or would the majority of users be better served by another solution? How could these meanings be conveyed without adding complexity for those who don't need it?

      One idea: Let me set a "personality" in my YNAB profile, similar to how investors talk about being "aggressive" or "conservative". Let me tell YNAB what my budgeting priorities are, so it can help me do this little budgeting dance up and down the ledger. Let me be explicit about my values, which may diverge a bit from the majority. For example:

      OK to create new credit card debt? [ No, never | Yes, but cap it at $xxx | Yes, any amount ]

      Ensure scheduled transactions are always budgeted for? [ Yes, always | No, but warn me ]

      How important are fulfilling goals each month? [ Very important to me | Optional ] (or set "importance" on a goal-by-goal basis!)

      The phrasing above is horrible, but you get the idea. YNAB could start people off with default "values" which could be overridden. If it's important to me to never create new credit card debt, then those categories could be red for me. The colors then represent personal priorities, and may have different meanings for different people.  (This doesn't solve the "poking around" problem.)

      Like 4
      • Scott
      • scott
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Another idea: Solve the "poking around" problem by providing a view filter on the Budget screen, parallel to the filter control on the accounts screens. Here's a very rough sketch (I've hidden some personal info).

      You could toggle on/off visibility of each category type. This would help me with my biweekly budgeting dance, as I like to start with the trouble categories first, then review the "on track" categories last.

      Like 4
    • Scott 

      I absolutely love how much thought and explanation you've put into this layout!! I'm forwarding this feedback to our development team as well. While I still can't make promises about features, I want you to know we truly appreciate the time and effort you put in here! 

      It means a lot that you're able to see the overall points and purposes, but still pinpoint areas for improvement that wouldn't compromise other features.

      As someone who appreciates UI, you've given our development team a lot to mull over- which is great! 

      Thanks again! :)

      Like 2
  • This was a really helpful thread and I appreciate the discussion. I am also in the boat of having a really hard time with these three things being the same color. For me ANY over spending regardless if it is on a credit card or not should be red. That is because we pay or cc off every month. So any over spending is a red for us because we don't treat it as something that can be put off. So putting not meeting a goal with obvious overspending (regardless of what method) is a big difference for me. My work around for now is just to stop separating expenses in the transactions. Previously I labeled the expense based on what card it was done on (because I liked seeing my current cc bill in ynab with the budget) but if i put all the expenses on a checking/cash category then any overspending shows up red and any items that are shy of my goal are orange. to me, seeing it this way is worth more than separating my transactions by card when viewing. I look forward to seeing it be able to be more customized in the future. 

    Like 4
      • Brad Hull
      • Since YNAB Pro
      • sinceYNABPRO
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Steel Blue Cleric 

      Almost any change that improves the contrast between characters and backgrounds will be appreciated.

      Like
      • Scott
      • scott
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Steel Blue Cleric thanks for sharing those clear examples of how you use this feature!

      Like
  • Bringing this topic back to life. I agree with just about everything said here. For my budget, I appreciate that orange indicates something that needs attention, like a category that is underfunded for a scheduled transaction. But orange does not indicate the same urgency for me in categories where I have set goals, like saving for travel or setting aside money for gifts. Yet throughout the month, because those categories have goals that I meet monthly, for the majority of the month those categories are orange and it makes me feel as if I'm behind when I'm not. I get paid bi-weekly and set aside money accordingly, but YNAB doesn't recognize that progress until I hit the end of the month.

    I haven't been using goals because I subconsciously don't like seeing all that orange. I really want to use that functionality, though.

    Another thing that is bothersome about seeing so much orange is that I do, at some point, stop "seeing" all the orange and it's negating the purpose of drawing my attention.

    I'd love to see an alternative option for categories that have goals. Maybe they remain green when there is money in the category, but show a status bar or pie wheel of progress. I just don't find the orange useful for goals not yet met, especially when I'm "on track" for the month and just don't meet the goal until the end of the month (which is, in fact, an acceptable behavior).
     

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      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Domini B The Toolkit lets you show goals not met as blue not orange. 

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