Fred Schebesta on the Risks and Rewards of Innovation

Fred SchebestaThe theme of my interview with our latest Champion, Fred Schebesta, was innovation. Bold and innovative products have been the keys to success for his creative team, which is constantly challenging itself to come up with novel ideas. But innovation is more than just doing something that's never been done before, and he is quick to caution against running full-steam ahead with an exciting idea before thinking it through completely.

Fred and his team use Balsamiq Mockups as "a tool to incubate the initial vision," helping them iterate, refine, and test before delivering. He also calls it a "social cohesion device" because it helps bring people together around a visualized concept. He reached out to us to share some of his success stories that highlight the payoffs and pitfalls of innovation, which he describes below.

Q&A with Fred Schebesta

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Fred Schebesta and I am a Co­-founder and Director of finder.com.au, one of Australia’s biggest and most innovative comparison sites. We provide simple ways to improve people’s spending and savings habits.

What’s challenging about your job and how do you deal with it?

I’m lucky enough to work with a young group of people who are buzzing with game-changing ideas. As great as innovative minds can be, it’s vital that we actually map out the process of a simple idea, so that we can then isolate the different components of that idea and fully flesh it out. Finance is something people generally don’t want to talk about, so we need to visualise the process – something Balsamiq has been instrumental in implementing.

What do you like most about what you do?

What I like most is that our service provides genuine help to our users, which is one of our main company values. Genuine help is the idea that your company’s success is relative to the amount of people who experience ongoing betterment from having interacted with the team.

Yes, we provide comparison services but first and foremostly we aim to help people make better choices independently.

Why do you use Balsamiq Mockups?

Knowing what people need isn’t the only answer — you need to be able to map it out in a simple, intuitive way.

Innovative thinking and creative minds are quickly becoming prized possessions in the workplace, but you need to make sure you’re using powerfully simple tools alongside them. Balsamiq is ingenious because its ability to map out potential ideas and incubate their growth is second to none. Our good ideas only became great products because we had Balsamiq as a tool to incubate the initial vision. Knowing what people need isn’t the only answer - you need to be able to map it out in a simple, intuitive way.

Can you tell me about a specific project where Balsamiq was especially useful?

We conducted research which showed that not only is Australia’s national debt around $50 Billion, four million credit card accounts in Australia are accruing interest charges. We have a real problem here that people don’t want to acknowledge, so we decided to run a financial fitness boot camp – a 12 Week Financial Fitness Challenge (12WFFC). We paired this with the creation of the 'iBag', a sleek black handbag that actually responds to overspending habits by locking itself shut and alerting you when you’re near a dangerous spending zone. We figure if you can’t control your spending maybe your bag will have to do it for you.

Our biggest concern in the whole process was that our idea just wouldn’t work in real life.

The conceptual work for the 12WFFC site was executed through Balsamiq – we used the software to not only design the individual pages but also assess the overall functionality of the site. We managed to avoid some major functionality flaws (we were using a lot growth techniques so we found some major layout problems) just because Balsamiq allowed us to see the plot­holes in our work before it was too late. Our biggest concern in the whole process was that our idea just wouldn’t work in real life – it was a risky move – but through this visualisation software we neutralised so many problems before they impaired our project.

Home Page Designs
A wireframe for the 12WFFC home page.

Over 300 Australians have paid to participate in the 12WFFC, with over 19,000 visits to the challenge’s landing page – the iBag also made it into the 2014 Anthill’s Smart100. Now imagine if we didn’t manage to pick up those key design flaws in the earlier, conceptual days. Again, my point is that innovation and creativity are vital to great ideas, but if you can’t use tools such as Balsamiq to actually map out those ideas it’s just too hit-and-miss.

Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve Balsamiq Mockups or features you'd like to see?

Balsamiq has broad range of applications as it can be used all the way from ideation to the final aspects of design. That being said it’s really hard to pin down any one thing in particular it should or should not be doing. One suggestion, it may be beneficial to provide options to make the interface more like pencil and paper – just for the traditionalists.


Thank you, Fred, for sharing your stories and lessons. You are a Champion!

Do you have a story to share about the awesome things you do with Balsamiq? Send an email to champions@balsamiq.com with your stories or blog posts!

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