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6 design principles for a better FinTech user experience

The pace of technology has transformed our lives in recent years. Finance is no exception. What used to be a question of “cash or credit” has given way to myriad choice. Pay for your groceries with Apple Pay or Google Wallet? Split the check with friends via cash, Venmo, Paypal, or Chase Pay? Invest with Fidelity or through an online platform such as Wealthfront?

With so many options, users, especially those in the coveted 18-35 demographic demand a great experience in exchange for their loyalty. But older users should not be ignored – they have come to expect a level of professionalism and personalization from their offline bankers and financial service providers. This should carry through online. As a user experience researcher I’ve seen how providing an enjoyable, seamless experience based on a solid customer understanding leads to successful products in this marketplace. Here are some principles financial companies should keep in mind as they look to stay ahead among the ever evolving outlets for people to spend, save and exchange money.

Technology should enable solutions that make people’s lives easier

With a straightforward interface and easy to understand investment philosophy, Betterment has transformed the process of setting and investing in long terms goals from what can often feel overwhelming, murky, or confusing to a relatively transparent and achievable experience. How? By creating an online investment platform that combines a straightforward interface with an easy to understand investment philosophy. They’ve also used technology to enhance things internally, by weaving it into their back-end process. Betterment uses artificial intelligence to match customers’ paper checks with their accounts. By automating a formerly tedious task, they have freed their employees to do more interesting and challenging work. Think of technology as a tool to solve a problem (e.g., make investing easier), not the answer itself.

Context is key

Where will your app be used? Are users excited about saving for a big purchase or nervous about paying their bills? What other apps is it competing with on their phone? Across studies, users have told us that limited memory makes their phone’s home screen valuable real estate. A mobile payment app might check all of the usability boxes in testing, but if it doesn’t integrate well with your user’s favorite shopping apps or sites, it won’t add value, and will likely be deleted.

Understand mental models

Understanding current conventions and learning about what else your customers use and like enables you to incorporate common design patterns that make it easy for a first time user to have a seamless experience. Most people have at least one, if not multiple banking and payment apps. These inform expectations and habits for new apps which means that if you’re trying out a cool new design pattern, you’ll need to soften the learning curve with pointers on how it works.

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Enable customers to control the interaction

In conducting financial research, we often hear users say that they wouldn’t sign up for a financial product via mobile phone. Their perception is that financial tasks require the security and larger screen of a computer. Address this by enabling customers to begin a process on their mobile phones, when and where it is convenient, and then save progress for later completion on a larger screen. This gives users control and adds a sense of security and assurance.

Make it intuitive

Finance can be a difficult subject – the best sites use straightforward language to clearly explain new processes or topics without dumbing it down. Embed help links for uncommon terms make sure terms and conditions are easy to access and understand. Enable users to intuitively understand what they are being asked to do and to quickly find needed information with a clean, uncluttered design.

But include some friction

Somewhat unique to FinTech is the need for friction. For example, Betterment doesn’t make it especially easy to check your portfolio every day (even though some people want to) because it is better for financial health to only check periodically with a focus on the end goal. To this end, they have simple visual interface focused on progress towards a goal.

We’ve watched participants spend 30 minutes struggling to link their bank account to their credit card and set up a unique password, then tell us they wouldn’t change a thing. They loved how secure the somewhat complicated process felt. Users need to trust that their information and money are in secure hands.

User focus throughout the development process

Successful FinTech gives users a better way to do something that might formerly have been difficult, tedious, or met with a sense of dread. It provides sense of security and control within the app that translates to feeling in control of their finances.

To stand out and build loyalty in an increasingly crowded market, companies should incorporate a user focus throughout the development process. By talking to users to understand what they want and need, building products that enable customers to achieve their goals, and finally, talking to them again, watching them play with your app or experience the service and listening to their feedback, you’ll be on your way to delivering a product that wins hearts, minds, and importantly, repeat users.

Amanda Weller is a Senior Lead of User Experience at GfK. To share your thoughts, email Amanda.weller@gfk.com or leave a comment below.

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