Designing for banking mobility

Banks aren’t thought of as ‘helpful guardians of financial wellbeing’, but as unflinching holders of ‘our’ money. Existing mobile banking experiences do little to counteract this, and don’t take into account the users needs and context. User’s we’ve interviewed want help managing their finances. This doesn’t mean an interview with a bank manager, but nudges when they are spending a bit too much, or a pat on the back when they’re saving.

With increased competition, ever-stricter regulation and government switching legislation, loyalty to banks is at a low point. To turn that around, we need to respond to customer needs and take a look at how they actually want to manage their finances.

Branch-centric banking customers are generally more accepting of wait times, and more accustomed to visiting the branch to perform banking tasks. When necessary, they will call or use an ATM, and rarely will they log onto their account online. But this behaviour is changing.

Customers are increasingly embracing mobile technology, and the expectation is now that their banking relationship can be handled through their mobile device. For many, it’s the primary device, it’s with them all day long, and many other customer experiences are served through it. Leveraging that behaviour is key to generating reliance and loyalty.

So we need to be on their mobile devices, providing the services they need. Balance and activity, Forecasting, Mobile payments and transfers, Savings and debt reduction, and Education and support are all identified as critical by users.


5 top tips for banking mobility

1) App or responsive website?

To begin the digital relationship, the website is often the first port of call. However, once behavior becomes more frequent, users tend to download an app. For an account servicing banking experience, an app provides enormous power. The ability to work offline for certain tasks (balance caching), and to maintain a logged in state behind a simple passcode, apps provide a far faster, more mobile-appropriate experience. Ideally, you’ll provide both.

2) Offer the appropriate features

It’s tempting to provide a fully featured experience, in which a user can perform any task they want to. But is that absolutely necessary? 80% of the time, a user wants one of very few tasks: Balance, Alerts, Payments and transfers. So focus on doing those brilliantly. This can inform build priority, and ultimately allow you to get to market faster.

3) Design for interruption

It’s tempting to assume users always finish the task they start. The reality is, when they are on their mobile device, they’ll get interrupted. Bus stops, network interruptions, bumping into a friend or just watching TV. Tasks get interrupted frequently. Ensuring that the user is secure and logging them out is good, but ultimately often means they’ll have to start again, resulting in frustration. Providing fast, pre-authenticated log in methods and caching or saving progress will go a long way to ensuring the user does complete their task.

4) Consider the platform

Most banks have strong brands, designed to differentiate them from their competition on the high street. All offline literature is heavily branded, and adverts immediately identifiable. However when the user is on their device, over-branding the interface can create a negative experience as a whole. The user will be used to their device, the way it works and the way Ui controls like drop menus work. Coding appropriately you’ll leverage the learned behaviours of the users device, and more carefully consider the usage of branding. Platform-agnostic information architecture design means we can design a single set of features and services, which can then be quickly appropriated to various platforms and OS’s. Android (and now iOS) devices have NFC. They also have different links to the OS controls, different user interfaces, and different task focuses. Respect the user’s digital environment and you’ll make them more comfortable using your products.

5) Deliver task-focused experiences

When you’re paying for lunch and need to know your balance, you don’t want a welcome screen and sales messages getting in the way. Focus on the users tasks, and leave the rest behind. Speed and simplicity provide the key to making your product usable.

Allow the customer to quickly get to the functions they need, when they need them. This will mean focusing the experience on the core functions, and leaving less important functionality a click away in the UI. Context is another important factor, allowing us to further tailor the experience. If we know the user has just gone overdrawn, we can tell them. We can even provide them the next action: ‘Transfer money from your savings account, madam? Certainly.” Focusing on the task at hand usually means providing clear, linear journeys, with the shortest number of steps possible. Removing the requirements to gather additional information in a sign up or registration journey is far more likely to result in the user completing that task, and using your product more and more frequently. Making their banking easier.

Designing for content and data

Ultimately, everything we design is there to consume content. Whether that’s images, text, video, or whatever, they are (almost) all containers. When designing for responsive sites, this is even more true. The modules/components will scale and in many cases the content within them will too. A lot of the work we are doing at Splendid these days is responsive, and it’s surprising how many designers don’t really understand the importance of the pattern in this type of project.

My first exposure to patterns was back in 2003, when the company I was working for were working on design patterns for Visa. The discipline was considered relatively new at the time, at least from a digital context. Obviously lately there’s been a resurgence, as designers begin to understand how to use patterns, and more importantly how to make them scalable.

An article popped up on my Twitter feed the other day, which is actually a pretty decent set of considerations. I shared it round the office, and will hopefully get roux to seeing if anyone actually read it! Here’s the link:

Hot Data and Content Design Patterns for Mobile

Personally, I think more needs to be done to explain HOW to use patterns, on top of articles such as this which explain the patterns themselves. I’ve (recently) seen designers come up with some interesting design patterns for individual screens or components, but they have absolutely no consistency to the overall experience. I’m hoping we’ll get round to a decent formal of how to explain (and solve) this issue, but until then… send me your thoughts!