To successfully transform financial services into demanded digital products, we use reverse engineering. It's a top-down approach that begins with defining the ultimate value for customers and ends with an action plan that includes architecture and design. This is the only way to ensure maximum user satisfaction and high demand in the digital age. In this article, we explore proven user-centered design methodologies that help digital financial products stand out among competitors.
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Over a period of 10 years, we have tested and put into practice more than 100 UX design methods and techniques. Based on results and insights gained, we developed our own unique Financial UX Design methodology. In previous articles, we covered the first two components of this unique approach: the Product Value Pyramid and the Design Pyramid, that help to define a digital product strategy, as well as implement the financial UX design approach in business development. In the final article of this series, I introduce you to the UXDA Experience Pyramid, which demonstrates what practical steps you need to take to design a customer-centric product based on the value it brings to the users.
Digital Transformation Empowered by Design
UXDA's Experience Pyramid is based on three complementary approaches: Design thinking, BUP (Business, User, Product) frame and UX design tools. Design thinking provides a methodical, iterative approach to explore and serve the key user needs. To ensure overall success, it's not enough to think solely about the product. We have to take into account the interaction between business, users and the product, defining the possibilities and benefits of each. BUP frame allows us to do that. And, finally, UX design tools provide the best way to execute the whole process of Design thinking and the BUP approach, ensuring effective results-based financial product transformation.
First stage: Design thinking
The base level of the UXDA Experience Pyramid creates a solid ground for the overall framework. Design thinking is a well-known approach used by the world's leading digital technology companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft. It divides the workflow into five, key action-based steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.
Empathize to understand
To identify the value your product can offer customers, we must step into the users’ shoes and feel their pain as if it were our own. Discovering their feelings, needs and desires by immersing ourselves into the world of our users allows us to understand the context of the product usage.
People are surprised by the insights they gain in the empathize stage as they often differ dramatically from their initial assumptions.
Empathizing through research provides a much more thorough perspective on the problems customers actually face.
For example, by researching the users of a specific financial product, we find that most of them are family-oriented individuals. It turns out they are concerned with a number of issues related to managing the family budget, often resulting in conflicts damaging the family relationships. The main difficulties are caused by different accounts for spouses and children and the need for transaction approvals that slow down and complicate the process. It also causes a struggle for joint financial management and budget planning, making our cherished relationships even more challenging.
Define to set focus
At the next step, we systemize the information we have gained in the empathize stage, analyzing and prioritizing observations. Our goal is to focus on the most important aspects that create key value for the user.
For example, if we understand the importance of great family relationships for our users, we can define the main functionality of our product to suit their needs and wants. Accordingly, we would provide a possibility of joint financial management as a key priority for this specific banking product.
Ideate to step outside of the box
Ideation consists of seeking the best ideas for implementing key user scenarios based on the discoveries and analyses of the two previous steps. Even non-standard solutions that we may think are crazy are very welcome, as we need to step “out of the box.” The most viable solutions are selected according to the objectives of the project.
Returning to the previously mentioned example, we can create an opportunity for spouses to view both accounts in one mobile application, allowing them to freely transfer money from one account to another. At the same time, they will have the opportunity to create a separate account for family savings with limited access. All family savings and spousal activities will be completely transparent and available in the “total” section. They may also find it useful to set budget limits or warnings to remove the source of conflict and increase joint control of overspending.
Prototype to test
Our task is to create a prototype product to put our hypotheses into practice. We need to create a simple, scaled-down version of our future service that would allow us to test the product without spending a lot of money on its development.For example, to quickly test a product hypothesis, it’s enough to draw a potential service interface on paper and include the features drawn from the empathize and define stages.
Test to make sure
Now, we proceed directly to the verification of the solution. We demonstrate the prototype to several potential customers by offering them a set of key scenarios and evaluating how easily they understand the principles of the product, what makes them struggle and the level of their interest. If most of the answers are positive, we can implement the needed adjustments and move to the product production. If they are not positive, we correct the hypothesis and repeat the process.
Design thinking offers a simple and affordable approach to human-centered development. Nevertheless, research shows that, to achieve successful results, it's necessary to consider other crucial aspects. In particular, projects are created not only to meet the needs of users, but also to realize the goals of the business. Otherwise, we will get products that may be of interest to consumers but do not bring any value to the business.
The Double Diamond model
All the Design thinking stages can be explained through the Double Diamond model. The first diamond is known as Problem. It collects data through divergence and prioritizes key insights through convergence. The second diamond is about Solution and starts from diverging all possible solutions based on extracted insights and converging all into a prototype, which, at the end, is tested and delivered according to previously defined criteria.
Second Stage: Business User Product (BUP) Frame
Though the user is definitely at the center of attention when it comes to user-centered thinking, there are two more crucial elements we have to take into account for a satisfactory result.
The success of a financial product depends on three equally important components: business, user and product. Spending years studying and exploring the impact of UX on financial businesses, we made sure that, in order to create a delightful experience, we had to investigate how all of them interact with one other. That's why we created the unique BUP frame.
Our goal is to move away from our individual biases and put ourselves in a position to focus on the benefits of all three elements. It's not enough for us to only empathize the users; we also need to understand the company's business model, its mission and values and the role of the product in the company's future growth strategy.
We must also identify the technological capabilities of creating a product, as this has a direct effect on our ability to implement the insights discovered. This helps to create a balanced product that meets the needs of all interested parties and ensures digital transformation, not only for the product but for the whole business. Here's an example of how a user-centered mindset changes the business mentality.
The second level of the UXDA Experience Pyramid is closely connected to the first and third levels. We implement all five parts of the Design thinking process through a Business, User and Product perspective. In this way, we find, define and materialize the maximum value and gains for each of these components.
Third Stage: UX Design Tools
To achieve a great number of insights about the business, product and users, we need the proper tools. We have to uncover what kinds of actions we should take at each step of the Design thinking process to move from idea to a useful range of data and then to a customer demanded solution. At UXDA, we achieve this by using a broad set of tested and efficient UX tools and methods. This is the third level: the peak of the UXDA’s Experience Pyramid.
For example, the range of UX techniques we use to Empathize the User, Business and Product include:
- Stakeholder Interview
- User Interview
- Ethnographic Research
- Competitive Audit
- Features Audit
- Heuristic Evaluation.
This allows us to collect the necessary data and identify the financial product challenge context from all these points of view, which are often missed.
At the next steps, we use:
- Card Sorting
- JTBD (Jobs-To-Be-Done)
- Key Personas
- Empathy Map
- Red Route Analysis
- Kano Model
- User Journey Map
- Information Architecture
- User Flows
- UI Prototype
- Usability Testing, etc.
We have described and demonstrated the use of the key UX tools in our previous case studies listed below.
All of these tools are used with one core purpose─to uncover the value for customers and design a digital financial product that delivers this value through the best possible experience. This results in a product that's easy to use, helps its users, solves their problems and creates delightful emotions.
UX connects all of these aspects (and more), improving the product’s success rate and reducing the risk of failure. This approach can be used not only for new service design, but also for any financial service transformation.
Not everyone who has a brush is a painter
There's an important aspect we recommend you to consider. The techniques described in this article are the foundation for creating a great financial user experience, but these methods can deliver results only in a context of use that's provided by UX architect and UI designer expertise. It's crucial to understand that a straightforward implementation of the needs identified by the users do not always make sense for business or result in customer demand. Otherwise, instead of designing a car, Henry Ford would have started breeding faster horses.
New age, new rules
This article completes a series of publications revealing the essence and principles of Financial UX Methodology by UXDA. Nevertheless, the idea of our approach to creating successful digital solutions will be incomplete without the UXDA concept described below.
In this graph, we demonstrate two different approaches to gain business success in the recent past and in the digital present.
In the recent past, FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) products dominated the market and determined business principles, user behaviors and the mindset of successful entrepreneurs.
One of the core challenges of that time was to find ways to sell millions of goods in a world of high competition, distribution barriers and expensive promotion. To overcome this gap, marketing became the key concept to ensure success.
To make a profit in the marketing age, you had to operate in the right way, using the basis of marketing methodology: the 4Ps (Product, Price, Promotion, Place). For example, it wasn't enough to have a recipe for a tasty drink to conquer the market. You had to create attractive packaging, work on the distribution to stores, choose the right price to compete with other drinks and ensure remarkable above and below-the line promotion to generate demand.
This was a standard way to conquer market share─ consumers get a desire for the product by a “tasty” ad, and, at the local store, they notice the product in front of them once more on the first shelf, right at eye level, surrounded by POS (point of sale) advertising at a glance. They put the product in the basket and... voila! Mission complete!
The digitalization of the world has completely changed the rules of the game. Digital products differ from FMCG because they have the capability to be easier and faster, adapting to the growing customer expectations and needs. Digital products also have direct distribution and don’t need mediators or expensive offline logistics. Digital products can serve customers directly from any place in the world. All you need is a good internet connection. Digital promotion is also accessible to everyone through social networks and content aggregators even in the absence of an advertising budget. Digital pricing models have become so advanced that you can make a profit without even selling a product, for example from third-party advertising or commissioning. This generates a wide range of product opportunities for customers to choose from.
Which products will the customer choose? The one that solves their problems in the easiest, quickest and most pleasant way, of course. The lack of a delightful experience often creates a gap on the product’s path to digital demand.
This way, an experience becomes the main differentiator in the digital age. It doesn’t mean that marketing is no longer needed, but, at the end of the day, it will not save your digital product from an unpleasant user experience.
The main difference between being a successful entrepreneur in the marketing age and digital age is to switch the focus from selling to delivering a valuable experience. What was efficient to bridge the market gap a few decades ago has now become a waste of time and money because of digital disruption. Instead of conquering the market share, we should make our products a significant part of our customers’ lifestyle using the power of design.
Accordingly, we must use different tools to achieve that. Instead of marketing methodology and the 4Ps comes the three pyramids of the Financial UX Design methodology. Instead of perceiving customers as targets to manipulate and make a profit, we develop a brand new mindset of treating users as friends and serving their needs.
There are many who seem to adapt well to this ideology, having posters on the wall saying “we have now become a user-centered company” and using UX, CX and Design thinking as buzzwords in marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, these are often just empty words that are not based on cultural shifts or actions. In such cases, UX is used just as another marketing tool because it's trendy.
Maybe this can attract media attention, but it will not help create a demanded digital product. An experience approach doesn’t help if you are stuck in the mindset of the marketing age. Users easily detect such tricks and express their concerns through social media platforms.
Throughout the years working with multiple financial organizations, we have ensured that true success in the digital age is guaranteed only if the company is open to the new rules of the game and eager to work hard on implementing them. If you want to gain success in the digital age, you have to adapt an experience mindset, centered on user needs, feelings and behaviors.
It all starts with ourselves. Only by switching from a marketing mindset to an experience mindset can it be possible to create a business culture that's able to use the power of design to bridge the gap between failure and success.
Only you can make this shift, and our Experience mindset guide can help you see the path.
All of the frameworks and techniques revealed by UXDA’s Financial Methodology trilogy allow the creation of next-level financial products by focusing on the value. It's a very powerful approach that delivers astounding results to financial companies worldwide. However, keep in mind that this only works if implemented closely with a human-centered mindset, knowledge of user psychology, mental flexibility and experience in developing financial services, deep analytical thinking and other required skills for a UX architect and UX/UI designer of financial products in the digital age.
The UXDA team wishes you good luck in creating the next generation of financial products! If you have any questions or need assistance with your own financial UX design challenge, we are always here to help.