Banking Payments UX

3 design principles for achieving a successful user experience

3 design principles for achieving a successful user experience. Image: Freepik
Written by Paolo Barbesino

Paolo Barbesino on how leveraging behavioral economics and cognitive psychology can enhance customer journeys.

To stay relevant, banks will have to increasingly fight for customer attention. Consumers clearly tell us that banks are not necessarily the first place they look to satisfy their evolving needs of staying in control of their money and growing their future aspirations. In the EU, regulators will be pushing this even further by establishing that banks should provide access via APIs to account information and payment initiation to third parties if the account holder wishes to do so. At that point, the gap between actual and expected behaviour will be too wide to bridge without having to rethink an entire business model.

This is why a paradigm shift is required that puts the design of the target consumer behaviour at the very core of a new banking experience. Some have characterised it as ‘outside-in’, implying that the focus on internal processes and IT systems should be downplayed in favour of a real, customer-centric attitude.

In designing their new distribution mix around digital, banks should think what costumer interaction model will be more conducive to a win-win, long-term relationship. In doing so, however, they should assume that consumers would rather do something else than spend their time with a bank.

Changing consumer behaviour requires that UX senior professionals leverage behavioural economics and cognitive psychology in designing journeys that natively unfold across different digital touchpoints, aiming at increased frequency of interaction. In fact, you cannot build a habit without repetition.

The following three design principles are, in this respect, paramount in achieving a successful user experience.

  1. Restructure session time. Customers spend most of their online time with a bank dealing with dumb tasks such as gathering transactional data and executing payments. This leads to customer fatigue, and makes it harder for banks to engage people in more rewarding conversations. Also, there’s no evidence that customers are ready to give banks longer session time! Treasuring customer time requires entirely redesigning payment processes, and access to data, with the aim of reducing cognitive effort. In its essence, performing a payment is no more complex than booking a flight, but airlines and travel sites have succeeded in hiding the complexity behind nicely designed, interactive experiences. Banks haven’t.
  2. Increase frequency of interaction. Even on digital touchpoints, customers seldom interact with their bank. An average of two interactions a week, mostly about checking balance and making a payment, are not enough to call it a ‘relationship’. Building a conversation with customers means growing the number of meaningful interactions, moving from something that happens on a weekly basis to several interactions a day. Turning mobile into a platform rather than a channel allows banks to be there in an ever-growing number of mobile moments. In China, WeChat successfully turned its chat app into a platform that now includes mobile payments, asset gathering via a high-yield MMF, and alternative financing. No doubt, this requires that ‘app archipelago’ strategies are discontinued, and all functionalities be offered into a single app with a compelling UX, consistent with other digital touchpoints.
  3. Gain overall quality time. There is no banking without transactions. Yet, transactions are just about data, and there’s no quality in an interaction that only focuses on data. No one loves Microsoft Excel. ’02/06/2015 John Smith–1000€ REF.FBAWI15090421650′ is data and means that €1,000 left my account to John Smith on 2 June. Turning data into information would change this to: ‘In June, I spent €1,000 on my rent’. Adding context to it will then enable me to understand that I spend 40% of my monthly income on housing. Turning this knowledge into wisdom would suggest that I’d be better off buying a property on a mortgage. Money management tools do play a crucial role in letting users interact with much more than data, but this isn’t enough. Big-data-driven, context-aware, anticipatory UI should proactively anticipate customer needs and suggest a next best action that’s not necessarily conducive to a sale. Robo-advisor technology will play a much better role than expecting the customer to interact via video with bank staff, as the very phrase ‘digital branch’ is an example of naive skeuomorphism, to say the least. How many times have you seen a Google or Amazon sales rep?

READ NEXT: Emotional banking crusade revelations: bankers

About the author

Paolo Barbesino

Paolo Barbesino is a senior banking professional actively involved in crafting the digital strategy and experience for one of the Systemically Important Financial Institutions in Central & Eastern Europe. He works at the crossroads, where strategy, technology, and service design come together.


  • Hi Paolo,

    You make a number of interesting and very relevant points, and I agree with much of what you have written but, what about the off-line customer experience? While financial services organizations might be moving the mark ever so much when it comes on-line interactions and engagements (i.e., making them easier and faster to use), I believe, a lot of work still needs to be done from an off-line perspective. Call center customer service may not be as sexy as all things on-line/digital, but here too a lot can be improved upon and, by doing so, both the customer and company could benefit.

    • I totally agree Roger. Point is that for offline experience banking professionals seem to be lacking the right tools. Service design though may be quite helpful. Bear in mind that there is still a great disconnect between digital and traditional offline retail teams.

Leave a Comment