Simplicity. It’s hard to get away from this one word when I enter into any discussion of User Experience (UX) in banking. There’s a reason why the most successful internet companies have fairly utilitarian designs. The foundation of multi-billion dollar company Google is a simple search box, while the iPhone has just one button. The focus is on creating a simple and intuitive user experience that is easy to understand and works seamlessly. This is the essence of simplicity and whatever the industry it is the key to a successful UX.
Another way of putting it: Form follows function. Maybe you remember Wesabe, an early competitor of Mint, the Internet-based personal finance firm. Wesabe’s Personal Finance Management (PFM) service actually launched ten months before Mint did, but eventually lost out to Mint. Marc Hudlund, Wesabe’s CEO, wrote a humble post on why Wesabe lost: “I was focused on trying to make the usability of data editing as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all.” In other words, of all the things that Mint did, there was one thing that mattered most and that Wesabe didn’t do. Mint just brought in all your data and organized it for you automatically. The lesson? Form doesn’t matter if you miss the function.
The Best of Both Worlds: Designing for Next Generation Financial Services
Most people don’t enjoy managing their personal finances. Above all, they want the experience to be quick and easy so they can move on to what they do enjoy. Designing next generation financial services, therefore, has to be about making it quicker and easier for customers to do their banking. Yet, most users want simplicity and lots of flexibility and choice. Giving users this — best of both worlds — makes the task all the more difficult since more features often lead to a more complex user interface, the opposite of the kind of simple user experience they are trying to create.
Finding the ideal form and function for your application will help and it is the main challenge in creating a superior online experience. Simplicity in user interface design is about finding and focusing on the stuff that really matters and reducing complexity. Keep in mind there is a limit to what simplicity can achieve. When it comes to a financial’s UX design, a balance must be struck. Simplicity is not to be misunderstood with lack of features. As Einstein said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Instead, the focus should be on creating a simpler customer journey. Users shouldn’t be overwhelmed with choice. Simplicity should be applied in guiding users to features–whatever those features are, and however many exist. They should be able to clearly identify what features are available and be able to make the choice about which ones they want to use.