Principles every product designer needs to create amazing digital banking experiences

How to avoid bad product design and create digital banking tools people will actually use.
May 12, 2021
Ryan Donaldson
Sr. Content Marketing Manager

In a time when product development teams have an abundance of tools and exciting technology to bring ideas to life, a potential issue is feature clutter. While well-intentioned, introducing unnecessary functionality can create confusion and take away from user experience and the usability of features. 

Being fully aware of this potential pitfall, a big question is: How can UX Designers and product teams avoid feature clutter and build digital banking features people will actually use? 

We recently took a closer look at 3 under-utilized digital banking features that suffer from feature clutter, and touched upon the challenges product development teams face when building new features. Next, we'll outline some design principles we apply to developing and building features that are innovative and resonate with customers and members.

3 product design principles for developing useful banking features

Any product feature developed in a vacuum – no matter how slick and despite a vast investment of thought, time, and resources – may end up in the waste bin of unused and neglected features. These cluttered features take away from the simplicity and intuitiveness of a product's navigation and interface, two basic tenets of pleasant user experience. 

Here's what can be done to avoid bogging down customers with feature clutter and developing tools that people desire and will actually use: 

1. Start with the why

While this point might seem obvious, there’s often temptation to begin product development with how something is built using available technology. And considering the rapid pace of technological advancements, it’s easy to understand the temptation to build simply because the technology exists. As design legend Dieter Rams put it in his 10 principles for good design, “Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design.” 

However, to develop features that will positively impact your product and the lives of your end-users, it’s crucial to take a step back and first ask why it’s necessary to design and build the feature. 

Important practical considerations and logistics such as the return on investment, cost to develop and build, and time frame for completion need to be taken into account. What's more, making sure the features are a good fit for the user should be mulled over.

Product development teams can start by asking basic-but-critical questions like:

  • Is there a current need from the customers and members?
  • How much does this feature help users?
  • Will this new feature or functionality positively impact the financial institution?
  • Do users expect the financial institution to provide this feature?

Running down a list of considerations can help align development priorities with user priorities and internal institution needs. Taking the time to critically assess and plan lays a solid foundation for development and ensures that the new feature has a logical and thoughtful fit within the product. 

2. Let user behavior influence the design process

Once design and development of a product feature is underway, the #1 priority for any product team should be to focus on the user

Diving into user data such as requests, comments, and suggestions, or by conducting research sessions and user surveys can shed light on problem areas. Through testing, design and product teams can learn how users prefer to interact with the feature and discover new design solutions.

Results from a recent Narmi card sorting user test from Optimal Workshop

To make sure financial institutions prioritize features that best serve customers, product teams should always enlist the participation of a diverse set of users and tests. Creating a structure for user feedback is crucial for usable design, but it’s only one component of great product design.

To create products people will actually value, it's important to know how experiences can influence a desired behavior – such as creating automated savings features that make the process of saving and reaching financial goals foolproof.

Narmi UX Lab Pro Tip:

User testing is core to Narmi’s design process. By subjecting every aspect of our user interface to regular tests, we’re able to treat our products as living entities capable of changing and adapting to new user behaviors.

By starting our testing process with wireframes, we’re able to synthesize feedback directly into every design and development stage. After every design tweak, we test. This cycle of testing and tweaking design continues until the majority of user feedback is positive.

It’s also important to be thoughtful about the type of user testing you conduct. There are many approaches, but we favor unmoderated tests where users are asked to complete tasks and answer open-ended questions. By de-emphasizing the need to select the “right” answer, users are able to share their thoughts candidly.

A wonderful benefit to this more open-ended method is that there are often valuable incidental insights discovered along the way. For example, in a recent testing session, 50% of the participants commented on a word they felt was out of place even though we had not asked about or directed their attention to the design’s language. Insights like this are incredibly valuable and inform Narmi’s design.

3. Couch it with financial literacy

To a degree, understanding the basic concepts of financial wellness, behavioral economics, and consumer psychology can serve as guideposts on exactly what digital features and tools would be most beneficial to banking customers. These features can be developed in step with the wealth of technology such as open banking and API-powered integration.

This is evident in the fact that nearly all challenger banks offer a promise to help account holders have greater clarity and control over their personal finances – their message being, “Use these handy tools we've created, and you can be a financial wellness expert.”

For financial institutions to truly help customers with their financial health, the key is to fuse financial literacy with ease-of-use.

For financial institutions to truly help customers with their financial health, the key is to fuse financial literacy with ease-of-use. Since feature clutter can lead to low adoption, improving the user experience can have the effect of boosting usage and adoption of features. 

As technology improves, so does the need to prioritize the user’s experience. The bottom line: There is beauty in simplicity, and building features that customers will adopt stems from sound user data and steady process of critical refinement.

Narmi Inc.
3 East 28th St. Floor 12
New York, NY 10016

Principles every product designer needs to create amazing digital banking experiences