If there is one industry that is famously complex, it’s finance.
It may be simple and transparent for the city workers out there (although I doubt it), but for the average joe it can be an impenetrable quagmire of unfamiliar terminology, endless regulations, and financial risk. It is no surprise then, that in recent years there has been a movement towards simplification in the financial space. Everywhere you turn there is a new fintech product dedicated to making your financial life easier, from opening up a bank account in minutes to trading stocks with just a few taps on your phone. There are more than 1,600 fintech companies in the UK alone. Despite the wide variety of services and products being offered however, there are three common strategies that almost all of them have employed in order to bring the most simplicity to the customer.
I recently tried to open a new bank account at a traditional bank and it wasn’t easy, to say the least. I waited in line for forty minutes only to be turned away because I needed additional forms of identification. When I went back the next week, after waiting in line for another twenty minutes I was once again turned away because they didn’t accept the proof of address I had brought in. Obviously security precautions are crucial for a financial institution, but it is not difficult to see why so many customers are turning to startup banking apps instead. The new wave of online banks have focused on making the onboarding process as simple as 1, 2, 3.. literally in some cases. To create an account with Revolut, they only ask for a few essential pieces of information such as your name and address. Monzo doesn’t even require proof of address, you simply send a picture of your ID and a selfie video and within minutes you are verified and can begin using your account.
Bank statements or numbers in a spreadsheet may be essential for delving into the detail of finances, but what if you just want to get the essential information at a glance? It’s pretty tough to get a quick sense of, say, your portfolio’s performance or your overall spending while just looking at the numbers on the train. That is why more and more financial institutions are focusing on well-designed data visualisations in order to provide that key info to a customer. Whether that is investment apps like Acorns showing your portfolio performance or return projections, or budgeting sites like Mint showing you your spending breakdown. Using clean and colourful visual representation of the hard numbers allows the average user to get a clear picture of their finances in seconds.
Interestingly, here in the UK financial regulators are beginning to require that funds provide an annual report to investors that proves their value in an easy to understand way. They can no longer necessarily hide poor performance or high fees behind confusing jargon and graphs. We recently worked with Boring Money, a company that helps the average person make smart investing decisions, to help transform some complex financial concepts into easy-to-understand data visualisations. Boring Money is using these to advise fund managers on how they might be able to better explain their value to investors .
Something that goes hand-in-hand with the simplification of data, is the simplification of language. Very few people want to read pages and pages of jargon when signing up or using an app. By focusing on only using everyday language and a conversational tone of voice, many finance apps have opened the door to completely new audiences. And it’s not just limited to banking and investing either! Startups in the insurance space, another complicated and dare-I-say boring area, are also employing the same strategy. Just look at startup Lemonade who offer “contents and liability insurance for the 21st century". They use friendly language, short sentences and large iconography to make the tedious task of updating your insurance policy quick and easy. We work on a lot of fairly complex digital products and if our experience in user research has taught us anything, it’s that people need short and simple copy in order to be able to use a product most effectively. Even experts in a subject can quickly get bogged down in unnecessarily detailed language.
Along with these three strategies, there is of course a whole world of other intelligent UX and UI decisions that help make these fintech startups successful. However, implementing these simplification techniques seems fundamental for anyone trying to sell complex products to a wide audience. Never underestimate the power of simplicity.
This little insight was brought to you by Shane Henderson, Project Manager at Furthermore.
Furthermore are a multi-platform digital product and service design studio based in London. We have one mission: to create innovative digital products that stand out in the landscape, are beautiful, purposeful and a delight for the user. Hot on user experience and user research, we believe good ideas can come at any point in a project, so we utilise agile methodologies. Hypotheses are always tested using prototypes and real users, with improvements being constantly fed back into our user experience and visual designs.
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