4 Design Principles to help users make smart financial decisions


Blog article / Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Yesterday, ING announced in a blog post that they will take the Think Forward Initiative ‘up a notch’, mainly highlighting the concept of ‘Can I afford this‘.

With this application, people get instant feedback whether or not they can afford a certain product they’ve found online (such as on eBay, like in the example video). I was lucky enough to help out on the creation of this prototype, as facilitator during the Think Forward project in 2016 (co-organized by Deloitte NL).

Please view this short video of ‘Can I Afford This’ here:

As you can see, this solution is based on contextual, in app feedback on your buying intentions. Not only is this a radical new way of helping customers make the right decisions, it also has some very neat design principles that drive this app. Those principles can be applied to wider array of (financial) applications, and so it’s worth discussing them here.

I. Here & Now: Make it truly contextual
Pinterest has a great micro-interaction that makes it possible to pin any image you encounter, directly on a board. As such, it’s offering this pin functionality across other apps and channels (other than the Pinterest app itself). Simply by pressing and holding an image, you can pin it.

Left: product on eBay. Right: Press and hold to reveal contextual Can I afford this overlay

When do you need advice about a purchase? Exactly, when you know or see what you want to buy. Especially with the risk of doing impulsive shopping, it’s important that you get direct, instant feedback (‘here and now‘) about your ability to order something online. By adopting the Pinterest design pattern, simply press and hold, choose the Question mark, and the answer is displayed.

Take away: you don’t want people to unnecessarily stop or interrupt their current UX flow – if you provide a contextual feature, make it truly contextual and part of the flow.

II. Combine emotions & hard data
We are funny creatures. We are champions in displaying irrational behavior, saying A doing B, not able to explain why exactly we make certain decisions. For example, we’re OK with standing in a line that’s crowded, but not a line that’s short. That’s because human behavior cannot always be logically or rationally explained.

Example of combining emotional (top) and hard data (bottom)

Therefore, this solution uses two data sources: 1) social media data, by means of a crawler (the ’emotions’) and 2) personal, financial data (the ‘numbers’). By doing so, catering to the aforementioned notion that our behavior cannot always be justified by logical data: more often than not, our emotional state is leading in taking decisions, perhaps being a much stronger force than our actual account balance.

Take away: take into account how people are feeling at the moment they’re about to make an important decision. You have the obligation to stimulate people in making a deliberate choice, especially in finance. People are irrational creatures.

III. Graphs & Narratives: speak to left and right brain people
Strongly related to the previous point, try to communicate your message in a way people understand. Some people are good with numbers, others are not. Some people are impacted by words, others less so. This intrinsic human difference has consequences for designing (financial) solutions. In Can I afford this, this is solved by showing both a strong narrative, such as:

“From your financial and social data, we see that you’re likely to make a deliberate decision when buying this sofa.”

However, at the bottom part, we can also see the ‘traditional’ bars that show whether or not you’ll be negatively affected by buying said product – appealing more to analytic/logic people.

Take away: acknowledge the fact that people are different in the way they view, read and understand information. Think about how you’re going about this in your product and how you can make improvements by improving the narrative and/or providing ‘hard data’.

IV. Nudge, don’t force
Nudging is a popular psychologic ‘trend‘, that dictates people are more likely to exhibit certain desired behavior when they’re not forced to do act upon something, but just get a ‘little push’ in the right direction. This way, it still feels they’re making the decision themselves (although that’s questionable to a certain extent – since we’re nudging them).

Example of nudging: a push in the right direction

See how ‘Recommended’ and the green color are used to focus the consumer’s eyes on the second bar? This is a typical example of ‘helping’ out, without forcing a choice (e.g.: ‘you can only use your credit card to buy this product’).

Take away: when you want to advise users in your app, or direct them to a certain UX path or feature, don’t be obtrusive. Instead, use nudging techniques as a core design principle to achieve your goal.

I hope you’ve seen how important it is to craft your design principles before creating a solution. What are user-experience goals? How are you changing or guiding behavior? How are you taking people’s context and their emotional state into account, at times of (important) decisions? Think about these things next time you enter a new project.

Bend your solution to your customers’ context and needs, not the other way around.

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