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Using HCD to Develop User Friendly Apps and Interfaces

Jun 2, 2016
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Tags :
  • Customer Centric Design,
  • Customer Research,
  • Digital Financial Services,
  • Early this year, Karandaaz Pakistan commissioned GRID Impact, a global research, innovation and design firm, to develop concept designs for a smart phone application for mobile money. With 8.7% of adult Pakistanis reportedly having an account at a financial institution compared to approximately 48% of financially excluded adults reportedly owning a mobile phone, there is reason to believe that carefully designed and visually rich mobile wallets (m-wallets) have the potential to positively impact financial inclusion in Pakistan. This project explores options to enhance the experience of local mobile financial service users via improved user interfaces and transaction flows, with the ultimate aim to positively impact the breadth (greater onboarding) and depth (varied utilization) of m-wallets.  Thus far the approach has been to carefully and iteratively craft the wireframes using human-centered design (HCD) methodology wherein client and provider interaction is systematically built into key stages of the design process.

    This is the second blog in a series of three introducing and documenting the process of creating client-centered design concepts (the first was titled: What is Human-Centered Design?); the focus of this blog is to recap selected findings from the discovery phase of the project.  In this phase, the GRID Impact team engaged a sample of users, providers and stakeholders in Pakistan as part of a learning exercise to ascertain how they view the market for mobile financial services and smartphone applications and the implications for project outputs going forward. Specifically, GRID Impact sought to understand how users currently interact with and use mobile financial services, smartphones and alternative financial and communication tools. For the complete report, readers may refer to the Discovery Report available on the Karandaaz Pakistan website.

    THE PROVIDER VIEW

    • Providers Do Not Emphasize Human-Centered Design in On-Going Design and Development Work: Organizations that were interviewed stated that human-centered design was considered a “novel concept” which was not used in  developing project outputs. Instead, most providers seemed to focus on “feature-level” customer acquisition and competition, with emphasis mainly on elements such as agent networks, fees or services as opposed to human-centered design for an enhanced customer experience. With the exception of one, all branchless banking providers interviewed currently have smartphone apps in the market or are planning to launch an app within the next few months. Given this fact, this could be an opportune time for Karandaaz to encourage providers to reassess their application designs and use the client sensitive design inputs crafted by GRID Impact to inform and complement their work in the immediate future.
    • Providers are Keen to Target Salaried Consumers and the Youth:  A few of the providers interviewed voiced strong interest in targeting salaried consumers and young people, namely blue collar workers and students.  According to them, these groups are most likely to adopt branchless banking through the smartphone channel due to predominant levels of smartphone ownership. In addition, salaried or blue collar workers were seen as more likely to be driven to branchless banking via salary disbursements whereas students were more likely to adopt branchless banking as a result of their interest with the smartphone channel in general.  Despite the in-house development of apps, all of the providers interviewed stated that they believed that market-wide smartphone adoption (inclusive of low-income segments) is likely to occur close to five years from now. As a result, these providers do not see an immediately addressable and scalable market amongst smartphone-owning, low-income and low-literacy customers.
    • Providers Have a Mixed Appetite for Mobile Financial Services and Smartphone Applications: A number of providers expressed interest in specific design outputs (onboarding, PINs, transaction flows).  All providers were interested in the customer insights gathered during the research, especially by customer segment. In addition, some providers indicated that they were keen on seeing how the smartphone channel could serve as a marketing and product delivery platform for an extensive range of products and services. On this note, providers compared the limited capability of USSD versus the smartphone; the latter was seen to possess the power to function as a flexible marketing platform with rich displays of various products and services.

    THE USER VIEW

    • Users are Not Exploratory or Active Learners with their Smartphones:  Responses from user interviews highlight the fact that most users are introduced to mobile financial services for a particular purpose—for example, sending money to a family member—and thus become “anchored” to this sole use. As a result, customers do not explore beyond that initial purpose and do not become fluent in leveraging other uses of mobile money. During interviews several users engaged with their smartphones as if they were computers and as a result, were unable to distinguish between apps and websites, often defaulting to web browsers when seeking new services. GRID Impact’s analysis indicates that the current interface (UI) design does not make multiple features of mobile money salient to users, who also shared that they do not have active data plans and consequently do not venture towards exploring mobile money apps. In addition, it is likely that users are not exploratory or active because many of them do not perceive smartphones as a high utility product; instead they perceive smartphones as luxury goods to be sparingly used for entertainment and non-essential services. This suggests that mobile money apps should include features, services and benefits salient to customers to ensure that customers understand their potential for essential, non-entertainment uses.
    • Users Rely Heavily on Agents to Access Mobile Financial Services: Many users stated that they avoided independent use of mobile financial services due to mistrust of technology or as a result of prior negative experiences. Instead, these users rely heavily on professional intermediaries, or agents, to operate mobile money services. Due to a misaligned incentive structure, among other reasons, these agents (whether by design or oversight) fail to highlight or educate users on the varied uses of mobile money, thereby limiting users’ opportunity to learn and navigate mobile money services on their own.  Mobile financial service (MFS) providers would therefore benefit substantially by designing their applications to enable independent uptake.
    • Users Lack Confidence in their Ability to Utilize Mobile Money Applications: Many users expressed a lack of self-assurance when using mobile money applications, often believing that any flaw or mistake made was their fault. This also meant that users failed to consider potential design flaws as a reason for a negative or unsuccessful experience. As a result, several users were unable to specify any flaws or usability improvements for apps. At the same time, users that had positive first time experiences and/or developed into independent regular users of the system stated that they had developed greater confidence in their ability to use such services and were likely to use mobile money applications again. The task at hand now, therefore, is to develop mobile money apps that encourage positive experiences for customers while guiding and coaching customers to ensure enhanced customer experience.

    The findings from the discovery report served as the starting point for the design work of this project, which it is hoped will contribute to and assist the MFS industry in designing smartphone applications that enhance the overall experience of mobile financial service users, ultimately helping gain traction for m-wallets within the market. The first set of prototypes has been developed and tested, with the final prototypes scheduled for market wide release in the third quarter of 2016.

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