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Question: How can users feel more connected to their spending?
If user interviews are to be believed, we are fairly disconnected from our money, particularly when it’s in short supply or it’s in excess. Either we don’t want to face up to reality, or we don’t believe keeping a check is worthwhile. In managing your money, there are many complexities, but there are huge personal benefits to be gained if you’re more informed about how you and your money are doing.

The simple truth when designing anything is: the end users really don’t care about what you’re doing. They definitely don’t care as much as you do when it comes to your product or service – what they DO care about, is the benefits that your product or service brings them.

There are many things that can help a user feel closer to what’s going on – technology and the wave of more interconnected services are absolutely one of them

What do people say about their money?

There are some recurring themes when understanding how people use money and banks;  
“I check my balance.”  
Why? Ah just to see if I have enough / my bills have come out / nothing unexpected has happened.  
Root cause – Because my bank isn’t really good at telling me that.  

“I check to see that payments have come out”  
Why? Just to make sure that I paid the mortgage / my credit card was paid on time.  
Root cause – Because my bank makes it fairly hard to log in and check simple things, so I have to make a big effort to check myself.  

How can we surface relevant information in a more useful way?  

Both of these sentiments I’ve heard many times – I do think there is merit in exploring other options. How about using Siri, OK Google or Amazon Alexa? What would the types of things users might say?  

I thought about exploring the usefulness of Apple Watch – I’ve found mine to be useful as a fitness device, but I’m yet to really start to see other apps becoming as valuable. With the UK’s smartwatch penetration at just under 3% and the largest market share of this going to under 30’s, it seems like a good idea to explore the potential of an Apple Watch app.  

Who would use the app and why?

I started by creating a persona for Sally, a recent graduate who has just bought her first flat. It’s always good to remember that the creation of a persona is a starting point, as further research and testing should be able to validate or update them as we go. A bit like a styleguide, personas should live and breathe.
Greg is a devoted dad that feels a little under pressure to perform financially, but he is saving, paying off debt and shouldering the responsibility of a young family in a job he can’t see a future in.

Jamal is a fitness fanatic, and has no time for boring banking. He is the classic weekend millionaire, and will be skint within a week of being paid.

Because personas help everyone to focus on creating things for people instead of for ourselves, they can be an invaluable tool. We should be aiming to hear everyone refer to these people in meetings, workshops and ensuring what we’re doing would be something these personas would want, need or respond well to.

You can imagine all three of these people owning an Apple watch – and all three could want something slightly different from their banking provider on it.

If we had an Apple Watch app, what goals would these users want?

Sally  – “I want to make sure I have enough in the bank to pay all the bills for the flat, I don’t want to end up with a bad credit score”.

Greg – “I need to keep things ticking over from month to month with one eye on the future. Not just for me, for the family too”.

Jamal – “I would like to know I can afford my next pair of trainers when I get paid, there’s nothing worse than having to wait for things”.

Using personas with goals can help shape the work you do as a designer, as part of the human condition is to understand things only through your own viewpoint. When your user groups have a different goal from you, and a different perspective, it can prevent decisions being made (by you and your team) which would otherwise not have supported these groups.

Sketching and refining ideas

I find sketching to be such a useful way to get things out of my head and move onto the next thing. It’s a form of censorship as much as it is a fairly low-effort / high-return way of checking thinking with other team members.

I love to start on a blank sheet of paper, but if you’re co-sketching, some people can find that intimidating – so go with templates too (whether this is for a watch, mobile or desktop). The more templates you have on a page, the more it can overcome the desire for people to get things right first time and show that there’s always room for throwaways.
It’s always tempting to design mobile and small screen first, as it forms a natural hierarchy of information that may not be as apparent in a desktop design.

Top tips for sketching sessions

- Try setting objectives that would meet the users goals first (a constrained brief) e.g. in this instance it might be : “I want to see at a glance that I have enough money in my account”

- What could be possible? What exists now? How could we make that better?
After getting rough ideas down on paper, it’s then a case of deciding how to move forward. I like a good prototype to check on content and general usability, although sometimes if you’re designing a small component, it’s not necessary as it’s simple and stripped back. Favourites for me right now are Framer and Principle.

The design could also be moved to a higher fidelity, but sometimes it’s good to keep the fidelity lower to aid discussion and to keep the design decisions with the design team. 

Design is often very subjective – so assuming you have a styleguide in place, it’s easier to overcome the opinions that didn’t get surfaced because you’re showing sketches of the final design than the actual final design itself.

The sketches and ideas gave way to the idea of seeing what is available to you to spend. I think it’s a candidate to test if this is an amount generated from “balance – bills = spend” or an amount which you set yourself before you’re able to glance it.