In celebration of World Usability Day 2012, Optimal Workshop invited Natalie Kerschner, Senior Usability Analyst at BNZ Online, to give her take on this year’s theme of The Usability of Financial Systems.
Years ago, when I was starting my career in User Experience (UX), a big project came up that required a full time UX role. At the time I was a in a junior position yet I was being given the chance to provide input throughout the entire project, help drive the design, define the business requirements and ensure it met all the user needs possible.
It was an exciting proposition, however there was one problem; it was based in a bank! I tried everything I could to remove myself from this project, as I couldn’t imagine anything worse; after all, there is nothing appealing about dealing with finances!
Twelve years on and I am still working for a bank; in fact I’ve worked in several banks and all I can say is, oh how wrong I was! You see there is one thing about finances; absolutely everybody has to deal with them! Whether you love to budget and have savings goals, or don’t want to think about it at all, you still have to use money.
That is what makes it a UX dream!
Most industries are limited by a few target demographics but in every financial project, you need to go back to the basics, investigate who is using it, the why, when and where. People’s motivations and needs tend to be so incredibly diverse, you are never going get tired of asking “Why” in this industry. If having an extremely varied demographic wasn’t challenging enough, the dramatic evolution of technology is also changing how people are dealing with and even thinking about their finances.
Two years ago if your bank didn’t have a mobile application or at least a mobile strategy it wasn’t a major concern. Nowadays as soon as a bank introduces a new mobile feature, social media sites are bombarded with comments from customers banking with competitors, saying, “When do we get this?” Times have rapidly changed and the public has a much lower tolerance for waiting for new features to be developed and that alone has had a huge impact on how we carry out UX in the financial field. We no longer have time to do lengthy and large scale usability projects as the technology, user needs and business needs can change radically in that time. As UX professionals, we have had to adapt to this changing landscape. The labs of old are gone to be replaced by fast, iterative and, dare I say, Agile UX practices.
So what does a truly diverse demographic and swiftly changing technology give us?
In my particular situation, it gave me a marvelous opportunity to re-evaluate how I practiced UX, evolving it and integrating these new techniques into project teams a lot more easily than ever before. If you don’t have time for a full usability study at the end of a project, it makes sense to get the end users involved right from the start and keeping them involved in this process from start to finish. Yes, this is what the UX community has been saying we should do for years, but now it also makes sense to the business and development teams too. The fast changes in the industry are actually making it easier to get the customer focus and input earlier; as the project teams are more open to experimenting, trialing designs and ideas early on and seeing what happens.
So is working in the financial industry boring for a UX professional?
Hardly! Being a UX professional in this type of business landscape impels you to be drawn in to the evolution of UX. Every day is filled with potential and fresh challenges making the practice of UX in banking a whole lot more rewarding!
Senior Usability Analyst, BNZ Online