Smartphone applications offer a powerful tool for financial service providers to offer services to their customers—if done right. CGAP reviewed six smartphone apps currently available in India to find out what design elements are essential to fully deliver on the promise of marrying a financial service with a smartphone interface.
We chose India because an unprecedented number of people there are coming into contact with financial services for the first time through smartphones. That first experience is crucial, and that opportunity should not be squandered through poor interface design. CGAP’s aim through this study is to demonstrate how simple tweaks can make an outsized difference, and it builds on our earlier work on principles for smartphone design for mobile money. Beyond practical suggestions for design improvements, CGAP wishes to kick start a broader discussion about the opportunities that good design unlocks for financial services over smartphones.
So far no consistent design approach seems to have emerged. For instance, each app handles a Send Money transaction differently. This is a strong indicator that no service provider has yet hit on the best design solution. By contrast, website shopping check-outs all follow a similar approach—or design pattern—for selecting goods and making a purchase. Even though there was an absence of widely adopted best practices, almost every app reviewed contained elements of good design.
Most applications had basic usability problems, which we grouped into the following themes:
- Navigation and understanding. It is difficult to ﬁnd what you need, and the information presented is difficult to interpret. Visual cues such as color and icons are seldom used. Particularly relevant to polyglot India, local language support is often missing.
- Transactions. Making selections from lists or entering data on the keyboard is difficult. Moving through the necessary steps to complete a transaction is cumbersome. Error prevention and messaging is haphazard and error handling confusing. Confirmation messages are often missing or poorly executed.
- Getting started. On the positive side, some apps allow users to try before committing, which engenders trust. However, registration is painful, with users being asked to enter a lot of information up front.
- Assistance and support. Help beyond error messages is weak and usually relegates users to a difficult-to-use FAQ. Practical issues such as intermittent connectivity and agent locations are barely addressed. Tools that engender confidence, like transaction histories, are also hard to understand.
Why Does Any of This Matter? Friction.
Every step on every screen is a decision point for users. Each time they have to stop and think about what the app is asking of them, what to do next, and how to do it, causes friction. While individually any one design problem may not be signiﬁcant, taken together, all of the friction points can spur a user to exit the app in frustration, never to return.
Good design doesn't have to be hard, and it is within reach. This report provides numerous examples of good design in almost every app, and it provides recommendations with visual examples illustrating how good design can be easily achieved.