7 minute read


Problem

Being a new bank with a different ethos, Metro Bank aggressively rolled out its banking products in the UK in a short space of time. This was done to very high customer satisfaction within their purposely created physical stores. The cohesion with their digital channels though, was an issue. Metro Bank recognised the limitations of their online banking from launch. It didn’t cater to their customer’s needs, and most importantly the experience of using their digital products did not reflect the brand put forward by their stores and staff.

Extensive customer comments through their customer service departments had confirmed key issues regarding the usability and functional limitations of their current “off the shelf” online banking.

My goal was to steer the project team in a direction dictated by current and yet to be accumulated research data. In order to achieve this, I would have to implement user-centred methodologies into to a very development heavy agile process. With buy in from the client, I was able to dictate a UX plan that would enable Metro Bank to innovate in their team, and with their customers.


Process

As Lead UX Consultant I was responsible for driving the creation of key deliverables, defined by creative collaboration within the project team. The challenge of remote teams, meant that workshops I prepared for and facilitated were long and intensive. The chance for the Stakeholders, Developers, Project Management and UX to be in room, had to be effective.

Our assumptions on our users were declared in an extensive kick-off meeting. Key customer groups were defined in collaboration with marketing and Metro Bank management. Metro Bank pride themselves on having an intimate understanding of their customers, so my approach was to explore their assumptions by bringing it back, viewing scenarios as their customer.

Through various game storming workshops, I was able to define the business priorities, an assumptive model of the users and the key tasks within a MVP that enabled the correct outcomes for the user. This determined a Sprint zero for myself, in addition to a skeleton for project management to solidify.

Research

By talking to several key stakeholders within the bank I was able to gather information about their priorities and perspectives. The role of UX was key in being able to bridge the priorities of the bank with their customers. Just for stakeholders and product owners to air grievances of the current online banking, enabled us simply to identify opportunities. A simple interview was a great way of introducing UX to them.

The call centre also proved an excellent listening opportunity within the business. The observational insight of feedback data from a service being conducted, proved valuable in challenging several assumptions. Especially around the balance of business and user priorities.

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Understanding the current architecture

The initial kick-off meeting had declared assumptions about the user. It became quite clear what was needed within a learning plan to expand the research. Key research questions revolved around the understanding of key banking tasks, and the language within those tasks. The information architecture was up for much debate, and it needed clarification.

One of my first research sessions with users, was to conduct a hybrid of card sorting and interview. I wanted to use a closed card sort as an “icebreaker”. The initial objective was to get the user to group current tasks and functionality into themes that initially made sense to them. Through this I could then challenge their assumptions by getting them to walk through their choices in real world banking scenarios. This allowed me to do impromptu experience mapping as a result of the conversation. Terminology misunderstandings, process, priorities and use context all came out in these discussions.

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Card sorting tasks and terminology

Lean personas and storyboarded scenarios were a quick but key deliverable. The motive of their use was to constantly have a model of the key user groups to reference in any future design discussion. “Well I don’t think John would do that because of x”. Being able to quickly storyboard scenarios with developers to compliment an agile user story drove a discussion that could have been dominated by technology implementation. Start with, “Ok let's sketch this scenario from the perspective of John”.

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Personas

Ideation workshops using design studio were key to enabling a collaborative approach to design. By facilitating the sessions, I could set the user context, and enable the generation of ideas to achieve the desired user outcomes. The overarching aim was to engage the stakeholders and developers in design thinking collaboration. I wanted to move as far away from “over the wall” detailed deliverables on my side, to rapid sketching and communication of ideas in a team.

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Ideation workshop
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Design studio
Design

As a result of research with customers and the business, the client tasked me with creating high-level design principles. The MVP we were creating constituted a first iteration, but with many projects due to begin over the coming years, they wanted user-centred learning to be easily applied.

Through stakeholder interviews I was able to collect and articulate the intended personality of the brand. Using design and experience principles we were able to quickly combine brand with user research and create a “guiding star” document for future product design. It was intended to be light, clear and testable in the future. An example and key insight from research was the disconnection from how the bank and the customers talk. There needed to be a common language. This should be reflected in the language used in the interface and how it should reflect the human-aspect of customer service in physical stores. Refrain from using unnecessary banking jargon, and designing interactions like a great conversation were other key complementary ideas.

Prototyping, in code or paper was a key deliverable to communicate and test ideas. I used disposable prototypes to articulate ideas to the Developers and Visual Designers, which meant we could constantly be in a place of rapid iteration based on feedback. Mapping out wireframes in flows to explore technical limitations and issues became a strong tool in the project process. Identified problems constantly led to being around a whiteboard and talking through options.

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Interaction wire flows
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Piecing together wireframes
Evaluation

Iterative opportunities to test key user flows with customers were taken on a regular basis. With no extensive evaluation metrics put in place, the idea was to test prototypes with customers and identify usability issues. Setting up an account, signing in with security credentials or moving money between accounts. Guerrilla testing was treated as a constant opportunity to test assumptions set at the beginning of the project. By rapidly mapping themes with stakeholders and developer’s post-test, gave me the opportunity to constantly influence learning onto the project.

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Usability evaluation

Results

Through introducing user-centred methodologies to the project process, we were able to address key usability issues highlighted in research. Interface language and red route tasks were simplified. They were improved by an appropriate amount of interface feedback to the user, reducing confusion and errors in previous online banking iterations.

The choices of banking jargon and technology dictating the terms of interaction, had created a disconnect with users of the bank's digital services. Significant usability and functional improvements had enhanced the users' experience of online banking, whilst the exposure of a design thinking process had empowered the business for future projects.

Test and task level metrics had proven useful in iterative evaluation, but because of a lack of significant participant numbers, the full range of metrics had initially not been a focus. As a parting task, defining key quantitative metrics were discussed and implemented as part of the first iteration launch. Task success, time on task and conversion metrics were to be captured within analytics for significant quantitative learning.


Reflections

Getting UX involved in a development led agile process is a challenge. Especially when that team is remote. The constant challenge was to really clarify things, in photos and documentation, which would have been far easier face-to-face. User-centred ways of working were new to the majority of people in the project, meaning my role blurred into a coordinator on a regular basis. Justifying time for research, testing assumptions and user story prioritisation. What I learnt is that at the start, a good plan with the right expectations is so important to make sure UX remains valued.

The tradition of banks forcing concepts and language onto users was very interesting. An example interview question being “So what do you mean by transfer?”, resulted in “well, you know, when you move money from that account to that account”. Terminology was unnecessarily complex. When you add this to banking tasks that take too many steps to complete, bogging the user down with technical decisions, creates poor usability. The bank knew the terminology and how the process works, that didn't match with the user.

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