UI case: Saffron banking

My brief was to create the UI for a new responsive banking application for a challenger brand looking to make waves in the financial world. The goal was an intuitive app that would help them stand out from the crowd. 

The wish was for the brand to be:

  • Playfull
  • Clear
  • Trustworthy

The objectives were to: 1)  Choose a name for the bank, 2) Create a fresh new interface for this responsive banking application 3) Design polished user interfaces for three screens on desktop, tablet and mobile.

The process

1. Creating mood boards

2. work within specified grid layouts

3. make design choices for fonts, UI elements, colour palette, icons

4. Iterative design process for multiple screens

5. Structuring and communicating my designs


This is a summary of the main take-aways from this research.

  • Too close, or not quite close enough?
    I observed a mismatch between users' expectations and how the app actually functioned. Many functions and features were similar to familiar apps, such as the call to «post» which most users will know from Facebook or Instagram. However, the features also diverted a lot from these familiar apps, and thus users expectations did not match with the results, creating uncertainty. This issue can be solved by EITHER adjusting said features so they resemble the users expectations more closely, that way their actions will result in what they expect to happen and cause less frustration for new users, OR by leaning into the unique way these features are supposed to work and make sure the phrasing and labels that are used do not overlap with familiar apps so that the users' associations about them do not clash - the latter is however the harder route to take.

  • Lack of communication.
    Users experienced uncertainty as to what certain features in the app did. Without being able to find information about it they had to go through trial and error to figure it out, and often experienced unexpected results. This pain point most likely derives from the fact that until now the design was developed by the team themselves and, as they know exactly what they want each feature to do, forgot to communicate this clearly. It can be easy to forget how something looks from the perspective of a new user when you are intimately familiar with a design. The curse of knowledge, after all, is that you can never again know what it is like not to have that knowledge. This is why testing with users is so important. The communication aspects can easily be fixed with clearer labels or potentially explanation boxes that can be opened as pop-ups only when needed or only on the first use.

  • Smoothing out the user flow
    Furthermore, simple changes could be made to improve the overall flow and make the app more user-friendly. For instance, an estimated 95 % of uses follow the specific flow of registering litter while picking it, by uploading a picture of the litter and providing some information about it. It would be helpful for users if the app opened on the page that lets you do this, instead of on a homescreen from which they need to do several clicks to get to the registration page. This might be especially helpful for this particular app as their users will be outdoors, perhaps carrying something or on their way somewhere, and want to use the app quickly, and quite possibly one-handed.
    Simple restructuring of the pages, and a critical assesment of how much information is actually required and which boxes might be removed from the registration form, are quick and feasible solutions that would make a big difference to the user experience.

  • Motivators of sustainable actions
    A main finding of the ethnographic part of this study regarded what motivates people to choose sustainable actions (such a picking litter), and how this varies on contextual factors.As a climate anthropologist much of my work relates to this and much can be said on the topic. What is useful input for this app however, is that certain motivators work particularly well for short-term behavioural change or for testing out something new, while others are better for sustaining long-term behavioural change.One of the main functions of the app is to reward people for picking litter by letting them exchange points for prizes. As my research shows, this is an efficient way to make people curious about a behaviour and have them try it out. It is however not good, and in some cases actually harmful, for sustaining long-term behavioural change. The strongest motivators for the latter are more closely tied to intrinsic values and identity. When we experience that our actions are in line with those two elements, we are more likely to continue doing it. The most popular «reward» option for long-term users of the app was the option to donate their points to sponsor clean-ups other places in the world, reinforcing their identity and values as people who care more about helping the environment than material goods.

    This is just a small part of the findings that relate to motivators. It was important, however, for the Empact team be aware and learn more about this, as the way they reward people has different impacts on both short and long-term behaviour. Rewarding people for positive behaviour can be a useful tool, but it has to be used consciously and in the right context as to not backfire. These findings were deemed extremely important by the team and will make their work stronger and more nuanced moving forward. 

I loved working with Empact's team, as well as their users. They are passionate about sustainability and about creating ripple effects. This research, though brief, will have major consequences for how they think about their work and approach, as reported by the team themselves, showing how powerful these research methods are. 

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