When good design is the bottom line
Business to businesses services need not be the poor cousins when it comes to user experience, and the fintech sector has an opportunity to lead the way
As user experience (UX) has become central to how applications are designed, an often-forgotten aspect is that many apps are, in fact, not intended for public consumption. Historically this resulted in a sub-par experience, with both internally used and business to business (B2B) software designed by developers for developers.
Brian Herron, director of user experience design agency Each&Other, said that companies in the fintech sector in particular could improve businesses outcomes if they considered UX as a crucial part of their business.
“There are two ways to look at this,” he said.
The first is that good user experience drives use, and this is most relevant in the consumer space, he said.
“The first is that there is room for increasing market share through improvements to customer-facing technologies and experiences. Think about neo-banks, how financial tools like pensions and insurance get sold, or robo-advice; things that are bolted on around a central product”.
However, from Herron’s point of view, the greatest opportunity is in those apps that are typically not customer-facing, whether custom and bolt-on or those that exist to serve the B2B sector.
“The second thing is the infrastructural tools that are going on behind all of this. These are things that are absolutely crucial to business,” he said.
Naturally, most of us have something of a blind spot for apps and other software that we may never encounter. Nonetheless, all manner of crucial financial transactions and other operations are originated and processed using them, from investments and financial management to anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) processes.
This sector is very significant, Herron said.
“What, as consumers, we see is one thing, but fintech launches that have a consumer focus have a really hard road to go down. First, they have to convince people the product is worth it, and then they also have to fight the inertia that we all have. As a result, your marketing spend has to be enormous and then you have to have a good customer experience – and your product has to solve a big enough problem. Against that, when we see companies working in a B2B space it is much less difficult to get a foothold,” he said.
However, this does not mean that it is easy to deliver a good UX and Herron said that, in the B2B space, UX problems actually tend to be harder to solve.
“Once you solve them you end up with amazing products, though. For a fintech company dealing with regulatory issues, say helping with Know Your Customer processes, the ability to have quick onboarding and set-up, to communicate an initial sales pitch through the user interface, that is very hard to get right,” he said.
Indeed, a good UX may include a simple user interface, but not necessarily so. If a user interface is dumbed down it can actually impede users, particularly professionals who are performing necessarily complex tasks. In a case such as this, the objective is not consumer-like ‘slickness’, but a design that places the most relevant and frequently used information and functionality within easy reach.
However, if the bulk of competitors, or perhaps the incumbents, don't think about UX, that is where an app can gain a competitive advantage. Indeed, whether transactions are high value or high volume – or both – the ease with which they can be achieved has a concrete impact on the bottom line. Confusing user interfaces and poor user experience will result in slower processing and give rise to the potential for errors.
In addition, poorly designed software adds an unnecessary training burden that has a cost.
“In a B2B you have more complexity, and shaving off seconds or minutes off a process can have a huge impact. Then you have training and staff turnover too,” said Herron.
For Herron, the ultimate point is that how users experience software is something that should be considered business critical – and that it is something that can be subjected to logical and provable processes.
“At some point someone is going to be sitting down in front of a user interface trying to make sense of things. That touchpoint remains critical. We need to be able to display information, explain things and allow people to have confidence in using complex tools. That requires someone at the helm,” he said.