Thursday, May 19, 2022

Do not offer standard UI to Expert and Novice.

We are moving towards industry 4.0, but for Digital Financial Services we are still producing mass market and off the shelf products with very little customisation and personalisation. Can the Fintech product managers customise the UI of a Financial institution application for different personas (or customer segments)? For example, a few questions can be asked during sign up about his or her experience of using Digital Financial services and accordingly UI will change on the go. But why is it important?

Expert user vs Novice user

A research by MeasuringU finds out that novices encountered more total problems/insights compared to experts and almost twice as many unique issues that experts did not.

Product managers know that an expert will be able to see a different interface while a novice will have simpler clutter-free basic features and gradually handhold him or her to the expert level. Therefore, the beauty of technology Advancement must be in Personalisation and Customisation. However, even with enormous data most of the products and their features are very standard.

Thus the proposition that we are making is simple: Before signing up, ask the users a few questions based on the usage of the product and why they need it. If users turn out to be a novice, that is, have no experience of the product or service then show them an interface that will help them adapt better to the product. Similarly, if users turn out to be quite well versed with the product and application, then show them an interface that will help them use the app smoothly.

We can basically do three divisions.

1. Novice: < 3 months of experience

2. Intermediate: > 3 months but < 1 year of experience

3. Expert: > 1 year experience

Why is this necessary?

This is necessary because a product or app should give users the best experience. For example, suppose you are an expert user. You signed up for the app, and it started showing you which icons will lead to which actions. On top of that, there is no option to skip this compulsory tour. You will get frustrated with the app. Just like this, there can be tens of other examples as to how a novice gets frustrated when he or she does not understand something and how an expert user gets frustrated when he or she understands something but still has to use the much obsolete app as they have to be content with an interface that is understandable by all.

Some pundits will argue that by asking a few questions in the beginning, product managers might be trying to drive the users away as they are impatient.

If an organisation understands its segment well then we can get away with other proxies of questions through pattern studies and other tools. However asking a few questions in between at different intervals may give insights into the latent needs of the customer.

But offering a standard UI to both an expert and novice may not be a good idea.

Why offer the same interface to all users? The maximum number of personas for any financial institution would be, say 5-8, not more than that. If it is more, then the institution either does not know its customers or has done some wrong calculations to come up with the personas.

Product managers are continuously improving on different fronts like UX, digital marketing, payments innovations, A/B testing, etc. These do ease the lives of consumers, undoubtedly. But, companies are missing out on building a one to one contact with their customers in this way. If brands want, they may use this opportunity to build a relationship with their users. A site or app that asks users fewer questions in the name of not driving them away or irritating them or worse, retaining them might ease things for them while leaving behind the opportunity to know their users better.  Such preliminary questions might help them in understanding a lot of important factors like demographics, wants, and needs to name among a few. So, neither the users nor the product managers ever walk the extra mile to build the relationship. In other words, these payment service providers, by easing things for you, deprive you of the opportunity to return to their page or answer their questions to see things for yourself.

In the case of uniform and standard UI, intuitiveness became the main goal in the case of novices and irritation in the case of experts.

To design for both experts and novices, one needs to understand that they have different workflows and information density needs. Most of the time, the focus is on novices because everyone starts as a novice. On the other hand, this can be to the detriment of the expert. In an article by Jakob Nielsen  and Bruce Tognazzini, one of the earliest employees of Apple Inc, both experts in the field of User Experience and Interaction Design, they argue that the focus on the learnability of a UI has made the idea of designing for the expert a taboo. This is because experts will not be going to need the same user interface elements that may be visually displeasing to interface designers. Thus, this argument proves quite similar to our proposition. Do not make standard User Interface for both experts and novices. Try to make the User Interface adjust according to the needs of the user. Fintech companies are becoming popular because of their customer centric approach. If they do not pay much heed to things like User Interface (which is the central element of an application), they might become like the banks and the legacy financial institutions.

Users who do not spend a lot of time with the software are going to have different (and low) levels of knowledge, or even repeated frustration, with the same user interface. Initial successes or failures will also affect the success of future interaction with the software. User Interface elements are also styled differently for different types of users, and this styling can impact how well they perform with the same UI element.

Experts always need extensive features, visual clutter, and a much larger information display density than the novice as they have spent much more time on the app or service and need more features. Roughly, this means that the user interface that encourages learning (about the app or its features) is not necessarily the right interface for the expert. User Interfaces that encourage learning have open spaces, clutter reduced, and text to tell the user how to be successful; features that are contrary to what experts may want and need. Thus, user needs are quite diverse. Users who are more familiar with different types of technology (even though they are new to the app) are more skilled at transitioning skills between applications. Trying to weigh all of them with the same weighing machine is not justified. 

The last word

Users have different perspectives. This is why companies invest in good human resources so that they understand what the users want and design the products accordingly. This is no rocket science. Yet, it turns out to be one of the hardest topics to discuss without offending any product managers, even though some of the earliest product managers of Apple Inc agrees with it.



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