FinDev Blog

Building Radical Financial Confidence Through Inclusive Design

IDEO’s Last Mile Money program proposes new design paradigms for digital finance to center the experience of people living in poverty
Computer screen showing the cover homepage of IDEO's FInancial Confidence Playbook

“People I know have a smartphone, but I’m not educated. It’s not for me.” 

“If I click the wrong button, my money might go somewhere else.” 

“70 out of my 210 customers cannot read.” 

“It was my first time in the country, it was my first salary. And I was giving it to a stranger.”

A million people a day come online for the first time. They usually have lower incomes, limited education and are often under-banked or underserved. They live in emerging markets and have only just found a home on the internet. Even as they download WhatsApp, or watch YouTube videos, the world of digital financial services continues to feel nerve-wracking. If paychecks are deposited digitally, they’re withdrawn in cash immediately. Formal loans are mixed with informal ones, and financial interactions are often handled by handing over a phone to an agent.

Formal financial services have the power to transform lives, and in many places, we have the digital and physical tools to deliver them. Yet, we still struggle to make those financial services feel valuable. Driving millions more signups to accounts that are primarily cashed out serves no one. Asking users to self-serve in mobile apps that feel foreign doesn’t work. Yet still, we continue to strive for scaling the same products that, as we hear over and over again from people, don’t feel designed for them.

Design paradigms to center the needs of people in poverty

At Last Mile Money, we believe we can and must redesign the financial products people in poverty use each day—not as an extension of the current financial system, but with new design paradigms, interactions and approaches that center their needs and behaviors. Twitter logo We believe all digital financial products should be designed to build a sense of radical financial confidence: that I belong, that I can act, that this product was made for me.

How do we get there? It’ll take collaborative work—and a new baseline for design. To get us started we put together the Financial Confidence Playbook - a collection of our go-to design patterns and insights when designing for the unique needs of those who have limited trust and familiarity with formal finance and technology. In this blog post, we’ll share four of them.

#1 - From interrogation to inclusion

Although financial verification questions are meant to increase security and improve options for users, they can often be triggers of exclusion that reinforce the status quo and imply that financial wellness is only for some. Starting a user experience with questions on income level or home ownership can create feelings of unworthiness among users, especially women who may have less power.

Instead, use language in verification flows that feel inclusive and empowering no matter what the starting point of your user may be. Can the standardized language around occupation information feel more gender-inclusive? Instead of offering binary choices, can options feel more cross-sectional and reduce any shame that comes from self-segmentation?

Mobile phone screen showing example of design idea #1

#2 - From all at once to one at a time

The digital world can feel overwhelming to enter for the first time. To help the brain navigate new processes and ways of working, it’s common for people to build muscle memory and pattern recognition, without necessarily stopping to consider the differences between actions. Unfortunately, financial services design often neglects to take these human tendencies into account. Instead, they go for what we at IDEO call “kitchen sink design” in their app experience - surfacing every possible feature, use case or benefit from the very beginning. Such a design can quickly feel overwhelming - and impossible to build muscle memory for.

As an alternative, consider breaking up complex flows and progressively introducing features as users build confidence and fluency in prior features. For moments of high input, like KYC, think about splitting up the task over multiple days or to unlock different benefits.

Mobile phone screen showing example of design idea #2

#3 - From reactive troubleshooting to proactive support

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, yet much of our current design assumes expertise or sets the user up to make an error. Even with a strong resolution process, errors can be confidence destroyers for new internet users. Screens are small, text is tough to read, and on-screen keyboards are hard to use. The fear of a mistake in a financial transaction can stop them in their tracks. 

Instead, set users up for success. Consider introducing positive friction into design experiences, encouraging users to stop, pause and confirm things are correct. To reduce the likelihood of errors, leverage data sources like photos of past payment receipts rather than payment recipient input.

Mobile phone screen showing example of design idea #3

#4 - From singular to collective

Money is a networked technology, meaning it relies on relationships between people to work.  Yet so often, we design our products with the framework of one device, one user, one account.  Twitter logo

What happens when a user needs to share their password with their agent because they forget their PIN? Or when a son needs to review a financial decision for his family business with his father? We know that many last mile users seek help with their transactions. Assistance often comes from several different people - agents, merchants, digitally savvy family or friends, community groups. 

Think about designing your product experience to be engaged with by multiple people in your users’ life. Can gestural inputs, like turning the screen, provide a “customer” view in an agent app? Might an account be designed to serve an extended family, who may all have input on a loan decision for the family shop?

Mobile phone screen showing example of design idea #4

These shifts and more represent opportunities for design. Opportunities to set a new baseline, to create better products and services and ultimately, to improve people’s lives. We’ve pulled some of our favorite principles, examples and inspiration into the Financial Confidence Playbook. It is a starting point, not an ending point, to better last mile money design. Twitter logo

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