Making financial product design inclusive

inclusive product design in financial services

Thousands upon thousands of financial products are vying for the attention of time-poor consumers. The right product design that draws people in can be the difference between making a long-term customer or losing a sale to a competitor.

Meeting the often complex needs and requirements of a diverse user base during the design process isn’t an easy undertaking. But by focusing on inclusive design, products can appeal to the widest range of financial consumers and enhance their experience. 

Rachel Vann, Senior Manager of Responsible Business at Lloyds Banking Group, explains that assuming one size fits all just doesn’t work. “Reducing friction for a range of users needs can be achieved by following some basic inclusive design principles,” Rachel says, “Though a thorough appreciation of complex needs does require a more immersive approach to understanding their lived experience.  This does include considering the diversity of needs within a specific disability. 

From low-income groups to those with visual or physical disabilities, an array of users’ needs should be considered at every step of the user experience (UX) design journey. Some considerations are easy to address, if designers are made aware, such as not using colours to signify actions or information (as users with colour blindness won’t be able to see this type of messaging). Other factors can be more complex and call for a balanced approach that requires feedback from real-life users, to understand their lived experience. 

For example, some product users who have faced money issues in the past and don’t feel confident dealing with their finances, may be overwhelmed by too much financial jargon. Using clear, plain English content to remove unnecessary complexity can help people from all educational backgrounds more comfortably use the product. 

Accessibility for mobile apps is particularly important as adding additional barriers to navigating around these apps can introduce friction to people with cognitive or physical disabilities. Building in features like text-to-speech and zoom options can dramatically improve the experience for many users, as too can adding alt text to images that provide a description. 

Many financial applications today, include additional security and authentication methods, such as biometrics. Certain disabilities may make biometrics more challenging to use, those with visual impairments might struggle positioning their phone at a certain angle to scan their face. Those with a voice tremor, may struggle with voice recognition, while individuals with mobility problems may not be able to use fingerprint verification.

Engaging with customers during the research and creation stages of product development are essential. Gaining continuous feedback on product friction points and annoyances early on in the design plan can help protect against timely revisions in the future.  

Aarti Samani, SVP of Product & Marketing at iProov, emphasises that inclusivity can’t be added retrospectively, but has to be an integral part of the design of any financial product. “At iProov, inclusivity was one of the pillars on which we built our technology and products,” Aarti explains, “Our biometric face authentication can be used by anyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, ability, age or which device or platform they are using. Expecting someone to be able to follow instructions or have a $600 smartphone is not acceptable. Therefore our technology requires no instructions and can be used on any device or platform.

Ensuring that low-income users and those people with a difficult relationship with their finances are fully catered to and their needs taken into account is not an overnight process. Even a relatively small miscommunication or barrier, such as a complex financial term that isn’t explained or being overwhelmed by figures, can ruin the experience. In practice, an effective onboarding can allow these users to build confidence and feel more comfortable using the product, as well as understanding the essential features offered by the product. 

Embracing design principles that focus on inclusivity doesn’t just benefit marginalised communities. Additional features like text-to-speech and using plain-English can be used by all customers and simply provides more options to everyone. Mistakes and missteps that inadvertently create barriers to product accessibility are likely to happen when building comprehensive financial products from the ground-up. But as long as developers are committed to addressing these issues when they appear, inclusive financial products will become a reality.  

Written by Finabarr Toesland, Editorial Contributor

To continue the discussion, join the Future Identity community today.