We don’t always recognise the ingenuity that comes with software design.
When we do, it’s most likely with software we use as a consumer, rather than in the workplace.
Corporate software, especially in institutional financial markets often requires grasping vast amounts of data in a meaningful way, for users that are resistant to change what they already know and understand. So new or enhanced software needs to present benefits which exceed the effort required to change or counters the risk of a competitor being faster and cheaper.
However, pressures on scope and delivery times can mean people see design optimisation as an artistic option; something that can easily be discarded.
At Fathom London, we have shown many clients that design excellence in financial markets software has immense value, resulting in them seeing it as an imperative, not an option.
The mindset towards financial markets software design is changing:
“Since 2010, 27 companies founded by designers were acquired by bigger companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Adobe, Dropbox, and LinkedIn. Of the cumulative-funded VC-backed ventures that have raised more money since 2013, 20% have co-founders who are designers. Last year, for the first time, 6 venture capital firms invited designers to join their teams.” — Disrupts
In 2015, design director Kate Aronowitz left Facebook and joined a financial robo-advisor company, Wealthfront. Comparing both companies, they are totally “committed to design… and growing into a world-class design organisation”.
Although both companies are consumer-facing, it’s this commitment to providing unparalleled experiences through design, which all businesses, whether B2B or B2C should follow.
Corporations are trying to make finance more accessible. Aronowitz also notes that “financial investment seems, on paper, pretty logical, but in reality, it’s extremely emotional”. In a Fast Co. article, she commented that interfaces can be overwhelming, hindering people’s confidence. But design plays a huge role in how people manage their money. It helps them understand what to do, and how to do it.
And we increasingly see more change, partially due to Google and Apple. The pair, with their flawless user experience, saw the two excel in popularity among audiences. Both companies set the tone for user experience; usually associated with digital, but can be translated into almost any context.
The aesthetics of interaction and the experiences created by these products raised a surge in demand for high-quality software, and with it, a lack of tolerance for poor experience design. Having an intuitive and seamless interface is vital for retaining customers and driving your product’s adoption.
Financial software design is forward-thinking.
Internal regulation can hinder how we view this technology. Institutions, from trading rooms to customer service desks are filled with tabular software interfaces. Traditionally, they’re not regarded for their design. But it’s how the software deals with the complexity of the data; that’s its speciality.
By improving the intuitiveness and experiences within this software, we’re increasing the recognition of the benefits that experience design can bring to financial institutions.
So what is experience design?
“Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, omnichannel journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions.” — Definition
But it encompasses much more than your user’s digital experience. Even the term user experience can be limiting — considering only usage and the user, rather than the experiences you’re trying to convey. We use the term user, because, within design, the meaning is derived from usability.
Experience design has become a popular concept within design. Creatives are increasingly prioritising the overall experience, more than just aesthetics. Over time people have started to take the term experience and are considering how we can design experiences.
Two examples of how we view experiences are:
Moment-by-Moment Experiences — How your user interacts at that exact moment. There is less of an overview of the flow through, but much more detail of the step-by-step process. It focuses on the experience you have at the moment, what is happening in the present.
Memories of Experience — The moment you have an experience, you adopt this within your mind. Users are trying to make sense and to add meaning to what they have just experienced. You remember the journey you’ve taken, the flow through. Humans have an episodic memory, we create links and think in stories.
But these are just two ways to consider how we interpret experiences.
Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things explains how he defines the term ‘user experience’ in this short video. Not settling for just attributing this to web or app design, he explains that experience relates to everything in our day-to-day lives.
UX encompasses how we experience the objects, people and the concepts that we interact with.
We see it everywhere; seamless technological experiences taking centre stage. And this is only set to grow. As the demand for increasingly sophisticated experiences grows, users are continuing to ask for more from their other digital experiences. Including FinTech.
How do we at Fathom London tackle this?
We formed because we saw the growing need to accelerate the evolution of innovation, and how we consider intuitive, experience design in finance.
Our founders, Stu Jackson, Grant Venter and Ant Ludlow, all had considerable experience of projects at leading financial institutions but felt frustrated with the status quo. End-users, too often with limited input to the end solution, interactions and experiences, including how these solutions fitted into their wider environment.
So the three decided to evolve an approach where innovative ideas and forward-thinking practices take centre stage. Using their experiences, we collectively strive for quality: push for new ideas, challenge and look for the opportunity to change. We understand the impact that design has, and we aim to captivate users through compelling experiences. We centre our work around complex problem areas — often work-flow related solutions. Where design decisions have a massive impact on people’s lives, their efficiency and organisational competitiveness.
This isn’t just aesthetics.
We’ve built our ethos on the notion that good design isn’t just beautiful, but also useful, and empowers users to move through digital experiences seamlessly. We understand that a good user experience is one that delivers the following fundamental elements: ease, speed, security, consistency and personalisation.
The Algomi Honeycomb-suite is an excellent example of the impact an experience-led design can have on FinTech.
Heralded as ‘an innovative, experience-led product’, the software suite uses a distinctive honeycomb-like interface; that displays simply and intuitively the potential trading connections and associated content to the trader. It turns complex trading data into actionable knowledge.
The compelling design includes gamification, showing a glimpse of who else is competing, and, with an element of social competition, it improves trader performance. Contextual messaging means that communications surrounding a particular trade are more focused, improving the speed and consumption of communication and information.
Expanding on Algomi’s vision for bond market liquidity, Fathom London helped to define and evolve the thinking behind the product proposition of the software suite. By offering unique and original experiences, Algomi has stood out against the competition and have created the Honeycomb network that today incorporates 190 buy side clients and 15 banks. Algomi’s resulting growth has illustrated the impact a collaborative user experience design can have on FinTech adoption.
But Algomi’s Honeycomb is just one example of the impact experience design can have on FinTech.
It’s only until the wider sector begins to adopt UX as a standard, rather than viewing as a quick-fix trend, that we’ll see real innovation.