I’ve been banking with Chase for six years, and have used the app that entire time. When I stumbled across the app’s personal finance features such as Credit Journey, Autosave, and You Invest just a few months ago, I was stunned.
Why have I never noticed this before?
To paraphrase Don Norman: It’s not the fault of the customer, but faulty design, when errors are made. I decided to tackle this problem of visibility and in the process found out a lot about value: what is value? Who is a product valuable for? By working through the design process and adding a feature to the Chase app, I gained a better understanding of creating value both for the customer and the business.
Note: This work is a personal project, and was not done for, or in affiliation with, J.P. Morgan Chase.
Chase’s WHY is to empower customers’ lives by creating engaged, lifelong relationships. Although their banking app is award-winning, I found it lacking discoverable personal finance features. And while the bones of a budgeting feature existed, without a way to categorize transactions it remained without value to the customer.
And by not being valuable to the customer, it also was not valuable to the business.
Chase has an opportunity here to create more robust features that guide the user to keeping more money in their savings or opening an investment account. I’ll take you on the journey that allowed me to make these discoveries.
To begin, I documented what features were already in the app.
Autosave prompts users to set goals and work toward them by automatically transferring money into their savings account per set time period.
Credit Journey tracks user's credit scores over time, alerts them to changes, and allows them to see how certain actions negatively or positively impact their score.
You Invest is a separate account customers can open to invest in stocks online through Chase.
After doing some preliminary research online, I found something interesting: national banks really aren’t in the game of wealth management or personal finance. Simple Bank, an online only bank, is the only national bank that offers some sort of budgeting feature in its app. And yet, there are countless successful wealth management apps out there.
Of these wealth management apps like Intuit’s Mint, Personal Capital, and Clarity Money, the biggest delights for customers was the clarity of seeing their expenses in front of them and becoming more aware of where their money was going. In order to do this, these apps sync with bank accounts to intuitively categorize transactions.
“What did I spend on this month [in Clarity Money app] is a super helpful tool. That tool alone is the reason to download the app.”
I found that two of the biggest pain points for users of wealth management apps were:
These two arenas were key opportunities for Chase, as there would be no connecting to outside accounts, and the services would pay for themselves as customers utilized their savings or investing accounts, so the experience wouldn’t be cluttered by advertising.
This research showed me that value existed in wealth management apps. My next question was: could Chase offer this same service in a meaningful way? In order to find out, I decided to create a survey.
Because many of my findings focused on those who used wealth management apps, I created a survey targeted at users of banking apps aged 18 - 35 to obtain a broader understanding of the goals, motivations, and pains of millenials when it comes to personal finance.
From the survey I found:
“Even though I track my expenses, it’s hard to determine how much to budget for since circumstances change every month.”
Side note: although I felt the listed age requirements were obvious and questions were clear, I still received responses from participants older than 35 and some responses that didn’t make sense in light of their previous answers. Knowing this, I would have loved to supplement this data with interviews.
Results from my survey, and this 2018 survey conducted by J.D. Power, showed me that bank customers, especially younger customers, wanted financial guidance from their bank. Many, though, didn’t feel they received that guidance. There is opportunity here for banks to provide helpful financial advice through a banking app that assists customers in their financial journey.
Many customers want guidance from their bank. They need help sticking to their budgets and setting money aside for their goals. They already possess good knowledge of their credit, loans, and think budgets are important.
Armed with the knowledge of what could be valuable to many customers, I created my key persona Ryan Billings.
In order for these new budgeting features to be useful, I knew I needed to increase the visibility and work with the existing information architecture of the app. To explore how customers might find the checklist flow for being guided through the app’s new financial tools, I created a user flow.
Through the flow I discovered that potential entry points could be:
In order to discover whether this was an impactful approach, I developed some wireframes with a plan to test the flow to edit a budget. Although transactions were currently categorized on the mobile app, that category wasn’t editable. My wireframes would test whether participants could locate their transactions, edit those categories, and edit a budget. I could also put the designs in front of potential users to test discoverability, and find out what data visualizations they would want to see.
These wireframes showcase:
I conducted four remote moderated tests, and a few immediate things jumped out. While everyone completed the tasks with zero errors, nobody used the menu to get to where they were going—having landing page navigation was key.
Everyone tried clicking directly on the budget in order to edit it. This was fascinating, because I had put an edit button on the main page thinking it would be easier and faster to edit a category. They were instead looking for the transactions that existed in that budget. This was a great insight into what to design.
I also found that while users found my flow for categorizing transactions was efficient and better than the action they wanted to take, they were all confused at first. I needed to create an onboarding to walk new users through the process.
Designing within the Chase ecosystem, I had a set visual style to follow and only incorporated patterns that I found elsewhere in the app. The menu, for instance, was visually squished and lacked great accessibility, but for this project I wanted to honor the system in place: a weaker design that blended better.
My final UI explored potential visualizations customers would want to see, the onboarding process for categorizing transactions, and the budgeting page that usability participants were all looking for.
Visualizations show high-level updates, as well as insights into month over month spending habits - the latter being a key customer delight I found in research.
It needs to work for both the customer and business.
Why develop a budgeting feature in the first place? Guiding more customers to saving and investing money means more customers will be keeping their money with Chase. It’s a win for the business, and provides the financial guidance customers look to their banks for.
Customers need to complete certain actions. By focusing on these actions to drive design, I can ensure each feature increases the app’s overall value.
Designing in a system means compromise
No visual language is perfect. In order to promote visual consistency I had to make sacrifices in some places: like using a menu that didn’t have ideal accessibility.