10 steps to creating a breakthrough financial services app

The complete recipe for a financial services app that stands out from the crowd.

So, you want to design a financial services app. But how do you make it stand out from the thousands of others already in the market? From our experience, customer centricity is the key, where by ‘customer’ we mean ‘real people’. Technical components influence speed and performance, but a fully explored customer journey creates a satisfying app experience. Here’s the complete recipe for an appealing and useful financial services app:

  1. Be the expert: Know financial services inside out, including, for example, regulation and security demands. Involve your subject matter specialists from the beginning and tap into available resources – developers, designers and technologists – from around the globe to maximise the range of knowledge and skills. 
  1. Start with real people: They are your key ingredients. Gather their requirements, not just the client’s. The best results will come from a small crowd of users testing as many scenarios as possible.
  1. Create personas: Create real personalities with definitive characteristics to mirror key demographics in your targeted user groups. This will allow you to focus on a few, rather than a few thousand individuals, while remaining personal and specific to the most important customers’ needs.
  1. Define customer journeys: Use your personas to create a visual interpretation of the steps that a customer would take when using your app. What channels do they use? What products will they buy? Where do they discover pain points, get visibly upset and angry, and how can you resolve these issues? Using customer journeys for both ‘“as-is” and “to-be” states is an effective way to map requirements and key functionality for the desired target audience.
  1. Sketch and design: Start with wireframing which is an architectural blueprint of how a user interacts with the app’s interface. Sketch features and user flows to define the information hierarchy and the overall layout, prior to creating the final application designs.
  1. Get your back-end right: Most mobile applications require a server side component to provide login capabilities, serve application data or enable users to share information between mobile devices. Advances in virtualization and container technology enable vendors to build sophisticated systems that provide customers with near unlimited capabilities to support mobile and other types of application development.  Today there are many vendors to choose from that provide Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (Paas). AWS, Heroku, Rackspace, Linode and Digital Ocean are just a few examples of popular services. Make a well-informed choice that offers scale, agility, speed and security together with features such as load balancing, auto-scaling, virtual networks, data storage, authentication, deployment services and user-friendly APIs.
  1. Understand technology trends: Keep abreast of latest developments in technology and stay in constant touch with start-ups, accelerators, bitcoin companies and other pioneers, to understand what’s happening in the digital industry from both business and technology perspectives.
  1. Identify the platforms you want to support: For example, Android and iOS, as well as devices, e.g. Nexus 4-6, Galaxy S4-S6, iPhone 4s-6s Plus. You will also need to confirm screen size / pixel density / aspect ratio and operating system versions, e.g. Ice Cream Sandwich-Lollipop, iOS7-iOS9. Understand the market share in different regions and ecosystems. Use analytics to gauge your user make-up. This will influence decisions on how to align front-end design and usability.
  1. Know the difference between hybrid vs native: Native development, where the application is built for a specific platform such as Android or iOS, using a native software development kit (SDK), has the advantage of optimised performance and access to all mobile features. Hybrid development, on the other hand, uses standard web technologies (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript) which are subsequently wrapped in a native application container using platforms like Cordova. This allows the roll-out to multiple platforms at the same time with easy maintenance and great cost-efficiency. Both options offer distinct advantages for aligning your application with the overall business strategy.
  1. Test continuously: From technology, business concepts, interface designs and prototypes through the various stages of development to the final product, test the app on a regular basis. Explore and understand the users’ needs. Take everyone’s feedback into account and iterate accordingly. Repeat.

The above list would be incomplete without user-relevant gamification features, tailored APIs and rigorous project management. The good news is that once your app is fully integrated with your client’s mobile strategy and aligned with their KPIs, you’re on to a winner.