Author: Adrian Westlake
A great user interface works really well for you – so we’re using personalisation and customisation to build tailored interfaces that users really want.
What makes a great user interface? It’s hard to say for sure, but as Clayton Locke wrote in his recent article about our next-generation user interface, UX Evolution, you know them when you use them – and you feel it when you don’t.
I think that, by and large, great user interfaces fade into the background and let you focus on the task in hand. The better the interface fits us the less we notice it – but a poor interface constantly reminds us that it’s there.
A good fit starts with getting the basics right – the vocabulary, mental models and ergonomics that most of us have in common. Even with a well-designed interface, though, one size does not fit all.
Take your car, for example: we’ve probably all had the experience of getting into our car the morning after somebody else has used it. Perhaps you were in a hurry, or a bit tired, so you tolerated the fact that the seat was a little too high and the pedals a little too close. Perhaps you set off with the radio playing the wrong station, and then when you looked in the rear view mirror for the first time you found yourself enjoying an unspoiled view of the back seat instead of the back window.
If you were the last person to use your car, however, you probably just got in and drove.
We think that a ‘good interface works well for everyone, but a really great one works really well for you. That’s why we made tailored one of the three core values underpinning UX Evolution.A good interface works well for everyone, but a really great one works really well for you Click To Tweet
Getting a tailored fit
In user interface , tailoring is delivered using two different techniques; personalisation and customisation.
- Personalisation puts tailoring in the hands of the application and allows it to make decisions about how to arrange the interface on the user’s behalf.
- Customisation puts tailoring in the hands of users and allows them to configure things just to their liking. It’s a powerful tool, but it can take time to set up so it’s best suited to complex or frequently used interfaces (and even then many users will ignore it). Your phone is a good example of where customisation pays off; the layout of the apps on your phone’s screen is probably customisable but most of the apps probably aren’t.
Modern digital finance apps can take measurements continuously, adjusting their fit on-the-fly based on what we know about things like:
- You, such as your personal details, location and device
- Your finances, such as your balance, payees and spending patterns
- How, where and how often you use the app, and
- External factors like benchmark data or the data and time.
Personalisation has several advantages over customisation, not least that the user doesn’t have to ‘do’ anything, so it’s more likely to be of benefit to them, but it isn’t a straight replacement.
Not even the smartest apps can read a user’s mind, and users are easily thrown by unanticipated changes so personalisation has to be well explained and easily undone.
It’s a value, not a technique
When we sat down to plan UX Evolution we wanted to make sure our interface decisions were kept on track by a set of three core values; Fresh, Tailored and Human.
Customisation and personalisation are effective means to an end with their own strengths and weaknesses but they are not, as they have sometimes been treated in the past (yes, I’m looking at you iGoogle) an end in themselves.
Our values aren’t ‘features’, and neither are the techniques that deliver them so you won’t hear us saying when ’Tailored’ will be delivered or where ‘Customisation’ is on the road map. Instead we’ll use our values to steer the way we implement each feature, and only then will we make a decision about which techniques can best deliver on it.
How tailoring might be applied
Let’s finish by peering into our crystal ball and looking at where tailoring might be used to improve user experiences in financial services.
Tailoring is a powerful tool that allows us to do a lot of interesting and useful things but at every step we must be sure that we’re doing things with (rather than to) users.
So, first things first, users need to know what data we’re capturing and also have easy access to controls that they can use to set the level of tailoring and personalisation they’re happy with.
Permission should be asked for progressively and transparently, so that users can grant an app limited and task-specific access to data (“Can we access your camera to fill out your card details faster?” for example).
Managing your online finances is full of repetitive sub-tasks, such as making payments or setting up payees, that are ripe for automation and simplification. Apps could learn who you’re likely to pay and when and, if there are patterns to your transactions, ask if you’d like to set up reminders, payees, or standing orders to make life easier.
Different users want and need different kinds of help, and a personalised experience allows providers to give just the right level of assistance. Understanding how a customer uses an app or website – whether they’re a power user who likes to dive straight in and find out what’s new or somebody who likes a little more hand-holding – will enable us to point out features that they might have not known about.
Part of the context that determines how an app should be tailored is the device it’s running on. Android and iOS smartphones have different controls and interface standards, and smartphones and laptops are used for different tasks. Tailoring the user experience according to the device being used means we can give prominence to the tasks that are more likely to be performed at the expense of the ones that aren’t. It’s a lot easier to upload a receipt if the device you’re using has a camera, for example.
As current accounts are commoditised and switching banks becomes easier, winning and losing customers will come down to the quality of a bank’s digital customer journey. A personalised interface should improve over time as it acquires and integrates more information about a customer, damping the impetus to switch by creating a personal experience that can’t be matched.