Big Bank = Big App? Diving into the sea of mobile app flows and screens

It’s great to be back!

The second quarter has started. New classes and new challenges. In the past week for our first assignment in Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving class, we were working on Concepts Maps trying to make sense of the complex world of Banking and redesigning a mobile banking application.

To deeply understand Bank Industry, we were assigned to create a Relationship Concept Map of Banking.

We started this journey from collaborative work on making a list of words we associate with Banking. We got more than 200 words! After final review of this list I ended up with 32 words I believe are the most representative of the industry, mainly from the perspective of customers – individuals and businesses. Initially, I thought of diving deeper into the side of banking that we don’t see, and ways banks interact with each other and other financial institutions, including Federal Reserve, but then decided that it isn’t something we’re supposed to be focusing on for the purpose of our class and the exercise.

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After creating a matrix of those words, finding relations (in fact, LOTS of relations! The screen is almost all yellow – but what mattered is finding the strongest relations out of all at first) and then defining core words I was able to form the core statement, and then create a full concept map of banking from that perspective. The core statement reads as follows: “BANK is a financial institution that handles MONEY on customers’ ACCOUNTS and processes TRANSACTIONS related to them”.

Banking Relationship Concept Map

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After making sense of the industry I was ready to dive into one real example of today’s banking world – the mobile app of Chase Bank, one of the giants in the industry…

I’ve been a client of Chase for more than 2 years and have personal and business account with them. And even though I was familiar with their mobile application and was using it for years I found so many unexpected moments in it when I did an inventory of all pages of the app! A lot of surprises were waiting for me in the App Concept Map I’ve created.
Navigation Concept Map

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My goal now is to create an easier and a more intuitive way to navigate the complicated world of consumer banking.

Before I started to work on this project I believed that Chase App is one of the best on bank apps market and felt some concerns that it won’t have much to improve. However close look surfaced some major inconveniences in it.

It feels like creators of the app purposefully tried to make it look big and complex by blowing up primary sidebar navigation element with external links (that seemed somewhat irrelevant and not needed in main navigation), deepening navigation category structures with only 1 or 2 subitems inside and including not functional information on the same level with functional and important.

I personally believe that sending customer out of the application is the worst practice. And it is even worse when you do it on the third line of main menu: the whole Explore Products section is purely an ad experience where Chase is trying to sell you extra products, and it’s taking a major part of the main sidebar navigation!

Another part of the app – communication with the bank and their representatives – seems to be hidden very far away. It’s easy to find an option to call the bank, but what about Chat, such a popular and important feature nowadays in applications that strive for best user experience? Chat would provide a way for users to ask questions and receive answers in the real time, in their own convenience and without having to take time of a person in a call center.

What Chase has is called Secure Message Center, and it turned out to be a total disaster. It is supposedly a way for customers to communicate with Chase online, without having to call in. In the app you can see past messages, remove them… All in an awkward UI that doesn’t look like native mobile UI. What’s worse, from the Mobile app you can’t compose a new message! It’s a feature that is only possible on the Website! And even there, it’s so painful to use… And you only get a response in 24 hours or so.

Overall it seems like separate parts of the application were designed and developed by completely separate departments; the application lacks consistency and features, that are very similar, behave in very different ways and have completely different UIs (for example, QuickPay, Wire Transfers, Bill Pay, and Money Transfers), altogether only causing confusion.

Some of the features were not even accessible through the mobile app… Until you activate them on the website! Both Bill Pay and Wire Transfers are examples. You don’t even know they exist until you enroll on the website; why not make it possible to enroll in the mobile app? And why do you even have to enroll?

Also, just the fact that there are so many different ways to transfer money might confuse users a lot. Should I make it a QuickPay transaction or a Money Transfer? Maybe a Wire Transfer?

Redesigning Chase Bank Mobile Application

I believe that application design should start from user’s needs, and not from the way bank accounts are structures and operate internally.

Coming up with some of the most common tasks users do with their mobile apps, I created the list:

  • I want to see overall activity across all my accounts
  • I want to access and manage my accounts individually (see activity, fund checking account, pay using checking account, pay off credit card)
  • I want to pay for something or to someone

The user doesn’t have to know what wire transfer is, and how it is different from money transfer or QuickPay or Zelle. All they want to do is to pay for something (utility bill, auto loan, school tuition, sharing a pizza with classmates), or to make a transfer (between own accounts in current bank, to own account in another bank, to someone else’s account, to an organization, to a family member in another country). What’s interesting is these two terms are different but they overlap, paying for something may or may not mean making a transfer (in banking terms). And so the application needs to learn from the user WHAT they’re trying to do, and then come up with a way HOW it can be done in the most user friendly way, without forcing user to know HOW it should be done in the first place. On my navigation concept map, the “type of payment” or “type of transfer” step should use the category chosen as context, and suggest the right way to do the payment or transfer to the user.

I truly believe that companies need to invest in instant help channels, such as social media (twitter, facebook messenger) and instant chat (on the website, in the mobile app). Some banks do it on the website. Chase does not do it at all. I included Chat in my map as an easily accessible feature, placed in the tab bar. While it will not be used often (Accounts, Activity and Pay will be used most often), user can be reassured their bank won’t let them down, by knowing they can ask a question or resolve a problem at any time, instantly, without having to call when it’s not convenient.

While Miscellaneous section is the last one, I believe it should be designed in a way that surfaces most important rarely used functionality. Just like all other sections, it should use information from research to understand what are the things that users are not using every day, but need a quick access to when they have the need. ATM & Branch Location is one of those things that you rarely need, but when you need it, you need it quick.

This is the first draft and doesn’t contain some critical features; the purpose of this draft was to show idea behind the core functionality of the application in the way that it helps consumers solve problems. This low-fidelity concept will require a lot of research, a lot of insights gathered, and a lot of iterations to become something that can become a real product.
New Navigation Concept Map

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