Financial Applications: Performance Experience


Everytime I buy a Metrocard or Path card in NYC, I’m amazed at the fantastic customer experience of this financial transaction. Think about it: It’s always crowded, I’m always in a rush and there’s always a big scary impatient New Yorker behind me, staring. Yet, I can complete the transaction in under 30 seconds. Think about the number of persona’s this interface had to be designed for (Great Aunt Bertha, Gus, “Bubba”, and so on) ! Everyone has to buy their pass from one of these machines and most people seem to get their transaction completed in under a minute. And there is no Flash tutorial either that I have to “skip intro”! (I actually looked). So, why do I enjoy these 30 seconds? Because I enjoy using a well designed system that followed the KIQAS principal: Keep It Quick and Simple.

This is also a secret of success with designing financial application experiences.

If you combine both parts (the Quick and the Simple), you see that for the user it’s also about “performance experience”. How quickly they can accomplish what they need to, and then either explore other things or leave the application? When designing a  user experience for financial services applications, we must keep this principal in mind. Think of the goals of why someone is using your application in first place. Then make those goals quick and easy to accomplish (and reliable). Being trained in Financial Services Application delivery over the years (trained means both rewarded and punished) has taught me over and over to keep those principals in mind. If you achieve those goals you dramatically improve the user experience and the usefulness of your application.

One of the most important online applications you use is your banking or brokerage application. This is the entity you trust with your money and to help you plan your financial goals. Do their applications follow these principals?

A better question is: If you personally could design the experience you want what would you ask for? Hey, you’re the customer, ask.

Let us know. In my follow up posts, I will present examples of applications that follow these principals and provide a great user experience.


New conduits for spreading political news. Web 2.0 pattern at work…

Another article (NY Times 3/27) on how “young” people are no longer just reading news on political topics, but spreading links to interesting blogs, posts, videos and other information. This includes copies of speeches, opinions and other sources of information. So, that’s not the news. What is news is that the share of Democratic voters under 30 has increased to 16% this year from < 10% in 2004. The increase is less dramatic for the Republican party, but is an increase nonetheless. So, in my opinion, another demonstration of the effect of the Internet and more importantly, how it is now being used in new ways by the Gen-Y’s. This is the point of web 2.0 – not the cool tools, but the way the internet is being used by Gen-Y’s and the change in usage patterns.



Intel is implementing E2.0 as a way to enhance customer support. Read the NYTimes Article from 3/28. While the article praises web 2.0 for collaboration, a key point mentioned in article is “interactive nature of the relationship we are trying to build” and “listening to what they have to say”. They are focusing on not just an FAQ or better (same old) help desk, but letting the customers provide the information (“prosume”) for other customers. This is a great (and simple) example of implementing tools to improve the experience of the customer not just by marketing, but by engaging and learning from them.

“Bank technologies are obsolete the day you buy them”

Chris Skinner writes in his blog (3/12/08) that banking software is obsolete the day after you buy it. While I don’t think this is measured in days, I do agree that by the time you evaluate, prototype, choose, secure funding, install, integrate, test, argue with stakeholders, get your 5th patch from the vendor, reinstall, argue some more, debug the incompatibility of a runtime (JRE or .net env) , RDBMS and OS versions it does become obsolete. I’ve had these kinds of issues with software deployment for over 20 years and I feel that a lot of the issue stem from the on-premise software model which is prevalent in banks and brokerage firms. So, welcome SaaS. The SaaS model, where you don’t install the application in your own environment, solves many of the issues he addresses in his post. Besides removing the installation issues, the concept also supports assembling applications by integrating software components in new ways as opposed to building large monolithic applications. So if a bank thinks of some new ideas to increase its loan portfolio or managing risk (actually, maybe even do both through one system), they are not constrained by their own IT department’s available talent or current internal project priorities. While they may have to build some custom components, they may also be able to leverage what’s available in the marketplace. The value is how they integrate all of that in new ways to create a new application. Faster, and at a lower cost than they used to. The other advantage is that as business needs change it is easier to adapt the application to those changing conditions.Furthermore, a hidden cost is that an organization will generally put its top resources on an on-premises application in order to just get it to work and realize their investment. These talented resources get buried in the project and can’t work on initiatives that may focus on trends such as social lending and other practices that could grow due to the prevalence of new technologies. So, what about security with a SaaS application? By this I mean secure access to the application and protection of data from access by unauthorized users. Well, this is the big issue now and I certainly do not have the answer. But I do believe that these issues are going to begin to be addressed by the marketplace as demand picks up. Once that happens, I think there will be more acceptance in the Financial Services industry and SaaS will gain even more momentum.

Google office software to be recommended by Cap Gemini

Article in yesterday’s WSJournal that Cap Gemini will recommend office tools by Google (on-demand). This is interesting because this is the first I’ve noticed where corporations may be making the switch to on-demand versions of core tools to their business. I’ve used Zoho spreadsheets so far, great concept since it’s available anywhere, but take the “beta” word very serious with this site. It’s not quite ready to compete with a real excel document just yet. But, this is the beginning and the concept of having the data always available and ability to collaborate is very appealing. But, it’s “gotta” work well for corporate uptake. The questions is for those who use spreadsheets for nothing more than their todo lists, may be ready to make the switch. More comments to come.

CafeMom – Cool, but another Social network?

I saw a demo of CafeMom and said cool, but thought the same thing as Katie Tierney, Overwhelmed by Networks “oh, another one”. And you can even “twitter” on it too. Oh, and I told my wife (who is a full time Mom of 3, runs a house but is a former .com geek), hey try cafemom, blah, blah – and you can see who is Twittering in Iowa (or Minnesota). She said, your clueless. Like I got time to sit on the computer. Or, text from the carpool line. This bubble will burst as the market won’t support this many companies essentially doing the same thing and providing the same service. However, what’s important is that the idea is taking root and will become an essential part of other technologies and systems that people do need and use on a daily basis. Weaving these types of social networking, collaborative types of services into those other critical systems that we need, will be positive result of all this. 

NY Times WikiPedia Article

The New York Times [August 19, 2007]

Seeing Corporate Fingerprints in Wikipedia Edits

What I’m very happy to see is though, is the philosophy of web 2.0 (and the marketplace in general) at work. Wikiscanner represents the “self-correcting” nature of collaboration and another marketplace contribution to further enhance the value of a product/service. The fact that this service wasn’t produced by (at least I don’t think it was 😉 Wikimedia (which manages Wikipedia) themselves further demonstrates the power of collaboration.Delete Comment