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5 User Research Methods to Design Financial Solutions


5 User Research Methods to Design Financial Solutions

A lot of changes have been happening thanks to a continuously evolving FinTech industry, but many changes are yet to come. Understanding what customers want and need is very crucial for every business, and finance is no exception. There has to be a clear understanding of the things that either cause customers headaches or deliver pleasure when creating a user-centered financial service.

Why user research defines whether a financial solution is user-centered

For starters, every new user should be able to quickly understand how to do something with the service and how to navigate through it. If the user can do that, and their first interaction is impressive enough, the user will return to perform it again and again. Therefore, the first impression is critical.

Second, how fast can the user perform frequently used operations? With banking products, the most commonly used features are checking account balances, top-up accounts and transferring money. If any of these features take too long or require too much effort, users will probably seek a better solution.

Third, how many errors does a user make in performing any action? In a perfect scenario, the user should be able to go through the step-by-step process without thinking twice about what needs to be done. Although it is impossible to eliminate all mistakes, we can ensure that the user understands in what format information should be entered, what kind of information and don't miss any mandatory input fields.

Last but not least, how enjoyable is it to use this product? Financial products should be not only functional but also appealing because users don't enjoy using services that look too boring or outdated.

The only way to explore this with aim to ensure financial solution user-centricity is to conduct user experience research. The purpose of user experience research is to put yourself in the shoes of users, explore their needs, pain points and expectations, analyze the data obtained and develop design hypotheses that could be verified using a product prototype.

How to design financial service based on user research

There are dozens of user research methods available, but from UXDA experience to create a user-centered financial product, five key research methods should be highlighted. These methods provide the best way to get main insights from your end users.

1. Conduct ethnographic research

Ethnography is a method to explore the social interaction of users in a given environment. This research is practiced in anthropology to get an in-depth insight into the user’s views and actions through direct observation, diary studies, video capture and artifact analysis.

Ethnography can reduce the effect of social approval when the respondent tries to make a positive impression on the researcher. Also, respondents tend to rationalize their behavior, which leads to an incorrect interpretation. Ethnography reduces such risk and allows you to get the data as is.

In UXDA we are exploring the digital footprint of potential end-users. This is the so-called digital anthropology, which analyzes digital artifacts, such as tweets, posts on social networks and reviews on the App Store or Google Play for a corresponding service or topic. This gives us an understanding of how those users see the world, what their pain points are and what they are happy with. A powerful improvement in the UX (user experience) of an existing mobile banking application may be caused by negative reviews from the App Store.

2. Perform user interview

User interviews are one of the commonly used research methods to understand users' motivations, pain points, feelings, daily routines and behavior while using various financial products. It can be performed at any stage of a product’s development.

In the early stages, prior to product launch, user interviews will provide insight into whether the upcoming product will be used as planned in the users’ eyes. For an existing product, it will help to understand what difficulties users have and why they use or don't use a specific feature.

For example, a retail bank had a goal to increase the number of payments made from the mobile app. During user interviews, many users revealed that they don't make payments from the mobile app or make them very rarely. The main reason that was cited is that it is easier to do it from a computer and that they found the app's payment form difficult to navigate. That motivated the bank to think about how to make the payment form much easier to use, resulting in a quick change in the users' habits of making payments only from the computer.

3. Define user personas

To create a user-centered product, it is important to understand who the end users are. Only when we have an understanding of what they need, their behavioral habits and pain points it is possible to empathize them and create the perfect product for them.

User personas are invented characters with a precise description of its age, gender, occupation, location, income, daily life, thoughts and other details. Each user persona represents a specific type of end-user that can be defined by polls, stakeholder interviews, desk research and field research.

For example, user personas in one mobile banking app can be a young student who works a part-time job, a mother of two who takes care of her household and a businessman who has to check personal finances as well as company finances.

For each type of user, the main functions of why and how they want to use this mobile banking app differs. It is better to create an empathy map by using the data from ethnographic research and user interviews - what those end-users feel and think, what difficulties they face in their daily life and their priorities in what they would like to do with their mobile banking app.

4. Use card sorting

Card sorting is a method used to understand how users categorize information. It can be performed when creating a brand new product or when researching an existing financial product to create an intuitive Information Architecture.

Two types of card sorting methods currently exist: open card sorting and closed card sorting. Open card sorting helps to perform Information Architecture mapping and see how many and what kind of groups users will create and how they name each group. For example, will users put credit card information together with their accounts, or will they create a separate group for it?

Conversely, closed card sorting helps to understand what information will be put into specific groups provided to the user. For example, there is a plan to create groups: Accounts, Cards, Payments, Profile and Settings. The user is given information cards that needs to be ordered into those given groups. As a result, it is possible to see how the user will order it, if his mental model matches the conceptual model of the product.

To ensure that created Information Architecture for a product is understandable for its users and that they can easily navigate through the service and find exactly what they need we can add tree testing to card sorting.

Tree testing can be performed at any stage of a product - for a brand new product that is under development or a currently running product to prepare for improvements of Information Architecture UX (user experience). This method will give good insights into whether created or current product architecture is understandable and easy to navigate, and to understand why users have difficulties finding something.

In the tree testing method, users are provided a full list of categories and sub-categories and are asked to perform specific tasks. For example, a user might be asked to pay for utilities or add an additional account in a different currency. In this way, it can be determined whether the user can easily understand how to perform the requested task.

5. Make usability testing

Usability testing is the best method to get insights about exactly how real users interact with a product that is extremely important for the design of an innovative financial services. It should be performed as often as possible to test separate scenarios or test a whole banking product.

UX testing can be performed in the wireframe stage to determine if users understand flows. In the UI design prototype stage to ensure that all visual accents are used correctly and to see how existing users use the service or how totally new users deal with the same service.

In usability testing, users are asked to perform specific scenarios, for example, to send a money request of 25 EUR to a friend or to freeze a card that a user might think is lost or stolen. It's important for a user to comment on every step along the way and verbalize every thought that comes to mind while performing each scenario.

Detailed attention must be paid to how this user performs each scenario. To get good insights, it is enough to test five users because it will give an overall idea whether the user can handle the scenario and perform it without difficulty.


The aforementioned five key methods to improve the usability of a financial service is only a small part of all the possible user research methods. The main purpose of all of them is to collect as much information as possible about users' behaviors in order to create the right product for them.

Without user experience research, it is almost impossible to create a product that fully solves users' problems in a manner that is quick and completely understandable. The main reason for this is that a business' perception and knowledge sharply differs from a product's end users behavior. So, the business has to get to know and research their users to create a product that they love to use and recommend others to use it as well.


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Arita, Senior UX Architect/ UX Consultant

Arita bridges the gap between the clients' vision and a financial product that they demand. She's famous for her ability to focus on the user and their business specifics. Her experience with crypto, white-label and retail banking allows her to always find the best UX solution. Everything Arita does comes from the bottom of her heart.