July 20, 2021

Design User-Focused Onboarding That Drives Participation in Real-Time Payment Networks

by Cooper Sinai-Yunker in Financial Inclusion , Fintech 0 comments

Connecting to and participating in real-time payment networks is one of the biggest challenges facing community financial institutions (CFIs) worldwide. Traditionally, CFIs have relied on banking core providers or consulting services to guide them through enabling a new payment network. However, vendor solutions and custom build integrations are too cost-prohibitive for smaller CFIs that lack big IT budgets. At ModusBox, we’re focused on advancing financial inclusion by building an onboarding process with a simplified user interface (UI) that’s appropriate for CFIs of all shapes and sizes. In this blog, we’ll share our thoughts on driving financial inclusion through good design.

Why is onboarding difficult?

Onboarding to a new payment system involves a lot of moving parts. There are certificates, endpoints, testing, and other items to track, verify, and complete. Building a connection UI to solve each problem individually becomes confusing and disorganized. This piece-meal results in a surprisingly large amount of time required to onboard due to the vast number of interwoven requirements to consider. 

The challenge is worsened when designers assume that the steps in the process are obvious. This is a common problem because they become intimately familiar with the process from their daily immersion in it. But you don’t need to be a UX designer to know that the human brain will occasionally forget even the most basic tasks. The challenge for designers is organizing this complex process into a logical workflow that its users can easily understand and utilize.

Easier said than done.

The Maintenance Trap

The hardest part of any new project is getting started. Despite this, a lot of designers spend their time designing screens for long-term maintenance instead of onboarding. Providing a simple, elegant way for a user to start using your product increases the likelihood of retaining that customer. Even if your maintenance screens aren’t as polished, users will often continue using your software because they’ve invested the time getting started. 

Focus on the first interaction instead of the tenth.

When designing onboarding solutions, designers naturally think about design from a maintenance perspective because of their familiarity with the system. We call this the maintenance trap. Being aware of this pitfall will help you realize that your experience is different from that of a fresh user. You must be willing to go back to the beginning to rethink onboarding as an important process separate from your personal experience connecting to and maintaining the system. 

This is also an important time to conduct user testing with new users. Can they actually get through the onboarding process that you designed? Only user research will be able to answer that for you.

Onboarding for financial integration software vs. traditional software

We recently shared our 8 product design principles for building user-focused fintech software like Payment Manager. One of those principles is to “get into the weeds” of your product to holistically understand the technical needs. This is especially true with onboarding because it requires an understanding of how much non-essential information can be eliminated to simplify the user’s experience. 

UX designers will often start designing the onboarding process by thinking about it from the perspective of a product like Spotify or Facebook where you are onboarding a single user. However, with financial integration software like PortX, we are onboarding an entire company. That means that while the onboarding problems are related, there are some key differences.

The initial path is very similar, but you can ignore the part of the process designed to hook the user into returning every day. Instead, the process should make it easy for the user to find and input the correct information once, enabling them to begin using the connection. When designing financial integration software, the focus should be more on helping users initiate and understand the connection and less on the details of using the software.

Onboarding for open source software

In traditional enterprise software, your user pool is made up of highly technical workers. Because of this, designers in the enterprise software world often enable those users by accounting for every possible scenario on each screen. In the OSS world, users are significantly less technically savvy and more easily overwhelmed. In that case, design your solution in a way that makes the simple path to success obvious and hides the more confusing, often unnecessary, features in a less visible location. 

Similarly, when designing for usability in OSS, it’s important to provide tooltips on technical vocabulary that a user may not understand. Work with your docs team to ensure that extensive documentation is available for the meaning of different fields. If possible, it’s a best practice to link directly to the docs from the onboarding screens that you are creating. This empowers your users to learn without having to spend time searching or contacting support.

Sequential onboarding steps

It’s common for enterprise software to require a maze of actions to get started. That’s why onboarding solutions are designed to utilize sequential steps that help the user through the confusion. But, this is a dangerous path to follow. Initially, when we tested our specifically-ordered onboarding screens, we found that our users would get stuck waiting for information at step 4 even though they had the required information for steps 5 through 8. As you can imagine, this was a frustrating experience. And since the process included multiple stakeholders where no single user held all of the information, the issue became increasingly complicated and frequent. 

We learned that it is important to provide a suggested order for the user to follow while also enabling them to skip the steps where they may need to wait for help. Ensure that there is a simple linear process the user can fall back on but don’t force them to follow it.

Enabling Users to Work Together

Another important design principle to follow is “enable collaboration.” This is especially important for onboarding screens in enterprise software. Since no one user has all of the information required, there are many hand-offs between users in a company as they get up and running. If possible, enable users to leave notes attached to inputs and fields, and make sure that a user can directly link pages of the onboarding process and potentially link to specific fields they need help navigating. This will encourage your users to feel more empowered to work with their team, and they will be more successful because of it.

Planning for the Future

Our design principles remind us to “remember the bigger picture.” An often overlooked aspect of design is that it is okay to do the same job differently for different audiences. When we designed the connection management screens for Payment Manager, we took two approaches to the same material. Users can access their connection information from both the onboarding UI and the connection manager maintenance screens, which are laid out section by section with information that is easy to find.

Multiple paths to find the same information is important because it enables you to optimize screens for both onboarding and maintaining the connection. This level of planning requires your UI development team to build out sections in reusable modules in multiple locations, but the extra work is worth it. This gives your users the best of both worlds, and they will thank you for it. 

Remember the “why”

Going back to our design principles, we always need to remember the “why” behind the goal of connecting to something like Mojaloop. Many CFIs do not have an army of highly skilled developers on staff. These are financial institutions doing their best with a limited team to bring financial inclusion to the unbanked, underbanked, and the community around them. 

If you are designing an onboarding process for CFIs, it’s vital that you aren’t just enabling connectivity, but creating a connection process that any small team or even one slightly technical person can achieve. By doing so, you will be well on your way to enabling inclusive digital financial services for all.

If you are involved in the onboarding process at your financial institution or would like to learn more about our design principles for financial-grade software, leave us a comment below or start a conversation with our team today.

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