Does Your Payments Experience Suck?

Head of a Dyson vaccum
Michelle Brahmbhatt Photo
Payments Products Manager

6 minutes

5 intuitive design lessons from Dyson

Sponsored by SWBC

In the early 1980s, James Dyson was frustrated with vacuum cleaners. They were clunky, thoughtlessly designed, antagonistic to the user and often didn’t work properly. They made the hassle of wrestling a cleaning product worse than just living with a dirty shag carpet, and James Dyson wasn’t having it. He set to work designing a vacuum cleaner that made sense—a product that people actually wanted to use. Thousands of prototypes later, he had developed the first bagless vacuum cleaner.

“Like everyone, we get frustrated by products that don’t work properly,” Dyson says on his company’s website. “As design engineers, we do something about it. We’re all about invention and improvement.”

Dyson’s vision of creating beautiful, functional products that enhance an everyday experience for their end-users has propelled his company to massive success. Today, Dyson’s products are famous for their intuitive and innovative design. Dubbed by The NY Times as the “Apple of appliances,” Dyson’s vacuum cleaners are the shiny new iPhones of home cleaning products—and come with a comparable price tag!

Is your digital payments experience the equivalent of a clunky, cumbersome vacuum cleaner that no one wants to use? In this article, we’ll share intuitive design lessons from Dyson that will help improve your members’ digital payments experience.

Lesson #1: User Experience Design Is About Optimizing a Real-World Experience

In an interview with Wired, Dyson emphasizes how his engineers, designers, and product testers are all driven by enhancing their end-users’ actual experience. Their process involves much more than just reproducing schematics for a design. Dyson says, “If you merely hand a drawing to somebody and say, ‘Would you make this?’ … you’re not experiencing it. You’re not understanding it. You’re not feeling it.”

You may be thinking, I can see how product design would be important for something like a vacuum cleaner that you hold in your hand, but what does it have to do with a digital experience?

Consider this report cited by GearBrain, which states that Americans are now spending almost eight hours a day consuming digital content—more time than many of us spend sleeping. “U.S. adults logged 7 hours and 50 minutes on smartphones, desktops and other devices watching digital content and engaging with online apps in 2020—which is expected to surpass eight hours a day by 2022.”

In today’s hyper-digitized world of mobile apps, online shopping and social media scrolling, a digital experience is a real-world experience. You wouldn’t expect your members to walk into one of your physical branches to find a dilapidated building, no clear signage to help point them in the right direction, jarring advertisements and unhelpful service staff. Why would you expect anything less from your digital environment?

User experience design is meant to optimize how people interact with and in your credit union’s online ecosystem. An idea might look great on paper, but if it results in a misstep in practice, it will result in a negative user experience. When you’re designing a payments system, take a lesson from Dyson and focus your design efforts on improving the experience for the end-user—your members.

Lesson #2: Your Payments Experience Needs to Be Thoughtfully Crafted

Before finalizing the design for his first bagless vacuum in 1983, Dyson spent five years in his home on a farm in England building 5,127 prototypes. He took the time to test and improve each element of his product, carefully crafting a vacuum that would truly delight consumers and go beyond what they expect from a household appliance.

Credit unions and other institutions are operating in an increasingly digital world. Did you know that the usage of digital payments reached 78% in 2020? Many of your members aren’t even bothering with brick-and-mortar branches anymore and are relying solely on digital payments. This means that you should put as much thought and effort into designing your online environment as you do your physical branches.

When designing your payments experience, make sure you consider how your members will interact with your payment portal. Are they accessing your site via a mobile phone? You’ll need to make sure your site is optimized for mobile. Are your members able to easily identify and navigate logging into their accounts from your site? Consider evaluating heat maps of your payments page to see which areas users are interacting with more often.

Lesson #3: Test Your Products Relentlessly.

“We love testing. The more grueling, the better. It’s why we drop, crash, bang and wallop our machines thousands of times in the development process.” – James Dyson

Testing should be an important part of designing your digital payments system. Rather than just “set it and forget it,” your credit union needs to adopt a mindset of test and learn. Start by identifying what outcomes you’re trying to achieve in your UX design efforts, then identify key product indicators to evaluate outcome achievement.

This might include:

  • Conversion rate
  • Click-thru rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Net promoter scores
  • Time spent on page

Lesson #4: Simplicity Is a Critical Design Element

According to the Wired article cited above, “If there’s any method to [Dyson’s] company’s inventing madness, it’s in how he and his engineers build better machines by taking things away. ... But with every subtraction, the company has added power, efficiency and sheer wow factor to its domestic appliances.”

When it comes to designing and delivering a payments system that delights your members, you’ll want to strive for simplicity. Having too many jarring graphic elements will only confuse and frustrate your users. Make sure your payments page includes plenty of white space so their eyes will have somewhere to settle and pertinent information will stand out easily. Don’t overwhelm your members by trying to cram too much information into one page—divide your content into easily navigable and digestible pages.

Lesson #5: Form Should Follow Function

In an interview with the BBC, Dyson explains one of his company’s guiding principles: “We consider that something is beautiful only when it works properly; we value function over form or design.”

The primary UX experience goals for your digital payments system should include usability and ease of navigation. Your members are busy, and the last thing they want to have to focus their efforts on is figuring out how to use your site. Make sure your site navigation is intuitive and page layouts are easy to follow to increase user engagement and reduce abandonment rates. You’ll also want to provide a self-service experience, which could consist of a FAQ section or smart virtual guide to help members troubleshoot any common issues without having to contact a customer service representative.

SWBC Payments helps our credit union clients deliver convenient, secure payment options to their members. In our newest whitepaper, we take an even deeper dive into why UX design should be a vital part of your payments program. We also offer tips for creating an online environment that will wow your indirect borrowers. Check it out, now—no download required! Digital Payments Solutions to Delight Your Indirect Borrowers

Michelle Brahmbhatt leads the payments product portfolio for SWBC, a CUES Supplier member, designing and bringing to market innovative ways for companies, banks and credit unions to move money, settle accounts and engage with constituents. She has over 15 years of product management experience and recently rejoined the SWBC family after a short stint with a few Fortune 500 firms.

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