We tend to forget for whom we’re building digital products
It's time to leave our geeky habits behind and focus on building products users truly want to use. Getting there is not an issue of better infrastructure, but better interaciton with each other.
Today I want to talk about some of the problems we face in many industries. Funnily enough, many of these industries argue how they differ from each other. However, if you look closely under the hood, they’re the same and need to solve the same issues.
These issues seem simple at first, but for some reason, we make things worse. The biggest task for any industry is to build thought-out products that are simple and fast to use. None of us want a version of Apple Pay, where it takes 30 seconds until you’re able to pay.
The average user, which is 95% of the target audience with any financial service, wants something practical with which you tap once and pay immediately or get the necessary information. Also, they’re not interested in infographics or market information. All they want to see is their balance and do their business in a couple of minutes.
If things don’t work, they want a backup plan. Either by visiting a branch, or the more modern version, to open a chat window and talk to a support team. Very few know how to solve the problem on their own. Suppose they know how, they rarely reach out for support and try to solve the problems independently. Or build some form of a product to integrate into their services. These users would also benefit from one specific solution. More on that later.
We live in a bubble and don’t talk to customers
Let’s face it whether you work in fintech, the crypto industry, or within the Bitcoin space. All of us share the same problem. We’re hyped about new features and forget to ask the people we build these features for, if they actually use them. Though most of us claim how much research or polling went into these things, more often than not, it’s just not a great fit.
Believe me, none of us are doing this on purpose. We actually want users to have a pleasurable experience. They shouldn’t feel forced to do something a certain way. It should all feel natural. Also, we don’t intend to overload them with shiny new features, but we can’t help ourselves and add way too many things on top of it all.
We focus too much of our work on hyped-up features and too little on client interactions. We’re so heavily involved in our own bubbles and lose the scope of the overall picture. Instead of geeking out over things like network integrations, transactions per second, or protocol upgrades, we should build better prototypes and go through rigorous testing with users directly. But that’s in an ideal world.
## Not listening means we miss important details
The main issue with all of this geeking out is how we ignore important feedback. I often see this in the Bitcoin and fintech communities I’m involved with. Whenever a user brings up some genuine problems, we ignore them and try to convince them of the amazingness that is feature X.
Often, the issues are mundane. Something might be unclear in the support copy, or something in the onboarding isn’t appropriately described. Whatever the issue is, it’s mostly something you can fix with a few chat messages or calls. Luckily enough, more and more services offer direct support or are prepared for these kinds of issues, which is a positive sign that we’re heading in the right direction.
How do we build better products?
This is the million-dollar question. It’s definitely not one you solve with a few chatrooms and some support workers. These are the onsite measurements. Meaning you fix the problem short term, but it could just as much come up again with the next user.
We need to fix the root cause. Picking up on the points I mentioned above, we often complicate things because we engage in nerdy conversations and exciting new tech. However, the end user is not interested in what’s under the hood but in how he can use it.
One step in solving this problem is a learn-and-reward structure. Just as an example. Imagine if your end-user has issues in understanding how to pay an invoice with the app. Instead of referring them to a blog post or support page, we could build an interactive tutorial.
One where you could watch videos in a specific order, fill out a questionnaire, and for every correct answer, you get rewarded. Either with rewards for using the platform or some form of cash back. This incentivizes the user to learn and not just answer questions to get a reward. You would obviously build the tutorial to be bullet and cheat-proof.
The secondary option is one with which we geeks might have more fun. Users like to use the same services. Just look at SSOs like Google, Amazon, or Facebook. They’re more likely to sign up for a service if they can use the same account for everything. The same can be achieved in the background for all of their financial services. Or at least we can build different containers for different services.
This is where the interoperability between systems comes into play. So many fintechs, on- and off-ramps or service providers use different backends. Which is the main reason users often can’t connect their favorite services with each other. There are attempts like Open Banking to unite these providers, but it’s still in its early days.
Is decentralization the future of finance?
More and more users lose trust in the traditional financial system because it lacks innovation and transparency. Fintech emerged from this, but it’s still bound to the old system. Frustrated users start to look elsewhere and find one interesting technology: Decentralized Protocols.
These are the backbone of innovations like Bitcoin. They allow to build off a base layer and expand on top of that. Whether that be with new currencies, own solutions, or the existing financial rails. For the user, everything would stay the same. The institution would have more abilities to work with. From that point forward, all service providers could use the same tech stack and, further on, allow direct integration from smaller service providers. The beauty of it all is, if the institution wants to use Bitcoin, they can. If they want to use Ethereum, they can. If they want to build their own infrastructure, guess what; they can!
This would be a net benefit for the user, as their service would still function the same, possibly a bit faster, as it would not be the same tech stack. The real innovation would be between institutions. Suddenly everyone would have the same possibilities, emerging technologies would be integrated much faster, and the distrust between different camps would vanish. There might still be some differences between some protocols. However, each would have its dedicated space and be able to build better finance solutions for specific use cases.
What’s holding us back?!
Obviously, we’re not getting there overnight. It takes years to educate all of the players themselves as well. Just because everyone works in or with financial rails doesn’t mean they understand or like each other.
However, if we manage to build relationships together and improve the lives of everyday users, we might be able to build products they want to use every day.