My friend Anthony called me about a year ago and asked if I would be interested in designing a fintech app that could help people get approved for loans easier. I was intrigued by the idea so I agreed to jump in.
Because of the timeline and remote aspect of the project, I wouldn't be following my usual abbreviated GV Design Sprint process, so I worked with Anthony via hangouts to quickly define a few things about the scope.
Once I understood the context of this project, I decided on a fairly basic process which started with a problem definition and ended up creating a basic user story:
So now that we had a solid user story mapped, what was next?
So for CreditIQ, the problem was now defined, we knew who we were designing for, the motivations were determined, behaviors understood and solutions assumed. This meant that I still needed to create a prototype, test the prototype and validate my assumptions about how the solution might work and what it might look like before I could ship.
One of the first things that Anythony sent me were screenshots of their previously released product that they had received mixed but promising feedback on. They wanted to use some of the basic layout, underlying technology and IA but do a completely reworked UI with more of an emotional element that would help them connect with their younger/hipper users and develop trust in the company as well as the capability and reliability of the application at first glance.
Seeing the Car Loan and Home Loan buttons on the screen of their old app while channeling the millenial/genX target user immediately made me think of Airbnb and Uber so I took a look at these apps and grabbed a few screenshots to use as inspiration. I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me on Uber’s app but upon seeing Airbnb’s new home page, I was immediately taken by the simplicity and beauty of the rich image backgrounds with no margins between them and simple text label overlays. This influence would prove to be so conventional and sticky that it would make it’s way onto the final app screen’s home page and basically eliminate the need for onboarding while still providing an emotional connection with the target user.
I made the first version of this prototype in one day taking shameless inspiration from Airbnb and IA from Banclocal. Although it was a bit over the top with the inconsistent icons and accompanying text labels, I wanted to overcommunicate at this stage. Later we would remove the icons altogether and use a simple text overlay for each category of loan.*Tap the “Personal” card on the home screen to see the style guide I delivered.
Now that I had a prototype in hand, I had just enough time to do some usability testing before this thing went out the door, so I loaded it up on my iPhone and started showing it to anyone I was hanging out with who happened to match the personas we were targeting. In order to decrease the likelihood of bias one way or the other, I would hand the phone to them and simply ask: “What is this?” This worked out pretty well. People would take the phone, try to scroll, and then immediately begin tapping. Two out of the three people I showed it to were able to guess what the app was about, understand the apps purpose, navigate the entire app and make it back to the home screen without any prompting or guidance from me. Although I was still apprehensive about shipping my designs without more qualitative feedback from users, this was about all we had time and budget for. So I sent my findings along with a link to the prototype and over the next couple days went through a few iterations with Anthony as he and his partner did some inhouse dog fooding and their own guerilla testing with friends and family to get more feedback.
By now things were really starting to come together. We wanted to grab a bit more real estate on the screen so we reduced the size of the header images by 30%. This was an immediate sigh of relief and helped create room for a loan amount slider that would get added later on. As the conversation progressed and feedback came in from the prototype, some additional requirements for screens such as settings and activity emerged. The other guys wanted to do a hamburger menu which I was strongly against, so we opted to add a conventional toolbar nav across the bottom of the screen. Time was getting tight at this point so we decided to go with what we had and iterate along the way.
With a couple subtle layout tweaks and some lightening of colors here and there, the team has iterated on the app to this point. The loan amount slider was a perfect addition to this crucial screen and although I don't have any stats to prove it, I suspect it has made a fair amount of difference in conversion. There are a few more opportunities for improvement, but for now, I'm quite proud of how it turned out.
Reviews on the app store:
Nothing else like it!
Simple, user-friendly, trustworthy - with great customer service. I got my lowest quote in mere seconds, without giving my SSN or impacting my credit score.
Fast, easy, no hastle. Exactly as described. Needed a car loan, got a fair quote in minutes from bmw financial services. Great app!
Nice appI especially liked the last review considering how well it validated our assumption around current behaviors: "Go to a bank in person, be humiliated if denied"
Easy to use. Why bother with a bank?
I caught up with Anthony Liatsis, Credit IQ's CTO and he had this to say about where they are currently at with the company:
"We've been hyper focused on auto financing and acquiring auto dealerships as customers so our main product as of now is an API-as-a-service. The app that Lance designed has been a fantastic prototype/proof-of-concept for us and for this reason we have not focused soley on user growth as a key metric. But even so, as a result of Lance's efforts, we added over 6000 users after launch!Anthony also said the following about working with me:
“Lance was a great UX designer to work with. He designed an elegantly simple flow and complementary interface for Credit IQ's first app that masked the complexity of the automation built into our API and delivered an experience our users responded to very well.” • Anthony Liatsis - CTO @Credit_IQ
We found out that delivering a simple loan approval experience in a mobile application that masks the powerful technology behind it can change the way we think about getting loans and eventually make banks obsolete!