This has been my primary project for the past 2 years. I was hand-picked out of a 100+ designers in the company to lead the design and experience of the entire project.
Leading this project required me to flex a wide range of design disciplines:
Around a year before the iPhone 6 launched, Apple gave us a call. The call went something like this…
So, after a couple visits to secret dungeons in Cupertino, shady campus escorts, and bit of Apple-nerd excitement, we were given a seemingly simple task to make Apple Pay work for new iPhone 6 users. The onboarding would go something like this:
1. Johnny buys new iPhone 6
2. Johnny adds his Capital One card to Apple Pay
3. Johnny then has to call Capital One customer service to verify he’s not a fraudster
4. Johnny’s credit card is now activated in Apple Pay
5. Johnny buys stuff with his phone
All we really needed to do was make sure customer service was trained to take these Apple Pay verification calls. Nothing else. So, you can obviously see where the primary pain-point is. If you happen to enjoy calling customer service centers, please stop reading this now – there are plenty of people at Capital One, Comcast and DMV who can’t wait to have a chat.
We started thinking about this digital-to-analog-to-digital onboarding experience. How could we make this a complete digital experience? How could we give our customers an option to verify their cards without calling in?
So, we told Apple that we wanted to include a second verification option: an app. This would provide an option for our customers to download our app, verify their card, and be on their way – no need to call and wait on hold.
As the other banks were working to barely meet the minimum requirements, we were taking a human-centered approach from the beginning to create the best possible experience with the cards we’ve been dealt.
research & testing
We live and breathe Design Thinking here. So we dove deep into our human-centered design process to uncover the latent needs around the entire transaction experience.
ideation & Prototyping
With those themes in mind, we started to ideate and rapidly prototype tons of low-fidelity concepts around this framework. We validated a handful of concepts…
Once we validated these concepts, we focused on framing the ideal experience, based on our learnings and the use-cases we were solving for. Given that the primary use case was during the transaction experience, we ultimately focused on speed and simplicity. This was an “on the go” experience, as opposed to a “sit on the couch and play” experience. We weren’t looking for the user to spend long amounts of time in the app. We wanted to let them do a quick check-in, make sure everything’s cool, and let them be on their way with no worries.
With the focus on speed and simplicity, we carried this theme into the design of the interface. Our mantra was “Simplicity, deference, and no fluff.” Every element of the UI, from the card art to the iconography, was there for a specific, singular purpose. We stripped away every layer we could, so our customers could get to the information they needed immediately, without distraction.
We tested a variety of layouts, visual styles and interactions. And then we tested some more. Ultimately it came down to 2 simple variations. A skeuomorphic, apparent version, and a slightly more abstract version. The 2 UI concepts tested very well, but ultimately, the more straightforward version won out. Displaying the skeuomorphic card art created immediate context with the customer, letting them familiarize themselves with the app at a much quicker rate. Customers did not need any explanation with this version. They enjoyed exploring and discovering the app hierarchy with their already preconceived mental models. We had a winner.
So yeah, we launched in time for the iPhone 6. The app worked seamlessly with Apple Pay, and Apple praised our experience and UI. We immediately got – and maintain to this day – 4-5 star ratings in the app store. The other banks were jealous (have you seen their apps?). We got some press. I did a bunch of design presentations for thousands of people. I took a vacation. I sipped on some Bulliet. I exhaled and enjoyed the fruits of my labor…
The Designer's Curse
Once you ship it, all you can think about is fixing it.
Experience is iterative. It’s non-stop. I’m constantly prototyping, testing and trying to design better ways to do things. I can’t stop. And, as much as I’d love to show you how we’re progressing on this project, I can’t share pre-release versions with you. But, stay tuned. One day, I’ll be completely happy with the product. Probably when I’m sleeping with the fishes.
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