NetSpend Mobile App Redesign

About The Organization

Prepaid debit card provider NetSpend positions itself as a bank account alternative for the unbanked and underbanked that's more convenient, faster, and less expensive than a traditional checking account with fewer barriers to entry. According to the FDIC, one in twelve households in America are "unbanked," meaning they don't have any type of deposit account such as a checking or savings account. One in five is "underbanked," meaning they have a deposit account but rely heavily on cash or on alternative financial services like prepaid debit cards, money orders, check cashing, and payday loans.

the Project

The first NetSpend mobile app was developed for the iPhone and shipped in late 2010. The first Android app shipped nearly a year later — a port of the iPhone app — despite the overwhelming percentage of customers using Android devices. After struggling with poor app store reviews, unequal feature support between platforms, and a code base that was difficult to white label, NetSpend decided to make the commitment to its mobile products and re-design the app from the ground up.


Skills

  • User Research
  • Usability Testing
  • Lean Product Validation
  • Information Architecture
  • Interaction Design
  • Fast Iteration Management
  • Design-To-Development Documentation

Objectives

  • Reorganize the app to focus on the primary goals of users:  check account balance, see recent transaction history, and move money
  • Identify and eliminate possible feature that don't resonate with customers (like showing account balance on the logout screen)
  • Improve the quality of the visual aesthetic throughout the app, and increase the customization options available to white label partners
  • Identify areas where the experience of the Android and iOS apps needed to differ from one another

The Process

Collaboration With...TBD

The question of whether development of the apps would be done in-house or outsourced to an agency would shape how far in advance of development UI and interactivity decisions needed to be made and how we documented them. With an in-house team we could use dual-track Agile to collaborate with the software engineers. Outsourcing the development to an agency meant we would need a monolithic, detailed requirements document up front for the agency to accurately scope and price the project and changes after the kick-off would incur expensive change orders.

We also didn't know whether the new apps would a hybrid or native app; this was something we wouldn't know for sure until we knew who would be building it. Without knowing the technology, we didn't have a clear answer what technical limitations the design would have to work within.

Hedging Our Bets Through "Agile-fall"

Our recent work on the NetSpend servicing site a few months earlier meant that we had a lot of findings from user research and key platform decisions that we could leverage in the mobile app. To minimize our risk and still hit our project target dates, we took an agile approach with build-measure-learn loops to create a waterfall-style requirements document. We explored one to two flows at a time, tested prototypes with current customers, made tweaks as necessary based on our findings, then turn our focus to building on another area of the app.

 
UI designs started as sketches on paper that we could snap photos of and turn into quick and dirty prototypes to test on a mobile device. I would then walk through the sketches and flows with our content strategist to determine where we needed to add labels, instructions, and other messaging.  

UI designs started as sketches on paper that we could snap photos of and turn into quick and dirty prototypes to test on a mobile device. I would then walk through the sketches and flows with our content strategist to determine where we needed to add labels, instructions, and other messaging.  

 

We could iterate quickly through paper sketches, prototypes, and content spreadsheets quickly and later turn them into medium fidelity, annotated wireframes.

 
 

Remarkably, NetSpend was able to hire an entire mobile team—from manager through engineers and QA—by the project start date. Once the new mobile team was hired, we were able to transition into a dual-track Agile approach.


Outcome

The new apps were shipped on time and were very well received by industry analysts (which is nice) and more importantly, by NetSpend customers.

 
I promise that only one of these app store reviews was written by a NetSpend employee. 😉

I promise that only one of these app store reviews was written by a NetSpend employee. 😉