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Designing UX to Meet Gen Z and Millennial Expectations

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Designing for B2B2C clients at Alkami means we must deliver a great user experience (UX) for everyone. We have to create a seamless experience between evolving user expectations and complex business problems.

It’s a challenge, but as a future-focused digital banking provider, Alkami anticipates what helps our bank and credit union clients keep up with customer growth and demand.

The Alkami UX team aims to keep digital banking relevant with Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2015) and millennial (born between 1980 and 1994) users. These users have digital experience expectations influenced by big tech names like Amazon, Venmo, and Instagram.

We’re often asked how we provide digital banking that meets such high expectations while satisfying client business needs — two seemingly disparate things. I’m here to give some insight into what it takes to bridge the gap between improving ease of use and achieving business goals within the same user experience.

Design to Your Audience

Studies have shown that since Gen Z consumers value ease of use and speed over all other digital concerns, they are twice as likely to use online-only brands like Venmo than generations before them.

But earlier this year, Cornerstone Advisors revealed only 37% of banks said expanding their digital presence was a top priority. Still, having a digital solution is not enough. In order for FIs to grow their younger audience, their digital strategy will require that they really understand how Gen Z’s and millennials think, act, and behave when it comes to finances. Will they ever write a check? What is their version of balancing a checkbook? Will they ever use a Bill Pay widget in their banking app if they have only ever known Venmo? Will they ever have a need for cash with Apple Pay or Venmo?

The Alkami UX team begins answering these types of user-specific questions by developing personas. These are fictional characters constructed to be representative of specific user segments that use the Alkami Platform in a similar way. Personas help us humanize and empathize with our users and identify their goals and pain points as we design for them.

A traditional banking persona may have once looked like an older user segment with large assets. However, as we shift to a digital presence and a focus on growing our Gen Z user base and building loyalty, we will need to explore an emerging Gen Z persona. But how do designers start to gain an understanding of the users themselves?

Improve Ease of Use with Data

As they say in the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” This is very aspirational thinking, but not quite reality in digital banking. To truly be user-centric, the final product needs to meet users where they are in their lives to be valuable. Data can provide insights into what users need and when they’ll need it. Through data, you can build your personas and begin designing to meet their goals and milestones in their lives.

For a Gen Z persona, they may just be graduating college, so you’ll want to show them relevant content on how to pay off their student loans. For the millennial persona, they may be getting married or starting a family, so you’ll want to deliver content related to saving for a home or building a college savings for their kids. When users are regularly making business transactions, FIs could offer a small business loan or business banking to drive business objectives. For day-to-day banking users, there are more opportunities to use data to offer things that matter to them.

Are patterns emerging in user behavior? You may find users skipping over ads to head straight to viewing their account balance. Improve usability and give them what they want by designing and personalizing their experience with data.

Anticipating needs and presenting actions users haven’t considered but would likely take earns trust and loyalty. Rather than presenting offers with all other content, giving users what they need when they need it opens opportunities to introduce products like financial wellness that help achieve business goals for product adoption and user engagement while making banking easier for users.

By leveraging data and insights, we can provide tailored experiences to all of our users, but especially Gen Z users whose expectations are speed, ease of use, and personalization.

Think Mobile First

About 115 million U.S. users will bank via mobile at least once a month. In the spirit of meeting users where they are, making a digital banking experience mobile first should be a priority.

Since solving user problems requires understanding how to service user actions, and since phones offer less real estate, designers should extract and focus on what is essential in a particular view by using progressive disclosure – serving the right content at the right time. With motion design, gestures, and haptics, designers can guide the user by providing context through different senses. For example, if a user’s action results in an error, the phone can vibrate to notify them. To let users know that an area requires action, designers can elevate that area off the screen with visual and motion design to indicate a tappable element. Good UX isn’t just something nice to look at — it should also be thoughtful and intentional, helping transition and guide users through what to do next.

But knowing when, where, and how a UX element like motion should be used requires thoughtful UX research to understand users’ mental models and behavioral patterns. Different phases of a UX project require different types of testing and different research methods, but these five questions provide a jumping-off point for stepping back and defining the problem users are facing:

Who am I solving for?
What are their needs?
When do they need to see this information?
Where do you show it to avoid a disruptive experience?
Why are we solving this problem: for users or business objectives?


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