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What Matters When Designing a Personal Finance App

In this post: We explore the inner workings of designing the perfect finance application. We also look into the challenges faced by brands, and also highlight the best finance apps around.

Movement of money on mobile

In 2017 alone, mobile phone users downloaded a whopping 197 billion times – on both iOS and Android platforms. The average number of apps people use on a daily basis is 9. While users spend 29% of the app time on social media apps, the remaining 71% is spread between entertainment and productive applications. These numbers are just from the US market alone.

While bank accounts and credit cards can be linked with money management apps, the percentage of money transacted via mobile devices has grown exponentially all over the world, but significantly in the US, Europe and China. Here are some stats for thought:

  • Value of NFC payments is projected to reach $240bn by 2021 (source)
  • $270.93bn worth of person to person transfers will occur by the end of 2019 (source)
  • By 2020, 50% of transactions made by people will be over a mobile device in Europe (source)
  • In the US alone, Starbucks processes more than 9 million mobile payments each week (source)
  • In the US, Bankrate claims that nearly 63% of smartphone users are active at least on one finance app

If we look at the finance sector, it can be easily categorized into four main components of personal finance. Every finance related app we find on the App Store and Google Play Store will easily fall into one or more of the below categories.

  • Investment: Apps which help people buy, renew, and invest in products such as insurance, stocks, Mutual Funds
  • Transfers: Person to person transfers, allowing easy flow of money within a defined area (country)
  • Access to money: Access to products such as personal loans, auto loans, mortgages etc.
  • Payments: Apps which have built in wallet or payment facilities, or apps which are designed to make payments to utilities, entertainment, subscriptions etc.

In the olden days it was the banks where people use to go to make transactions, that slowly shifted to computers, laptops, and over-the-phone in the early 2000s. And now, with affordable, high-quality smartphones and cheap high-speed internet have brought money led transactions closer to users. Tomorrow it will be voice and gesture enabled devices which will act as mediums or platforms to transact. Cutting edge technologies and tight regulations are making financial transactions safer every day.

What concerns the app user

When it comes to transacting online, especially through a mobile device, what do users really want or care about? This is the crux of designing a great finance app. There are six main aspects which constitute a finance app which users would love. Users are incredibly vocal about the first three points. Whereas the other three points is what users need. When it comes to financial app design, it’s not user wants vs user needs, it is a strong amalgamation of both.

#1 Privacy:It is plain and simple. We are talking about an app which will have access to personal and personal finance data. Naturally, users expect your app to be secure, safe and up to the latest technological and regulatory standards.

#2 Speed:Let me make this easy and straightforward – people don’t like to spend too much time to accomplish simple financial tasks. We cannot expect people to spend equal amounts of time on apps such as Netflix or Facebook and the same on a finance app. The target for anyone who is about to build or optimize an existing finance app is to make the users tap less, click less, no waiting and delivering content in a snap.

#3 Simplicity:This is where intelligent UX comes in. The goal is to design layouts of the app to be minimalistic. Many apps are using innovative color schemes and shades to help users concentrate on the task at hand. Users should be able to feel that they control the app space on their phone, this builds trust.

#4 Short learning curve: Too many buttons, links, features many drive users away. Why not infuse Artificial Intelligence to gather data about what the user wants to achieve with app (when they first sign up for the app). This acts as a starting point. The AI engine can start learning user behavior and present features which matter when needed. Contextual design elements will help developers achieve this.

#5 Rewards: when users achieve or complete a task, such as ordering a checkbook or making a payment, reward users with crisp motivational message popups to congratulate on accomplishing the task. This might sound cringe worthy when reading this point, but subtle rewards go a long way to reassure and build rapport with the user. Notice how gaming apps reward users when they complete a level or collect a piece of gaming element. Rewards work.

#6 Goals: financial elements in life are dynamic. Meaning, there are so many aspects to money and it changes from user to user. One user may want to set aside a few bucks for a new phone, where some users want the app to calculate a goal and create a spending or saving limit. The deal is this, allow users to customize certain app features. This will help you build trust while sharing some controls with users.

What challenges you will face while developing a finance app

As a business or a developer, you will face challenges while designing an app which allows people’s personal asset (money) to be transacted on a platform (internet) where anyone can steal data or money. Though regulations and technology standards have grown exponentially, it is up to the brand to put important elements such as privacy, security, and safety at the center of application design. Here are some challenges financial service providers should address.

Data security and user privacy

There’s no compromise in data security and user privacy. When users download your app, they sign an emotional contract with your brand – your reputation. With the European Union changing the landscape and setting stringent standards about using and securing user data, it is absolutely necessary for you – as a brand – to use the latest set of technologies to build a highly secure finance app.

Regulatory challenges

Each country, region and continent brings with it its own set of guidelines and regulations when it comes to protecting user data and privacy. The first step – as a brand – is to understand your demography, geography and put a lot of emphasis on building your financial service app with data security and privacy at the center

Features, upselling, and profits

At the end of the day, your app should make money. Many brands use the Freemium model to allow users to download their apps for free. This way users get to explore the app first and then decide if it’s in there stride to pay for services. Factor in elements such as cross-selling, up-selling, product or service upgrades in the fundamental UI and UX design phase. When a user picks up his or her phone, he should not be able to differentiate between a free service and a paid service upgrade. By presenting paid services at the right moment, you make the user experience more seamless.

Contextual design makes you more money than fancy design.

Examples of the best finance apps

Here some great examples of how a simple, yet an effective mobile or web application can change the way people access their finances.


YNAB is a thoroughly simple budgeting app. All you gotta do is link your account(s) and assign every Dollar to categories such as payments, savings, and investments. YNAB allows you to put every Dollar to work.


Monese is a UK based financial institution which offers business accounts and overseas money transfer facilities. Monese has acquired many customers for making money transfers incredibly simple.


Lemonade is a smart insurance platform. Maya – an Artificial Intelligence BOT – allows users to find the perfect home and rental insurance products within minutes.

Mar. 21, 2019 - Posted by aravinth ramesh


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