AMA with App Evolution 🎉

Hi everyone :wave:

I’ve been at Monzo for 3.5 years, I am the QA engineer (tester) for 3 squads at Monzo. :test_tube:
I help teams improve their approach to testing, and risk, as well as maintain and improving our automation test suite. I also own shipping the app store release once a month.

I’ve worked on all areas of the personal banking sphere including launching the previous ‘new-navigation’, I worked on salary sorter, get paid early, International payments, split bills, shared tabs, pot feeds, plus and premium, referrals, and I was the second person to order a neon card!
I’ve polished the apps with small changes in the past too.

When we are building new features, we try to get as close to parity as we can, usually demoing the devices side by side so we can resolve unexpected differences.

I really do not miss 12 hour day (8am - 8pm) with around 4 hours of commuting 3-4 times a week.
I have better life work balance when I work from home. I can go to the gym, see friends, cook better meals, read and sleep more.
But I like coming into the office to see my teams when I can!

Very guilty of buying lunch near the office every time I travel in! :stuffed_flatbread:

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Hello everyone :wave:

I hope I’m not too late for questions, for I have a few!

  • Are you now a ‘forever team’, or is this a fixed project that is scheduled to run until X date?
  • Your team is called App Evolution (still loving the name) but the focus is on Overview, the new home screen. Is that going to the first of many parts of the app that you look at, or are you just sticking with home for now?
  • An associated question: how deep into the app do you go? By way of example, Overview really exposes the different ways that physical and virtual cards work (the screen for seeing card details is different, you can freeze physical but not virtual etc). Does your remit including looking at stuff like this so that Overview works nicely, or is are they out of scope because they’re one stage removed? (Not looking for commitment on the cards issue, btw!)
  • How international is Monzo now? The US seems to be gathering pace, so how do you check UK biases? And build in support for future markets (I think TS has said that the plan is still for Monzo to go global)?
  • With the change in font and category colours are we done with the in-app brand refresh? Or is there more to come?
  • And a final, cheeky, one: what are you personal views about whether the bottom tabs should stay or go?!

Oh, I said final, but is there anything you can tease us about? Do you have anything new (rather than iterative) planned for Overview (or indeed elsewhere) that you think will delight and surprise us?!

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More wonderings:

  • How does something like your team come about in Monzo? Was it a top down thing? Or did different teams cough, wealth, cough identify problems that needed fixing? Or something else?

  • How integrated are you with other teams? Do you have a map of potential future products or markets that the design should be extensible enough to cater for?

  • How does Monzo do long term planning, anyway?

(I think that’s more than enough questions from me now!)

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Thanks for all the questions so far :heart:

We’ll by closing the AMA up tomorrow so if you’ve got any follow up questions feel free to get them in before then :pray:

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With the current evolution in place which I’m slowly growing to like, do you have an idea of what the next gen app could look like beyond this version?

In form of always looking ahead, not just looking at the moment?

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Amazing, thanks Alan. I was worried I’d missed the boat for a moment!

:rowing_man::dash:

Hi @Peter_G :wave:

Love these questions, I’ll do my best to answer in as much detail as I can, but feel free to dig a little deeper.

Are you now a ‘forever team’, or is this a fixed project that is scheduled to run until X date?

Forever is a big commitment, but I think we’re agreed that there is a need for a holistic thinking team as Monzo continues to grow in terms of teams, products and customers. Part of the reason I love the name “Evolution” is that in part its a commitment and acknowledgement that we need to continually be thinking about how better to improve and serve customers better. Essentially the job will never be ‘Done’.

So, in short I think this team and its principles will be around for the long term, but it’ll be flexible to ensure we’re focusing on the right thing (and area of the app) that has the most impact (ie we wont become the ‘Overview optimisation squad’)

Your team is called App Evolution (still loving the name) but the focus is on Overview, the new home screen. Is that going to the first of many parts of the app that you look at, or are you just sticking with home for now?

I touched on this above. Also a big fan of the name Evolution :wink:
We have a ‘North Star’ which touches on many areas of the app, and introduce new views to make money management easier. Essentially right now we feel the Overview is the most impactful starting point for both customers and other teams in Monzo. We’ll be working in this space until other teams are in a position to contribute to it, and we feel we’re really solving the core jobs for customers on their home screens.

We’ll then continue to weigh up where we can have the most impact next, and i’m sure you’ll be one of the first to hear about that on the community.

An associated question: how deep into the app do you go? By way of example, Overview really exposes the different ways that physical and virtual cards work (the screen for seeing card details is different, you can freeze physical but not virtual etc). Does your remit including looking at stuff like this so that Overview works nicely, or is are they out of scope because they’re one stage removed?

Nothing is off the table. In fact cards is something we’re going deeper in to currently :wink:
If there is a good justification for prioritising something like that (and another team isn’t thinking about it), then it would be within our remit. The challenge really is making sure we document this ideas, but maintain focus on the most impactful things. Relatively speaking we are a pretty nimble team, so really need to make sure we’re laser focused in the right areas.

How international is Monzo now? The US seems to be gathering pace, so how do you check UK biases? And build in support for future markets (I think TS has said that the plan is still for Monzo to go global)?

We’re working with the US (in fact some overview testing is happening there in the coming weeks). With overview we certainly have an eye on that. Has a principle, the overview needs to be able to scale up and down to many different things so we can tailor it not only to different markets and products, but people even in one market have completely different needs and requirements. Whilst the overview isn’t as smart and tailored as it could be right now, the intention is to ensure the foundations allow it to be in the future (so we don’t find ourselves needing a ‘New App evolution’ team re-designing it in 18 months time ;0 )

And a final, cheeky, one: what are you personal views about whether the [bottom tabs should stay or go

Well, we did test a version of overview without the tabs :eyes:
In the spirit of ‘Evolution’ and continual learning personally I wouldn’t rule it out (but to be fair I wouldn’t rule most things out). I think in summary though part of the reason for keeping it for now is that maybe it is a bit too much of a step change. Not only that but overview would have to work a lot harder to essentially have everything in one place.

The current version of it can be overwhelming to some - especially those who just want to use Monzo as a spend card. But as we continue to evolve and focus on different areas, who knows. I quite liked the concepts we had without it :eyes:

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+10 here! :smiley:

But with things like this, how much of that feedback sways your plans? If it was a handful of people who preferred it you’d obviously not worry so much, that’s always going to happen, but then there’s the difficulty of design by committee.

I guess what I’m asking is how fixed your path is? You were heading one way, people acted like horizontal pots was the worst thing since cold toast, so how much does that alter things? Did you have a project timeline-ish and now changing one thing means longer before you can change something else etc?

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Hey Peter! Great question.

I was the product designer who worked with our brand team (and then our engineers!) on getting the brand refresh in to the app so can hopefully give some context.

Though colours are largely done, we’re still planning on updating the theming you see as a Plus or Premium subscriber :eyes: and for business banking too. We also need to update the illustrations we have dotted around the app (and maybe some new app icons). You should see all of this soon hopefully!

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Quick question on this - does that mean teams are using OKR’s (Objectives, Key Results) as a way to align or is it just as simple as there’s a top theme/goal that teams want which folk can align around?

I look forward to a brighter future with the cards :eyes:

How does something like your team come about in Monzo? Was it a top down thing? Or did different teams cough, wealth, cough identify problems that needed fixing? Or something else?

This team came about organically. There was a sense across Monzo that the current app needs a structural refresh to continue to support customers as well as our current (and future :eyes:) offering. But there was not one clear articulation about what the exact problems are, and what the key opportunities would be, and how we’d move forward.

Before becoming a full team a couple of us went through a discovery process, built some more certainty around the problem, gathered some insights. Senior leaders agreed with the potential impact, and the team has been growing since then (we’re still growing).

How integrated are you with other teams? Do you have a map of potential future products or markets that the design should be extensible enough to cater for?

We have regular syncs with different ‘collectives’ and teams within Monzo, whether they be looking at borrowing, payments, or international. Those syncs work both ways. A team may highlight some new insights, share a near term target of theirs, or deeper knowledge of customers using those services. And we’ll take it in to consideration holistically across teams (so we ensure we’re building something coherent, scaleable and grounded in customer insight)

We have a number of opportunities to align with teams, and each others goals. The range from design jams, product reviews, and even the planning process. In some cases we’ve worked with other teams to build out and leverage key data.

How does Monzo do long term planning, anyway?
We plan in halves (H1 and H2). With a sharpened view of what we plan to achieve within 6 months, and our intentions for the 6 months after that.

We’ll tend to align these to our 1-3 year mission. So whilst its not a top down approach, we are all aligned on where we want to get to collectively. So its a case of figuring out what each of us as individual teams could do to help realise that vision.

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Hi there :wave:

With overview itself we are looking ahead to the next few years in terms of our offering, but also the visibility and control we can offer customers. As mentioned in a previous thread, we’re thinking through how this scales up and down in terms of the different complexity / needs.

But another point to highlight is that the interface is intentionally modular in places to allow us to tailor content in the future, and / extend / create new widgets over time beyond this version. The way we’ve engineered this has had a complete overhaul too. Its really quite exciting what we can do on the backend, present information, and allow customisation. These principles can be applied to areas across the app (of which we have ideas / hypothesis for beyond the “Overview”). Will be sure to share those with you all over time :heart:

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I guess what I’m asking is how fixed your path is?

From the start, we’ve said we want to be continually learning as we evolve. We don’t want to do a big bang launch where we simply deliver on the initial vision and hope it lands well. Its just not how we approach thing (and not how you build a bank around a customers). So with that in mind, our path isn’t fixed, but our mission is.

What we do plan to do is experiment with this new baseline, to see how it affects a broad range of customers, and then meaningfully prioritise things that need fixing using a mixture of data and speaking with customers.

The Pot example is a good one that we need to think through in more detail how we scale up and down. Right now it works for customers with say 2-5 pots. and has the added benefit of being able to have a summary when scrolling. However we need to get the balance right for those with 1 pot, or those with many. Add on top of that the fact that people like to consume data in different ways, and you could end up either over complicating, or ending up with an average middle ground!

But to summarise, we’re open to continue evolution and enhancements. We document everything that needs consideration, We’re continually listening, and weighing up what things are the most impactful to work on first.

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does that mean teams are using OKR’s (Objectives, Key Results) as a way to align or is it just as simple as there’s a top theme/goal that teams want which folk can align around?

I wouldn’t say we follow the OKR process by the book. However we do set objectives so its clear to the team and to others across Monzo what areas we plan to focus on, as well as sharing the results we might expect (and why).

There’s then a clear line in terms of each teams objectives bubble up to the aligned vision for Monzo.

That helps us not only decide what to focus on (in terms of customer impact), but also helps uncover any dependancies on other teams, etc.

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Amazing, this is what I was hoping you would say. Doing it for all the right reasons and not just because “Google did it one time”

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I think @N26throwaway will be relieved!

I’m a bit sad, but I’m heartened that you tested it without the tabs - I think that Overview working harder is probably the right answer, even if you keep the tabs for now. In fact, I think it’s a great catalyst for identifying where there are inconsistent things to fix (like treatment of cards for example).

Here’s a follow-up question: do you have a sense of what needs to be done to make Overview ready for general deployment? Put another way, what’s the minimum success criteria to take it out of labs?

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This is a bit in-the-wrong-order, but I’m very happy / relieved! Excellent to hear.

Brilliant. resists the temptation to poll

A follow-up, if I might? What level of customisation do you think there’ll be in the short (and indeed medium) term? There seems to be so much variability on things like pots, transactions, connected accounts etc, it feels like letting the user choose themselves might be useful.

That said, have you explored using smarts to look at how different users work Monzo and dynamically changing Overview to suit their needs automagaically?

If it’s not too much of an imposition, could you tell us what the difference between teams, squads and collectives is, and how they interrelate and work together?

Two categories of customisation have really surfaced as being critical to me in the near term:

  1. Controlling what feeds your data
    Super important to ensure any data presented in overview is meaningful to the individual, otherwise its just noise. A couple of examples come to mind.
  • Controlling your total balance – In the current app we display a total balance calculating everything (accounts, Pots, Connected accounts). In Overview we want you to be able to choose what total balance makes sense to you and how you think about your money. That might include connected credit cards, it might exclude certain Pots, etc. But the key is to make sure its meaningful.
  • Another example is powering the feed (well, filtering). Are Pot movements important, you decide. Hide connected accounts, filter by transaction you can Flex, basically make sure it makes sense to you at a glance, and when in a certain work flow

2) Creating an order than makes sense
This one is quite broad, but includes things like ordering Pots and Accounts. ‘Un-pinning’ things from ‘The account stack’ to create a prominence that makes sense for how you as an individual think about your accounts and their importance.

Those things naturally evolve to mid term things like maybe being able to completely re-order all widgets in the overview. Turning them on and off, maybe even creating your own widgets with a range of virtual cards and groups! Lots of possibilities.

Tailoring the experience is most definitely on our minds too. If you are using Monzo to help save money, then we could order things it a way that help you achieve that. Again lots of potential here too!

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All of this sounds just fantastic :ok_hand::ok_hand: no notes!

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