It's Too Complex

Ok, so, hear me out. I love that we have had a slew of new features recently, things have have been requested for a long time. But part of me worries that the combination of these things is somewhat overwhelming, and they are all disjoint parts that are approximating a different goal.

Let’s look at some features:

  • Virtual cards can be paid from a particular pot
  • A virtual card can be added to your Apple wallet (& combined with paid from a pot)
  • Salary sorter can move money (almost) automatically into various pots on payday
  • You can use Salary sorter to credit a bills pot
  • The bills pot can then be used to pay recurring payments like DDs and SOs
  • You can get a credit-card-like loan with Flex (well, soon). You choose the repayment schedule and then this is deducted from your account monthly
  • Sweeping balance at end of month from spending report (does that still exist?)
  • Setting a budget for a particular category
  • IFTT lets you shunt stuff around, too

There are surely more ways, too. The thing is that this is quite the bevy of features. Each one doing a little bit of what I think is a somewhat obscured whole. Really what we are approximating here is separating out:

  • Bills
  • Spending
  • Savings

Making a virtual card that pays from a pot and adding it to your Apple wallet is… a convoluted way to control spending - or, cast another way, a way to resurrect the original prepay Monzo card where all that it did was help you limit your spending money. Using salary sorter (why can’t it be automatic?!) is a way to get your bills money far away from your spending money, so that you don’t accidentally spend it. Sweeping your balance up (sometimes hacked via IFTTT) is a way to automatically credit your savings with what you didn’t spend. And so on.

The thing is that this is all really quite complex and disjoint. There’s no overview page that ties this all together into one coherent view. I know that there’s the legacy Summary and Budgets features - now somewhat burried - which will soon be incorporated into the new Trends feature. But trends won’t necessarily solve this because it’s somewhat of an historical overview, whereas the assemblage of features above are about limiting spending from the current month, i.e. they are about the immediate future.

What I think it would be lovely to see is these three types of money - Bills, Spending, and Savings - to be better and more formally delineated in the app, and for the above features to be re-worked into a coherent whole that allows people to get better control of their finances. Yes, it is important to be able to look backwards, but it is also important to give people tools to create spending controls for themselves in-the-moment. This was the original killer feature of Monzo, and they forget this at their peril. I worry that what exists at the moment is just too complex for the average user to fathom their way through (I find it hard enough!), and so most users won’t get the best out of these features, or out of Monzo in general.

I think you’re being overly dramatic about it really, I don’t think any of it is complex at all. Banks having features is a good thing. If you’re brand new to Monzo today, you don’t have to use everything and get everything set up in the first five minutes.

The only part I agree with is that there needs to be an overall visibility of everything.

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I find it hard to navigate all the features in the app and keep it straight in my head, so I have no idea how the person in the street feels. The sad thing is that where they could be getting great control over their money with the featureset even as it stands, in all likelihood this disjoint and complex grab-bag that has been accreted over time just isn’t going to serve most people very well. Really it just needs a coherent and integrated UI. But you agree with that!

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I think I agree with you to some extent – I find that there are too many things on offer and I don’t have the time and energy to work out what I could do and how all this fits together. Kind of like the new Focus features in iOS 15: great if you’re a power user; but too complex if you’re Average Joe so you just don’t bother

This is where I’m at – but for power users who love their spreadsheets and scripts and automations, I can see how this is great. Others can just use Monzo as a ‘regular’ bank

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But I think that’s defeatist. Monzo can absolutely help people see these three broad buckets of money much clearer. The only thing preventing the clarity is the legacy of how the features came to be. But this is usually the way with any software - it grows bits here and there and eventually approximates something great, but eventually the UI needs to be reworked to simplify and promote the underlying evolved synnergies.

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I think this is what Trends does to some extent and will continue to sort out.
Currently you can see Spending (including spending categorised as Bills), and then Income, Transfers, and Savings segregated at the bottom of the screen. It also allows you to add other accounts (including virtual cards tied to a pot) meaning you can widen or narrow the lens you’re looking through as you wish.

It’s not perfect right now but we know updates will come and as the name suggests it will allow you to do more than just look at current and historical spends but also identify “trends”. What I’m hoping for is the return of the Pulse graph (or graphs, e.g. one for spending and one for saving) with some forward predictions plotted based on these trends. I imagine custom periods will come too and it won’t just be tied to calendar months.

You might see all of the other tools as disjointed but I see it more as a suite of separate tools that the user can select to suit their own needs or ways of working.

I also think for most people it’s best if they can discover one new feature at a time, feeling the benefit of one before adopting the next, if everything was thrown at them at once it could all feel very overwhelming to the point where they don’t bother with any of them.

Sure things aren’t perfect right now but it isn’t bad and I very much think that it’s all moving in the right direction, towards overall simplicity with complexity there for those that what it.

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We will have to see, but it feels like the default case that they won’t do this, and it will be more of a reworking of Summary & Budgets. Specifically because:

The critical difference is that a pot for spending linked to a virtual card linked to your Apple wallet (so simple!) forcably limits how much you can spend. It’s about hard limits. In a similar but mirror kind of way, bills pots are about getting that money out of your spending. Perhaps another way to view this is that those two are kind of the same feature? In one case you’re pushing your spending out to a virtual card, and in the other you’re pushing out the bills money and using the main account for spending.

Yes, that should be able to make a comeback. But where should it go? Some people might use a specific pot-virtual-card-apple-pay chain, and so it shouldbe on that one “blessed” pot; for others it would be on their main account. If the feature isn’t uplifted in some way to be a first-class object, then it makes it hard to know where to put that in the interface. IMHO Pulse had to go away because after the prepay cards moved to a current acount setup discretionary and mandatory spending got mixed up. It’s nice that they are finally getting sorted out and dstinguished between again, but I honetly think that doing this in a first-class way would be better.

“Easy things should be easy. Hard things should be possible” is a good rubrick. I think that at the moment hard things are possible but easy things aren’t easy. That’s the core of my issue.

So, this is my sentiment, except you’re saying “I trust it’s happening”. I raise this thread to make sure that it’s not just a hope but a formal request!

Put it in Trends, and have it show information based on the accounts, pots, and timeframes that the user has selected that way it would be a visual representation of the “trends”.

I understand that, but my trust is based on the current developments we are seeing so don’t feel the need to make a formal request, I wouldn’t be against getting some confirmation though.

You don’t work in forensic by any chance sir? That’s a lot of analysis for the sake of it! We’re all different in this world of course, perspectives, opinions etc etc… Monzo is a bank …… And that’s it with me! Easy to use, looks after the money, pays bills….And that’s it.

Hope it doesn’t change.

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No, just a pedant who thinks about Monzo too much.

This is really also the same sentiment. I would like Monzo to be simple to the majority of users. Just needs some better UI!

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I think you’re right. If Monzo were developing an app now, from where they are now, I’m sure the UI would be completely different.

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I don’t think that how it is now is how it has to be. Consolidation and simplification of the UI is very possible.

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