What is the fastest feature you’ve worked on?
Good question. Everything moves very fast here. Blink and you’ll miss it. Maybe golden tickets v1? Pots, perhaps? New transaction screen designs? These are all projects that come to mind.
Hmm. This isn’t a very good answer. All I can say is that, once features are defined, we work incredibly quickly and now that we’re releasing every single week, the turnaround for new stuff is rapido.
Were there any occasions where you/ the team have designed something expecting it to be straightforward or accessible to people, but with internal/ external testing have found that it was unexpectedly not as well received or confusing to users? If not, what are some of the things you do to ensure that such a situation doesn’t occur eg rigorous internal testing?
Targets, probably. I think the directionality of the targets (now called Budgets, much better) was really confusing, and the logic we use for presenting £££ in the app, while consistent, confused many people. We also missed the mark with the original notifications for when you were going close to or over budget, they were too aggressive and a bit snarky. We fixed them soon after releasing.
Also, Summary was probably rushed out of Monzo Labs. On one hand, its incredibly important that we have a regular cadence for releasing things, and the sooner we push stuff out the sooner we know what’s wrong. But Summary could have used another week or two of development, I reckon. That said, its now in a really good place and 10x more powerful than the Spending tab.
As for stopping these things happening, design and research are the first line of defence. Our principles drive good decisions, and our knowledge of how people use Monzo comes from three years of being first-hand witnesses. For all that we don’t know (spoiler: a lot), our amazing research team help us test, learn, and ultimately understand our users.
How do you make a product work for one billion people?
I think the answer lies in the fact that there isn’t one definitive answer. There will be no one solution that works for a billion people, and especially no single use case. I think our biggest task on the journey to 1bn will be around understanding different cultures and their relationships with money. Monzo employees are mostly people working in the UK, who have a UK bank account and have for a while, know about how money and cards work in the UK, and all the various financial products available here. Many uses of “UK”. As we expand worldwide we will have to learn so damn much, and user research will be the first steps we take on the trip. We’ll have to be adaptive and flexible, diverse, and continue to do everything we can to make Monzo a bank account that works for everyone, regardless of financial or social status.
No definitive answer!
What are your go to design tools? Do you have any websites you look to for inspiration (if any)?
Sketch! Dropbox Paper! After Effects! Principle! Sublime Text! Marvel! These are my design tools, I guess. Have I missed any???
Websites not so much, though exploring patterns in other apps is the most effective tool I’ve found for working out the best approach for things. I’ve always struggled to find design inspiration in the more traditional sense.
I’d be interested in your views on product design vs service design vs graphic design. Do you think these are similar or different things?
I’ll answer this with the caveat that there are many different definitions of all these things. This is the Monzo interpretation of them, which I strongly align myself with: service design is part of product design, and product design is everything that encompasses the user experience from the moment they download Monzo. (I was going to say until the day they die, but probably a bit insensitive).
Graphic design is the artistic direction and production that goes inside the Monzo apps and in parallel to it with the brand. As an example, illustrations you see in the app, but also artwork in the blog, emails, website, etc. Loads of stuff!!!
For the last seven or so months I’ve been filling in as interim Visual Designer along with my product design work, so I’ve been doing a very fun balancing act between the two.
Is your role primarily a visual one or is there a lot of other stuff going on too?
As Product Designers, yes. We take care of defining how Monzo works and how Monzo looks.
What stage do come in? Do you usually join a multidisciplinary team to do a specific thing or are you given free reign to rethink things / initiate projects - or both?
Product Designers at Monzo are embedded into the engineering squads that work on the app. This means its a very collaborative process within the teams from day one to a) understand why we’re doing x thing, b) what the impact of it will be, and c) how on earth we’re gonna build it.
We also have the space as a design team to do a lot of big picture thinking. Finding the time is the tricky part, though.
I’ve noticed folk on here commenting that some parts of the app have become a little less focused over time (settings, for example). Any plans to take stock of the overall design of the app given it’s nearly a year (!) since it was current account o’clock?
Final (related) question! Have you or the team been having any big thoughts for how the app might evolve in the future - particularly now we’re in a world where one app won’t necessarily mean one account (joint accounts being the first example)?
I’ve grouped these because I think they overlap heavily. We are really aware of these flaws. The apps are starting to burst in the seems in places (take the Account tab on iOS as an example), and there are many structural pieces of the design on both platforms that need addressing.
The tricky bit is balancing these with what Monzo, as a company, needs. For example, would you prioritise spending two weeks on design changes that will allow one area of the product to scale over the next 24 months, or spend two weeks on designs for referrals that improve our growth 10x and help us reach profitability? Ultimately it’s about hitting a nice middle ground, but is one of the reasons why there are certain areas that may feel like they’re lacking a bit of love. Rest assured, the design team has a very close eye on them.
And this leads onto the second question. Yes. We have thought about it a lot, and we’re gonna think about it a lot more. I think all of us in the design team have solid ideas of how we can address the longer term issues and goals of the apps, and (starting next quarter I reckon) we’ll begin to take action on some of these ideas.
What upcoming feature are you most excited about? Also if you had a magic wand, what feature (not in the roadmap) would you implement tomorrow?
Most excited: Bill splitting. I’m so happy we’re finally introducing this. Groups, which will be kinda like a Whatsapp group chat for payments (without the chat part).
Magic wand: Smart insights on Summary about how your money moves through the month, such as your daily budget, where you can spend less, how best to save, etc.
Why are users not allowed custom images on pots? Is it a design decision?
Ha, good question. We designed it! We just didn’t have time to build it when we were doing pots v1, as it would have required a new API for image uploading, if I remember correctly. We were discussing letting you pic an image from Unsplash’s library, but we released as early as possible and it missed out. Maybe I can convince someone to build it during Monzo Time…
Would you ever consider the lazy option of a hamburger menu with all the new features and options being constantly added?
No. We had a hamburger menu on Android for a long time, and discoverability was just so much worse, the % of features being used paled in comparison to iOS. We’ve seen a big improvement since moving to bottom navigation
What object’s in real life do you take inspiration from for designing the Monzo app if any?
I touched on this in an earlier answer, but I don’t take inspiration in such a way. But here are some real life objects that I really, really like:
- Fender Stratocasters
- B&W Zeppelin speakers (OG home speakers design + vibe)
- Original Penguin books (cover design and production)
- iPhone 6
- Tesco do these £1 glasses (for water, not vision) that I really like
That’s me! This was a great deal of fun. You ask very good questions. Please follow up if I’ve given a dumb answer.
Also, second plug to come and join us in design. We’re growing and we want you!