Monzo Staff Weekly Q&A - Zander Brade (Lead Product Designer)


(EJ) #11

How do you make a product work for one billion people?


(Adam Kendrew) #12

What are your go to design tools? Do you have any websites you look to for inspiration (if any)?


#13

Bonjour! :wave:

So many questions, so little time:

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?

Is your role primarily a visual one or is there a lot of other stuff going on too?

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?

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)?

Crikey, that went on a bit. Feel free to ignore / be selective on the questions! :monzopride:


(Jorge) #14

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?


(Zander) #15

Glorious questions – I’ll be answering over thursday and friday, keep em coming!


(#savetheseabass) #16

Hiya

Why are users not allowed custom images on pots? Is it a design decision?

Would you ever consider the lazy option of a hamburger menu with all the new features and options being constantly added?


(Jack) #17

What object’s in real life do you take inspiration from for designing the Monzo app if any?


(Zander) #18

Hello, hi, and hello again. What a wonderful list of questions. Fantastic, superb. I pray these answers do them justice!

As a Lead Product Designer what have you been working on over the past week?

Features I have worked on:
1. Bill splitting (allowing you to split the bill on Monzo, without using Monzo.me, with accurate amounts for each person, and giving you the true amount you’ve “spent” in your Summary, rather than the full bill you put on your card)
2. Golden tickets – we’re exploring some new dynamics on golden tickets to get an understanding of how and why people share them
3. Top secret very exciting project – more to come on this soon, obviously :wink:

I’ve also been working on some smaller bits and pieces, such as “Same Day Monzo”, which allows people to start using their account as soon as they sign up, rather than waiting for their card to arrive. Also a reworking of Coin Jar, so no more duplicate feed items with a nicer way to turn rounding up on.

But the biggest responsibility of a Lead Product Designer is to facilitate the best possible work from your team, and so the majority of my time is to given to talking with and working hand in hand with design, product engineers, product managers, as well as interviewing for new designers (COME JOIN US!!!) and other roles across the company.

If you could have your way with no other interested parties getting involved, what would your vision be for the monzo app?

Oh goodness. This is actually a really good question, and probably an important one for all product designers to exercise sometimes to understand how they feel about their work and product direction. The reality is that I wouldn’t change a thing. This isn’t to say that I’m satisfied with where we’re at – far from it, I promise – but instead that we have some of the smartest people I will ever meet working towards our goals, and the quality of Monzo as a product and as a company will be defined by the collective effort of many people, rather than the vision of one.

Since you joined Monzo what specific feature have you enjoyed working on the most?

I think the one I’ve enjoyed working on most is Pots. Sometimes there’s just a feeling in the team where every day you work on it feels like magic, and even though we only built the mvp-of-the-mvp, and it was a very quick process, there’s so much that can be done with Pots that’s coming soon, and I’m really proud of what we did.

Pineaple on Pizza?
Cats?

No, no, I’m afraid. I recently decided that there is only one type of pizza, and that is Margherita. It is flawless and no other pizza ought be considered. Please do not argue this with me, you will be wrong. Secondly, I’m a dog person through and through, but did have a one-eyed cat growing up.

What’s your all time favourite piece of design work you’ve worked on, and similarly what are some examples of apps or services that you feel have really world class design?

I guess it depends on what one might define as a “piece” of design, but for me that would probably be the Monzo app. There are many flaws, and I am sure that there will surely be many monumental changes to come in the future, but I think it holds as a very high standard of digital product. I enjoy using it.

I also deeply cherish the time I spent working on Wunderlist. Great team, great product, I miss them very much, big ups Wunderlist.

Very good digital products: Trainline, Spotify, iOS Photos, Google Calendar, Dojo, Headspace

Have you had any formal education experiences that you have found particularly useful in your career?

I never had any formal design education, and I still reflect on what’s that meant for me as a designer. Sometimes it makes me blue (particularly my lack of knowledge around the history of graphic and industrial design), but generally I think it’s okay. I dropped out of school at seventeen to go work on Wunderlist, and the most fundamental principles I’ve adopted as a product designer came from there. That period was followed by freelancing, which meant a lot more “selling myself”, and managing communication and business-y things.

Buuuut, the skills I have most recently been developing in a more formal context are around people management. These are equally hard and fascinating. I’m loving it so far.


I'm gonna stop writing this post and continue my answers in another one. I'm not sure it's the best idea, but it just feels right.

(Zander) #19

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 :slight_smile:

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:

  1. Fender Stratocasters
  2. B&W Zeppelin speakers (OG home speakers design + vibe)
  3. Original Penguin books (cover design and production)
  4. iPhone 6
  5. 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!


After The Big List - polishing existing features?
Pots - Feedback Thread 🍯
Labs Feedback: Joint Accounts 🤝
Bring custom photos to pots
App layout
App layout
Pots Goals are now out of Labs!
Labs Feedback: Joint Accounts 🤝
(#savetheseabass) #20

Unsplash would be amazing. So many beautiful images. Have a word :wink:

Thanks for the answers :clap:


(Jack) #21

Thanks @zancler ! :slightly_smiling_face:


(Jorge) #22

Amazing answers! Keep up the great work!


#23

Man. I didn’t get round to asking my question. Great answers though. Intrigued by the pots images. There was already an uploading function in the app so it’s a shame you couldn’t utilise it.
Roll on V2!


(Liam) #24

Thanks for the great answers and taking the time, @zancler. :smiley:


(Simon B) #25

Another fantastic Q&A - thanks so much @zancler :slight_smile:

See you next week, folks!


(Zander) #26

I’m still alive and kicking, happy to answer anything that’s on your mind :slight_smile:


(Jordan Taylor) #27

Any plans to make use of Material Design 2 on Android, namely Material Theming?


(Zander) #28

We don’t have any formal plans (specifically around Material Theming) but we all go to efforts to be informed and on the ball with both the HIG and Material guidelines, so for new things we’re designing we will be integrating new components and styles where relevant.


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(Nick) #29

Bit late to this Q&A thread, but I particularly wanted to thank @zancler for two things here. Firstly, for being the first time I’ve seen anyone from Monzo acknowledge that Summary left Labs too quickly. Secondly, for actually explaining why custom images aren’t allowed - or, to put it more accurately as it turns out - on pots.

The former I was surprised by at the time, and I noticed a lot of negative feedback about it on the comunity, so it’s good to see that this has been acknowledged. The latter takes away all the guessing and makes it clear that it’s just a limitation of ‘build first, iterate later’ rather than a deliberate choice, which goes a huge way to understanding and accepting.

I also feel I have to acknowledge the answer relating to the burger menu. I loved that menu and would very much like to see it come back (Android for life, yo), but when they numbers run like that, I can better understand why Monzo are moving in the direction they are.


(Simon B) closed #30

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