Reflections on Trends / Connected Accounts and the state of the app (Nov 21)

Given some of the changes in the Monzo app recently (particularly connected accounts and Trends), some reflections on how things are working.

The things that follow are mostly feature-related, but should be seen in the context of a much improved app. So it’s not a criticism, more a question of “what next?”.

Here we go!

  • I find myself needing to search in more places, particular the Trends screen. When I’m on a transaction list (e.g. transactions per category for a specific month), I’d love to be able to filter down the list. I use that for a number of purposes, but particularly to make sure that in my long long list of excluded transfers nothing has snuck in that needs to be categorised separately.

  • Also I think we need search for connected accounts. For connected accounts to really be useful, I do need search for those accounts, too.

  • And similarly, us Android users really need parity for search. The iOS search is much more sophisticated and, now with custom categories, I’ve found myself needing to dig out an old iPhone to be able to search by category and by value. We really really need to be able to do that effectively on Android, too.

  • Last point on search: with custom categories, and the rich data we get on Trends, we now really need to be able to select and change categories, or add notes, en mass. For example, I’d like to set up a comprehensive search / filter then be able to select all the results and change categories. That’s easier than trying to find wrongfully categorised transactions individually.

  • A non-search, but related, point would be the ability to select multiple transactions and make bulk updates on either notes, categories or other parts of the transaction.

  • One of the pain points for me, which is part of the reason I’m asking for search, is that we can’t currently bulk change the categories of pot transfers or faster payments. When roundups are automatically categorised as savings, but manual or IFTTT moves are categorised as transfers, then it makes it very very difficult to have consistent data without significant effort in manually managing data.

  • Another parity point, and one which seems to be quite basic, is the need to see the original direct debit name on Android. On both OSes you can see the original merchant data at the bottom of a card transaction; for direct debits you can only see the original data on iOS. I recently had to dig out my old iPhone for that, too.

  • Turning to Trends, I’m really keen to see things like a graph of my savings over time, average saving amounts etc.

  • And similarly, I’d like additional categories to be excluded from spending. In my case, I’d really like to be able to exclude my “investments” category and have it down the bottom with spending (with a subtotal to show how much money I’m putting away for the future). Similarly, I’d be really keen to have separate categories for income that I can track: salary, savings income, dividends, capital gains…

  • Google Sheets! Such power there, but it doesn’t really seem to be on Monzo’s radar. We’ve spoken before about improvements to the existing sheet, but I’d like some extra Google sheet / CSV data: primarily spend by categories, merchants etc over time. It’d be cool if those could be downloaded as CSVs from the app, too.

  • There’s a lovely (newish) feature on bills pots that tell you how much extra you need to add to the pot for that month if you’re short. I’d love this to be automated: to be able to set up a dynamic pots transfer to be able to fill the bills pot to the amount needed.

  • Similarly, I’d like to be able to set up other forms of dynamic transfers: empty a pot to my main account on X date; transfer the complete contents of a pot to an external account on Y date…

  • Set up standing orders to happen not on date but on an event. For example, when I receive my salary, stash money in pots and send money of external savings accounts. It’s a bit like salary sorter, but automated…

  • On the accounts selector (in Trends) let’s have a “select all/none” option! For those of us with quite a few connected accounts, it’s a bit of a chore at the moment.

  • Here’s a controversial one (it involves a toggle): let us see category icons on the feed instead of merchant ones. Why? I’ve spent a lot of time curating my categories. A quick visual check makes that much much easier. Not the default state - let us pick and choose.

  • Similarly, I’d also like to be able to have local / user specific icons, names and merchant groups. Let us manage our data the way we want to.

  • Finally, I’m still flipping to an aggregator app because there’s a few accounts I can’t connect to Monzo. I think the answer is manual accounts where I can just keep track of savings in obscure providers.

Phew, that’s quite the list. But thought I’d share some recent reflections on the basis of real life use.

Any thoughts / reflections on my list, or things that are on your mind from recent app use?

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Agree with all of the above.

I’d prefer a less automated version of this, one where a notification pops up to inform “You are short of £xxx.xx to pay your upcoming bills from the designated bills pot. Do you want to move £xxx.xx from your main account to the pot now? - Yes/Later” - then you can decide to do it there and then or do it later. Not in the app though, a system notification. In this way, you don’t have to go looking for the feature to see if you are short or OK - the notification warns you of possible trouble.

Manual accounts would be a winner too. Although there’d be a lot of development in the data entry there - thus making it more of a financial planner rather than ‘the Monzo app’

I’d still like to see better forecasting displays/reports, with the possibility to manually enter future transactions and have known recurring transactions accounted for automatically in views-of-the-future.

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I think this is an excellent idea!

I’d still want (selfishly) the possibility to automate it. Perhaps another option: yes/later/manage where manage let’s you automate if you fancy. (I think there’s probably a more elegant solution).

Which makes my think about a Monzo notification centre: I’ve had so many Monzo notifications over the years that I’ve dismissed or intended to come back to later or have been cut off in some way or other - or that have useful information like changes in direct debit amounts - that just vanish never to see the light of day again.

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I find myself hankering after something that Dozens are working on for business accounts:

Take a look at screens four and five under “working capital management” but for personal accounts.

(Side note: I think if - big if - Dozens survives then it could really be the account for me. They’ve indicated they’re open to rules and to bringing in features like this, which is really up my street.)

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I’ll share my own thoughts on this next week when I have a little more time available, but to touch on one thing that stood out from your thoughts:

These two things suggest some significant design missteps to me. If search becomes a common necessity or reliance, then you’ve messed up somewhere else in your execution.

Search is just a tool of convenience. To find a specific thing faster, when you know what you’re looking for.

Be careful what you wish for! Perhaps you’re confusing functionality with sophistication, but the search on iOS is absolutely dreadful, and not at all reliable. Half the functions don’t work properly, they clutter up the interface, especially on smaller screens, and feel overwhelming. Or maybe that’s something that’s more up your street, but I hate it. Yielded results are often not what you’d logically expect either.

I’d much prefer a simpler search option whose sophistication exists via ML algorithms. For advanced users who want to extract more power, take inspiration from DuckDuckGo’s bangs feature.

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I think a lot of the search relate challenges could be eased by a master feed.

One of my main pain points is categorising - I go to trends about once a week and open each category to check nothing is in the wrong place - as I find it easier than going through each feed. Still feels sub-optimal.

Love this idea

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Yesss please! Google Sheets / CSV needs a bit of an overhaul, to be less of a “here is the meta data we have for your transaction”, to a super duper useful stream of contextually relevant data.

I’ve already had a moan about how Flex breaks sheets, and previous other iterations of that - I think a proper rewrite from a dashboarding or “what do people want this data for” POV would be fab.

Also yes please! One of my use cases is a Virtual Card on Apple Pay set up as my “Express Transit” card, linked to a Transit funded pot. I found a difficult scenario where a payment had taken my pot to a £0 balance, and then the card wouldn’t play on TFL’s network for like 48 hours after it had been topped up.

So a “Move £X into pot A when balance < £Y” would be good too!

And to expand that further, something like native IFTTT - I had so many uses for it with Sheets, but if you take the combined IFTTT Pro costs, and the breaking of Sheets as new features come in - I’ve stopped using it - so a little automation in the app would be fab.

Great post as always :slight_smile:

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This is an interesting point that I’ve not seen mentioned before.

Other banks also behave quite differently to each other, which shows the variety of approaches. Most never automatically dismiss notifications in the system notification centre unless the user swipes them away - even when the app is opened. Monzo doesn’t do this, instead removing all notifications every time the app is opened. I find this annoying and would prefer the opposite approach, but I can imagine some users may find “out of date” notifications lingering to be an irritation.

HSBC’s implementation of notifications actually does have a notification centre - a bell icon which, when pressed, shows an archive of all notifications whether they have been removed from the system notification centre or not. It also doesn’t dismiss notifications automatically when a user opens the app.

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I agree, although the need for “simpler” search shouldn’t be an either/or thing where search is either simple with minimal options or so complicated it’s like the controls of an aircraft.

I’d like the default search interface to be simpler, but still have all the toggles and options in an “advanced search” filter pane. A bit like how Google does search - you can just type a query, or use advanced search (or type specific conditions like “site:” into normal search).

Interface and overall output quality are separate things to consider, though. Improving the results is really separate work to improving the interface, other than the fact a better interface might actually help users to help themselves by steering them towards making more relevant (and readily interpretable) queries.

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I’ll wait for your thoughts next week, but I think we need to distinguish between two things: searching for functionality and searching for a transaction.

I was talking about the latter. I really don’t think there’s a better way of finding a thing than searching for it. If I’m trying to find that birthday present that I bought someone and I can only remember that I was in Scotland and it cost about £25 then I need the ability to be able to pinpoint it.

I suspect you might be talking about the former. And if you are, I think I agree. Functionality should be powerful, but simple and findable. (Which is kind of why I think that the Help tab and Q&As are kinda an admission of failure). But that’s very different to searching for a transaction!

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I was with you until this bit!

Personally, I think the Help tab is there to guide you to less-frequently needed things - which aren’t that easy to find otherwise precisely because they are rarely needed, so they are intentionally not front and centre in the app. Search on the Help tab, however, and in theory a simple article will appear to take you through whatever process you need - even if it is something unusual.

FAQs are also useful as it allows a user to “search by problem” rather than by solution/tool.

However, having said all that, I very rarely use the Help tab personally because I’m not the average person - I’m heavily interested in banking, have used Monzo for years, and I know the app well thanks to reading Monzo blogs and browsing the community: so I already know where to find even the most-buried functionality.

I think you may be similar so we have a bit of a selection bias here, with only the “keenest” part of the userbase represented (and they are probably those least likely to need any help).

I’m always I’m of the school of thought that a) apps should be simple and intuitive to use: if you have to explain where you’ve hidden something then that’s a design fail; and, b) where you need to explain how something works, it’s best to have a link to that contextually and to explain it in simple prose, rather than a Q&A format. There’s an interesting blog from the government here that explains it quite well.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m anti a source of information that folk can consult. But the help tab is, in my view, something that encourages lazy design. And don’t get me started on the really bad search!

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OK, I think I understand your thinking a bit better now you’ve explained the detail.

I do agree, overall, although I suppose I would add that one reason to use a Q&A format is that it’s so often widely used as to be almost expected (even if, actually, it’s not objectively the best format to use) so customers may want it.

It also might be a “technical failure” of design to have to explain where things are, but it’s a bit of a concession to practicalities, again, as something like a banking app (with a huge number of functions, when you think about it) can be hard to make totally logical to everybody.

Thinking about my own approach, though, I do tend to “poke around a bit” before ever looking at FAQs, in general. I do think some people don’t like doing that and would prefer FAQs so they can look something up in the first instance, learn how to do it by reading about it, then do it. This probably has something to do with overall technology confidence, too. Like how most apps seem logical to me because I’m used to industry-standard iOS, Android, macOS and Windows design principles and guidelines - so can probably guess where to look for most things based on the design language of the system.

That doesn’t mean, by the way, that I think you need to know what a Floating Action Button or hamburger menu is to be able to navigate an app (it should be intuitive anyway, of course) but sometimes it does help!

There will always be stuff that necessitates the help tab. Rare stuff like fraud, death, separation and joint accounts, etc. Or common questions about using the card to travel, chargebacks, etc. The help tab isn’t going to disappear any time soon.

iOS search isn’t great.

It’s one of the things that lets the app down because it doesn’t search original transaction name. This, coupled with dodgy merchant data, makes it hard to find some transactions.

Currently, the reliable way to search on iOS is to export a pdf statement and then use Ctrl + F.

I don’t think anyone is calling for this!

:open_mouth: spits out coffee mid-drink :coffee: :sweat_drops:

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I know it must feel annoying to not have joint account parity with everything, and I do agree for the sake of completeness and completion with other banks that Monzo should have it, but I’m sure I remember reading that relatively few customers actually have a joint account.

So, in a way, it is a slightly niche thing.

Spits out red wine mid-drink :wine_glass: :sweat_drops:

Cheers. That was way more expensive than coffee.

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Sorry, although I’m sure I remembering reading here once that it was around 18% of customers, or something like that?

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