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Designing Financial Applications for Rural India

Designing Financial Applications for Rural India

Mobile Banking applications in India, offers over 200 banking and informational services to take care of your daily banking needs conveniently from your smartphone. They offer you the ease and convenience of conducting transactions in an environment you feel most comfortable in. You can check balances and transactions, transfer funds, pay bills, open Fixed Deposits and Recurring Deposits, purchase forex and do much more.

India has a population of approximately 138 Cr and growing every minute. According to the news18 article “Smartphone Users in India crossed 500 Million in 2019”, the number of smartphone users crossed 500 Million last year and will only keep growing in the coming years. They suggest that ramping up services is the way to capture the market. Though most applications have started to capture the urban market, a large remainder of the target audience still lies with the rural sector and has not begun to use mobile banking applications. That is the future and the way forward for any mobile banking application to capture and expand into a larger market. The applications should be able to entice and encourage the rural population to use and get comfortable with mobile banking while creating an improved experience for its existing user base. 

One of the biggest issues we see in these applications is the overall navigation. Especially with such a vast list of features and services, the navigation of the app is vital to its user experience. Choosing the right navigation pattern based on the application requirements can be the start of the user’s banking journey on mobile. Most applications seem to try to use multiple navigations within their apps which just confuses the users further and strains the overall experience. In fact, in some cases, home pages are often one of the main access points for various services.
Even within the internal pages, there is a constant confusion of where the user is in the application’s navigational flow. There were certain cases where the interactions and flows don’t take the user to his expected destination. This causes the user to be uncertain of where they are and if they will be able to navigate back to this current page if they move away. This type of uncertainty is detrimental to the trust the application aims to build with its users.

In the current day and age, where an understanding of the need for user experience and design has become more common. A majority still only design for the urban population, designing for rural India is completely overlooked. There are small things that could significantly change the way the user perceives your application. Let’s take a quick look at some of the simple ways we can make banking applications more accessible to the rural population.

1. Localization

All of these applications should be configured for use throughout the various states. As we know, each state has its own language and most even have their own dialects. The applications need to focus on inclusion. The only way that is possible is by providing multi-lingual support and localization, in particular with regard to specialized banking terminology and concepts. Localization should engage the user from the moment the application onboarding begins. This helps ease the user into the application and makes them more comfortable.

2. Ease of Use

With most remote villages of India, having very little or no access to technology. The applications need to be careful about not having a higher learning curve for themselves, so they don’t confuse the new users. The application shouldn’t overload the users but instead, it should understand the different activities that its users perform, and based on those use cases, create a focus based application for them, instead of going by one interface for all flow type modules.

3. Visual Representations

The visuals always work best and help new users understand and identify things easily. Applications should experiment with their iconography by trying various styles. They should try to maintain these simple rules of iconography:

  • Keep it simple and schematic, i.e. Avoid having too many details
  • 5 second rule, if you can’t think of that icon in five seconds then the icon probably is not a good choice.
  • Memorability, making the icons distinct enough that they are remembered even after prolonged usage.

4. Microinteractions

One of the first areas that come to mind when we think about microinteractions is system feedback. They help create an intuitive design and are really good at providing feedback to keep users informed. This is something that should be considered and integrated from the very start of the application. When considering the whole user journey, we need to be aware of places where the user might need feedback for reassurance. For example, you need to provide excellent feedback for every transaction. Just imagine what can happen if the user doesn’t get a success screen after sending money. This also holds good in the case of warnings and alerts. Having microinteractions at various stages of the application not only engage the rural population but also give them a visualization to associate to success and failure throughout the application.

5. Trust

Trust is one of the hardest things to build for any application with even regular users. Banking applications and anything to do with finances needs to prove their security and trust levels even to the most technologically advanced users. Imagine how much more important it would be to the rural population. Showing and convincing them that online transactions would have been a humongous task if not for the introduction of E-wallets such as paytm, Tez, etc. This has made online banking transactions a little more relatable for even the rural population. Showing user’s a constant message to confirm a transaction or explaining what went wrong is one of the few ways to keep the trust of the users.

6. Offline

While we know the network has improved in even the rural parts of India, it is still not at 100%. So it is important for applications to take this into consideration. While it’s not possible to have the entire application work offline, some basic view only features can be showcased offline. Showing the user his balance as of last connected, etc. All make the user feel like the application is always available to them.

Now that we have seen some of the difficulties the rural population must deal with in regards to banking applications. We should all realize that design impacts all our lives in both subtle and obvious ways. Our aim as designers and creators is to provide user-centric designs while balancing the business vision of our customers. While we empathize with our end-users, we also make sure that our design support business expectations. We strive to keep our designs simple and elegant. Our goal is to focus on the usability of the applications without compromising visual aesthetics. This is something that we must apply to every application we create regardless of domain.