Why empathy is critical in good UI/UX design for a digital lender

By Narasimman Rajendran, AVP-design, axio

Customer experience has emerged as the primary differentiator in the fiercely competitive
fintech landscape. The best CX can be achieved through empathy, where the UI/UX designer steps into the customer’s shoes to gain deep insights into their needs, aspirations, pain points, and, of course, emotions. A Forrester report reveals that empathy-driven design can increase user satisfaction by up to 50%. On the flip side, 90% of users today will switch to a competitor after a poor experience, with 32% leaving a brand they’ve been loyal to after a single poor experience.

So, what does empathy-driven design entail?
Elements of empathy-driven design
What we called “web design” a couple of decades ago has now evolved into “UX design.”
We are increasingly designing user-centric experiences, driven by the evolution of
technology and digital interfaces. Modern-day interfaces focus on ease of use for everyone,
regardless of their tech-savviness. This makes empathy with the user a critical aspect of the
design process. Empathy-driven design is significant in the fintech and digital lending space, where building trust and loyalty are the keys to success. Here’s a look at what digital lenders can achieve via empathy-driven design.

Emotional connections
This involves addressing user concerns, prioritising clear communication, and ensuring
intuitive interactions. The increasing digitalisation of finance has made financial services,
including lending, easily accessible to everyone. But it has also made addressing user needs
and delivering delightful user experiences critical to establishing healthy relationships
between users and brands. To gain user trust and loyalty, brands need to craft products that
resonate with their audience emotionally and provide delightful user experiences.

User needs can be identified via:
● Example-based insights to learn from existing, tried-and-tested solutions that help in
making informed decisions.
Research-based insights, where studies, surveys, and user analysis are used to gain
insights. Use a balanced mix of the two since both methods have their pros and cons.

Transparency and trust building
Empathetic design helps build transparency and trust, mitigating anxiety in financial
decision-making. The hesitation to adopt technology is quite understandable as financial
fraud continues to rise. It accounted for 75% of the cybercrime in India from January 2020
to June 2023, and individual users are more vulnerable to such fraud than enterprises.

Lending institutions need to address the fear of fraud by taking all necessary steps to
protect users. The UI and user journey should assure customers of the same through:
● Clear communication: Use clear and simple language that is understandable by anyone. Avoid negative or threatening language or visuals.
● Assistive interface: The interface should provide proper feedback and assurance for
user actions and safety.
● Avoid dark patterns: These are deceptive design patterns to influence user actions. They could be actions not intended by users or don’t align with their needs. Creating deceptive design patterns to influence unintended actions can raise concerns regarding the brand’s legitimacy.
● User authentication: Security measures, such as OTP, two-factor or biometric authentication, not only addresses the user’s need for control but also assure them that unauthorised access to their assets will be prevented.
● Justify additional steps: While financial institutions are continuously improving
security protocols to protect users, users need to be educated about the importance
of these processes and the additional steps required.

Inclusive accessibility
Financial inclusion can only be achieved when services and products are made available for
everyone, irrespective of special needs. Accessibility should be at the core of product design
to ensure inclusivity and make the product easy to use for everyone. While modern devices
and operating systems support accessibility features out of the box, the interface should be
programmed and tested to be compatible with these devices.

Some aspects of accessibility that should be considered are:
• Use color contrast and precise labels.
• Keep the hierarchy of information simple for screen readers to read in the right order.
• Add captions for images and videos.
• Include shapes and symbols rather than relying only on semantic colors.

• Provide transcripts or closed captioning for multimedia content.
• Add visual or haptic feedback if there are important audio cues.

• Make interactive components large and easy to tap on mobile devices.
• Avoid gesture interactions, such as sliders and carousels.
• Add secondary input support even if the user’s primary device has touch support.

• Avoid distractions like advertisements and pop-ups.
• Use familiar design patterns, when available.

• Provide recall of past user actions; recognition is more efficient than remembering.
• Make navigation clear.
• Avoid excessive use of colors.

Anticipatory proactiveness
Understand user goals and motivations to create intuitive interfaces with personalized
features. Predicting user needs and actions not only makes the interface intuitive and
relevant, but also makes the overall customer journey shorter and more enjoyable. It also
takes care of several compliance requirements. Building algorithms that predict and
interpret user needs and motivations can save time and influence positive emotional
responses, which is critical to earning trust and retaining customers.

Considerations for anticipatory proactiveness include:
• Show recommendations: This helps users make decisions faster, eliminating
decision-making fatigue.
• Set the right expectations: Promise only what you can deliver and assure users of
data protection.
• Prevent failures: Provide a heads-up before the user commits an action that can
potentially fail for momentary reasons, such as server downtime, or permanent
reasons, like policy restrictions.
• Personalise: Provide personalised insights and stories, and suggest actions based
on them.

While anticipatory design offers an edge by making the user journey delightful, the users
should be informed of and consent taken for data collection and use. In addition,
compliance in handling user information is indispensable.

Iterative improvement
Users’ emotional response is likely to deviate from the expected over time, due to changes
in user needs and pain points. Therefore, foster continuous improvement through feedback
and data analysis, and iterate for better user experiences. Choosing a good iteration
workflow can help identify user-related changes that could make the interface less efficient
over time. The pillars of iterative user interface design to ensure customer satisfaction, listed by Neilsen Norman Group at the beginning of the digital revolution, hold even today.

They are:
• Easy to learn: How quickly the user finds it easy to interact with the interface.
Efficient to use: How fast the user can complete a task.
• Easy to remember: How easily infrequent users can return to using the interface, without having to relearn everything.
• Error traps: How often users get trapped in non-recoverable errors and possibly lose progress.
• Desirability: How positive the user’s emotional response is during the journey.

Staying ahead of the curve

Empathy-driven design can differentiate your products from those of your competitors. It
also improves user satisfaction and loyalty, resulting in better customer retention and
positive word-of-mouth marketing. UI/UX design can also go a long way in ensuring product efficiency, resulting in increased productivity for both the brand and its customers. Investing in UX design today can save you money in the long run by reducing the need for expensive updates and redesigns to address user dissatisfaction.

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