When it comes to UI and UX, Mara Dumitru, our Senior Product Manager specialized in user-centered design, is convinced that “less is more”. Find out why and how this is especially beneficial for digital asset and wealth management in our interview with her.
Elinvar: Just for us to catch up, could you briefly explain what UI and UX are? And what is the difference between them?
Mara Dumitru: UX stands for user experience design and has to do with the functionality of the digital or physical product. While UX aims to solve a problem, UI stands for user interface design and represents the visual output.
More concretely, UX covers user research, where we learn about users’ behaviors and needs and interaction design, where user flows are defined and represented in wireframes and prototypes, which are ideally tested before moving to the UI phase. Here, the visual design of the product is embodied through the use of colors, typography and layouts.
However, separating the two and ensuring that the UX is validated before even considering the UI is vital. One can easily get sidetracked and lose sight of the problem that needs to be solved by diving into aesthetics before having created wireframes and validated user flows.
Mara Dumitru, Senior Product Manager
This is not to say that UX is more important than UI. On the contrary – they both play an essential role in the success of a product. However, separating the two and ensuring that the UX is validated before even considering the UI is vital. One can easily get sidetracked and lose sight of the problem that needs to be solved by diving into aesthetics before having created wireframes and validated user flows.
Services and their apps – I am thinking of Netflix, Spotify and Instagram – are not just competing among their peers, such as Netflix vs. Amazon Prime, but on a more general level: Every app and every service on my phone wants to have my attention and time. To what degree does this apply to digital asset & wealth management, and how does UI/UX react on this development?
The success of a product or service is not necessarily achieved if users spend significant time on it. Some products can also deliver true value that is expressed in short but regular interactions, where meaningful information is delivered to the user in a delightful and easily comprehensible way.
Regarding digital asset & wealth management, I believe one example is that our partner’s clients need a sense of reassurance when they ask themselves how their portfolio is performing. Our application thus solves a problem i.e., provides an answer to the users’ questions, allowing for a meaningful insight that is easily accessible without any information overload, at any time the user requests it.
However, users will ultimately recommend a product that brings a benefit to their life – which can be effortlessly providing a sense of reassurance on demand, allowing for more carefree time, and we all know that time is valuable to anyone.
Is there anything that is particularly unique to asset & wealth management in terms of UI/UX?
In the offline world of asset & wealth management, potential investors usually need to go through significant paperwork and physical meetings in order to open an account. Then, once onboarded, all further communication is also primarily paper based.
Now, in the digital era, we have the opportunity to not only onboard investors significantly faster and completely online, but also to extend this service for people who would not think of opening an account offline. By presenting only the most relevant information first, and providing additional information when the user requests it via interactions (information on demand), we can bring value to a wider spectrum of users: investors with relatively limited finance knowledge can either quickly understand the state of their portfolio, or feel engaged to gradually digest more information by requesting it. At the same time, users with significant finance knowledge can choose to have a quick but meaningful insight, or delve into the details whenever it suits them. Last but not least, user engagement can greatly be improved by providing individualized interactive data visualization tools throughout the user journey.
Elinvar is a B2B2C company: We are developing a product for a business client that is used by an individual investor. Is this especially challenging in regard to UI/UX? How do you collect user stories, critiques, etc. when your counterpart is another business, too?
In fact, our partners are also our users, as they are utilizing our platform to manage their investors and processes. Before developing larger features, we organize workshops with them, in order to learn about their offline practices and understand how we can support and improve their processes digitally. We also validate our user flows and wireframes with them, before implementing the final designs. Regarding existing features, as we are in constant contact with our partners, we receive regular feedback on how they use our platform and integrate it in our iterations.
Linking our data-driven approach with qualitative feedback allows us to understand the full picture.
Mara Dumitru, Senior Product Manager
Due to our B2B2C approach, the feedback from our partner’s clients is mainly data-based, generating tremendous insights into our product and the user behavior. However, we also receive the clients’ feedback via our partners who maintain very good relationships with their clients and pass the most relevant findings and suggestions to us. Linking our data-driven approach with qualitative feedback allows us to understand the full picture.
In addition, we also use internal tests, where we test the understanding of content on certain onboarding steps with relevant users, but we also analyze the interaction of features, which can actually be tested by anyone who is not working directly with the product or wasn’t involved in the design process. Interaction design testing is just as valuable with non-target users as it is with target users. Here, our purpose is to ensure that the actions that the user needs to do are unambiguous and can be done effortlessly.
Building on the prior question, how do you measure the success of UI and UX changes and developments?
When thinking about onboarding new investors to the platform, the conversion rate is our measure. Moreover, we analyze the time it takes for investors to go through the steps and aim to shorten the process while providing clear and relevant information that ultimately leads to the user completing the process. While – as a BaFin licensed portfolio manager ourselves – always making sure we’re fulfilling all regulatory requirements
In addition to data-driven analysis, we’ve also integrated qualitative feedback that has helped us to provide our partners with insights in order to understand the “why” behind the “what”. With these insights, our partners and we know whether people spend a period longer than is average on a certain page because they are interested in the content, or because they feel confused or lost. An important difference!
Concerning onboarded users, success is also defined by their regular usage of the product and the feedback we receive from our partners. The same goes for our partners who use our platform and provide feedback to us directly.
Like many other tech companies, Elinvar is working with an agile production framework. In what respect is this challenging for an UI/UX designer, and what are the definite advantages?
When talking about challenges, I would say that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the fast development cycle. But at the same time, the speed is also the massive advantage, allowing us to constantly receive and implement feedback. We can release small iterations faster, test them and analyze how they actually perform, and then iterate and ship again. From a design thinking perspective, agile is the most appropriate framework that allows for continuous feedback integration and optimization
What are your previous experiences to Elinvar and how would you compare them to Elinvar? What are your greatest learnings?
Before having joined Elinvar, I worked in the travel and online food industry. Admittedly, the domains are very different, but in all positions, I had the same intention: use digital means to help create a product that provides value to people. What I have learned in all the positions I’ve held is that you really need to understand the users of your product. You never know what users want or need, unless you get to know them.You won’t understand them, unless you empathize with them. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to find out how people use products offline and what challenges they are facing.
Testing and data are key in validating ideas, and great products result from multiple iterations, both before and after launch.
Mara Dumitru, Senior Product Manager
When it comes to building a product, I believe the greatest learning is that you should get detached from your initial ideas and be willing to let go and try a different approach. Testing and data are key in validating ideas, and great products result from multiple iterations, both before and after launch.