Banking Apps and Error Prevention

Design Principle: Error Prevention

Positive Example: Robinhood

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Robinhood is an application that allows you to buy and sell stock on the NYSE without paying anything in transaction fees. That final feature is very appealing to consumers, which has led to this application being downloaded by millions. Moreover, the functionality of this app naturally leads it to handle hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions daily. Beyond the traditional safety measures behind the scenes that all applications using banking accounts have to undergo. Again, trading stocks on your phone is inherently high-risk. However,, Robinhood does a fantastic job of making the trading experience error-free for the user.

First off, the screen where you buy stock shows you not only the amount that a single share of a stock costs, but the total taking into account the quantity too, This allows the user to be conscious of the impact of their purchase. Furthermore, the screen on which you submit your order forces you to swipe up when you’re ready to confirm, not just click a button. I believe that this different sort of experience further diminishes the likelihood that  the user will commit an error. Finally, if all else fails, Robinhood only allows you to spend as much money as is currently allocated to it. Even though it is linked to your main account, it plays it safe by assuming that you won’t want to dig into that accidently. Overall, Robinhood seems to take its responsibility as a banking app seriously.

Negative Example: Venmo

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Venmo is an immensely popular application for transferring money from one user to another. After integrating one’s bank account, Venmo can very simply take a request to pay someone or demand payment from another. After a simple agreement screen, the transaction is complete. In the last quarter, the mobile money service saw growth of nearly 250%, driven largely by a millennial user base that prefers carrying smartphones over cash. In a similar vein to Robinhood, the work that Venmo does requires a high level of care and thoroughness. When dealing with people’s money, no corner should be cut. However, Venmo’s desire to be easy-to-use has rendered it prone to user error.


Venmo’s “Pay or Request” page does not allow the user to check the numbers they have typed in for error. Oftentimes, the sums transferred through Venmo are small, which leads users to make payments in the decimal points. However, since Venmo does not automatically introduce decimal points, people who want to pay $5.05 end up paying $505. With no place  to check and no adjustment to how humans tend to type on their phone, Venmo users have to sort out ghastly headaches on their own. Venmo could do a lot better.

Venmo Redesign

First Redesign: Add Decimal Points Automatically
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Sorry the picture is mediocre. Point is, if there are three digits on the screen, add a decimal point in front of the first one. If there are four decimal points, automatically put one in front of the second number. So on and so forth. Even though there are certain corner cases that could prove troublesome, these could be resolved with enough research. If this automatic decimal point feature is added, I believe user error would be cut down by 95%.


Second Redesign: “Are You Sure?” Screen


Taking a page out of Hotel Tonight, we would make the user trace a shape or a letter before their order becomes final. HotelTonight makes you trace a bed. By forcing them to do this unorthodox motion, we can ensure that the user will have a serious opportunity to look at the choice that they made. This would not be burdensome because the tracing can be active/fun, while at the same time severely limiting the likelihood that the user will commit an error.

About the author: nickpr93

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