By Peter Ramsey
31 Mar 22
Revolut Junior: adolescent banking
Revolut, the self-professed 'all things money' app, certainly hides any hesitation about diving into new markets.
You can trade crypto and stocks, buy pet insurance, exchange currencies, organise your bills, send invoices and they even have a chrome extension for automatically applying coupon codes in online checkouts.
One of the criticisms I published in 2020 about Revolut was that their app—which was once simple—has been rapidly growing in complexity. And because of that, their UX has suffered in recent years.
Revolut Junior is yet another departure from the ordinary: a banking app for children.
In principle, and if used correctly, it may genuinely help children to build healthy financial habits. And when you get into the weeds, there's a lot to love about it.
A deeper dive into the UX
👇 What are these? Below are UX issues mentioned in the presentation, but that I felt were worth discussing in more detail. These are worthwhile conversations to have internally, and consider if they impact your product or service.
1. Reality is messy
Creating 'user personas' is the process of defining a product's typical (or ideal) user.
But, instead of caring about these idealistic figures, you'd probably be better off just pretending that everyone in the world is only 5 years old.
Most people incorrectly employ 'user personas'. It has become another 'UX-buzzword' that largely means nothing.
Of course, some cohort analysis is helpful: do you sell your product to governments, or gamers? Or, is the decision-maker highly-trained in a specific field?
But often, caught up in this process, researchers will land on a persona so specific that it's hard to know what to do next. "An 18-24 year old female, living in London, who's just finished uni and now wants a job, oh and they hate cats but love Instagram".
(At this stage, imagine a generic picture of a thousand post-it notes on a wall).
That may sound productive, but it smooths over the messiness of reality—it creates tunnel vision.
How would this help build something intuitive, unless you made stereotypical assumptions.
Children and the elderly both use iPads intuitively—it's the same experience.
"Living in London"
Would you assume they know London well and offer less context about the area?
An important distinction is that 'user personas' are helpful for marketing, but are considerably less useful for UX.
Instead, it's far easier to build a great experience by being clear, concise and adding context wherever you feel like anyone may need it.
Revolut Junior is a great example of this. The fact that their adult and child app are very similar in design, context and onboarding speaks volumes to their original user experience.
Ask yourself this; if you gave a 5-year old a legacy bank's app, would they be able to use it?
We all knew that challenger bank experiences were more intuitive than the legacy alternatives, but how many of them could actually reuse the same design library, and create a great app for children.
2. Thinking distance
During the case study I introduced the concept of 'digestion time' being affected by 'cognitive noise'.
It's worth diving a little deeper into this, because it's an enriching concept to understand and utilise.
Here are a few types of cognitive noise:
Trying to work out what you're looking at. What content do I need to read?
How do I interact with this page? Do I scroll, click, swipe...?
How is this relevant to me, and my goals?
What do I do first?
Ordinarily, these are answered without issue, due to the context of the task.
As an example, if you clicked on a button labelled 'go to checkout', while purchasing a pair of shoes, then your expectations and previous experience with other checkouts would bypass most of the cognitive processing.
Issues arise when you're suddenly faced with something unexpected, or completely new. This can be very subtle, and is mostly sub-conscious.
As the noise increases, so does the effort required to proceed.
See 🧠 Cognitive Load.
To counter-balance noise (and reduce load), try adding context, clear labels and a coherent direction.
As a really practical example, clearly-labelled CTAs help prime the user with context of what they're about to do.
i.e., "go to checkout" adds context, whereas "next" wouldn't.
3. Deciding distance
Assuming that there was no cognitive noise, and you knew exactly what to do, you'd still need to actually take that action.
I call this the period of time 'deciding distance', or 'doing distance'.
Revolut Junior provides the perfect example of a UX feature which is likely to have the primary goal of reducing this deciding time.
Whilst creating a goal, the IOS keyboard will prompt basic mathematical symbols.
These allow the user to calculate their goal target on the fly, without leaving the field.
For some goals—like saving for a holiday—it'd allow the user to add up their flights, accommodation and spending money, without doing the maths elsewhere.
In my opinion, this is a feature that we'll see spread across many FinTech apps, very quickly. So, how do they do it?
It's likely that Revolut have built a custom keyboard for IOS.
Android users: I imagine this is coming soon, as it's not live yet.
Apple Developer Docs: creating a custom keyboard.
4. Confetti controversy
Early in 2021, Robinhood removed their confetti animation, amid scrutiny that it was overly-gamifying the process of investing.
Let's be clear: it was 🎮 Gamification, but that's not evil by default. The confetti was merely a visual mechanism for triggering a reward; thereby stimulating endorphins.
It being confetti is largely irrelevant—it could have been balloons, a smiling dog, or a GIF of someone clapping.
This works because that moment of micro-celebration feels good. It's not that it feels "amazing", but it's marginally better than the baseline—like someone smiling at you on the subway.
Similar gamification techniques have been used to improve people's lives—the tool itself is very effective.
e.g., educational apps should leverage these techniques to make learning more addictive.
And that's the context that Revolut Junior use when positioning themselves: utilising reward loops (like a flash of confetti) to help build better financial habits in children.
And my point is this: you don't need to avoid them, they can be healthy, productive and effective.
Good product owners understand the true value of these seemingly-insignificant embellishments.
Non-sponsored reading recommendation: to learn more about building reward loops, check out Hooked, by Nir Eyal.
5. Positive echo, echo, e...
"Make some noise if you're having a good time", the musician screams between songs, urging the crowd to erupt into indistinct noise.
If it weren't rhetoric, it'd be a laughably-poor way of harvesting feedback, for obvious reasons.
Revolut have created a similar scenario, but digitally: "Are you enjoying Revolut Junior"?
Revolut clearly want customer feedback, but this execution will yield very little value, for these reasons:
1. Framed positively
i.e., "Are you finding Revolut hard to use?" would probably also generate a lot of 'confirms'.
2. Only one CTA
i.e., Unless you see the 'X', the only option is to agree. It's also the most obvious way to close the pop-up.
3. Influenced by imagery
In the full screenshot there's a large heart illustration, which is likely to influence their immediate emotions.
This type of flawed user research happens all the time, including in some of the best companies in the world. And my response is normally: why are you bothering to do this?
If you're looking for a "99% of our customers love our product" statistic for your start-up pitch deck, then congratulations, this is a fantastic way to do that.
The truth is; user research is hard. It's a skill that takes time to develop, and requires experience to know when to stop talking and listen.
Because that's largely what user research is, listening. And in this example, Revolut do most of the talking.
Although the redesign below would generate fewer results, I'm sure they'd be far more meaningful.
Evidently, Revolut's strategy is to maximise the value of their ecosystem, and become a financial services monolith.
Whilst that may be a winning strategy in the long-term, adding new features, services and products in this way exponentially increases UX complexity.
And although the overall Revolut experience feels clunky, as an isolated companion app, Junior is a fantastic experience.
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There are some clear winners and losers here. But overall, the user experience of customer support is desperate for some innovation.