Wise's fast food inspired design standard

Have you ever wondered why fast-food restaurants such as In-n-out, Chick-Fil-A, and Whataburger have been able to be so profitable and consistently deliver the same great end-to-end experience to their customers? It’s because they have figured out a small and simple-to-read menu that offers the customer a fast way to order what they want.

You’re probably wondering why I'm talking about ordering fast-food in a post about product design... It’s a simple but powerful idea: many complex design problems have already been solved in the physical world. Great design should be pleasing to interact with and near-invisible because it’s easy to navigate.

Designing a great user experience at Wise presented an interesting challenge and opportunity. How do we avoid overly-complex forms and screens while providing a rich set of features that are fast and easy to use?

Overly complex forms are the death of great user experience, so naturally, there are a number of viable solutions out there. Solutions which include clean visual treatment, increased whitespace, chatbots, and the reduction of necessary fields to a bare minimum. However, the core of the problem is still there... forms are tough to navigate and can feel slow and overwhelming. So when we were presented with the problem of designing an intuitive onboarding experience for our banking service we wanted to do something different!

Of course, we first started by reducing all the required fields as much as possible. For example, instead of asking applicants to select their incorporation state from a list of 50 states, we just pull it from the formation document submitted to help reduce the necessary steps. However, we quickly realized that even the “bare minimum” was way too much to unleash onto a user no matter how well we structured the information. So after some consideration, we went back to the drawing board and started looking at real-world solutions to this problem of information overload.

We started thinking about processes in the real world that require you to answer a bunch of questions before you get the result. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was around lunchtime, but it didn’t take long before one of us remembered the last time they were at In-n-Out and ordered a customized burger and the simple experience they had:

  1. Select your menu item from a short list
  2. Answer the cashier's questions specific to the selected item
  3. Eat exactly what you asked for

We realized that this was, in fact, a pattern spanning across all successful restaurants. They had found a way to reduce information overload by only having a handful of meals on their menu and allowing customers to change them based on applicable options to the menu item. So we thought to ourselves:

“Why should digital product design be any different? Users want a fast and easy way to complete their everyday tasks, and not be overloaded with 50 different irrelevant options on a menu.”

This eventually led us to come up with our Hamburger or Hotdog design pattern. It’s simple: what would you like today, a hamburger or hotdog..? Open a bank account for a business with multiple owners or a single owner? We decided that the best way to navigate users through the complex forms that are required to open a business checking account was by offering them bite-sized and straightforward choices that take them down a customized path for their needs.

It looks something like this:

The high-level questions are simple but definitive and lead the applicant down a contextualized path for their specific needs – there is no irrelevant information cluttering up the User Interface anymore. Based on previous answers from the user we ask the more specific questions, which enables us to create a truly customized on-boarding experience that offers helpful and relevant content such as FAQs and tips in a stationary panel on the right side of the screen.

Switching to this approach not only made it a lot easier for applicants, but it also enabled our Customer Success team to provide the right resources and answers right away. Because we separated the application flow into bite-sized pieces we were able to implement accurate screen event tracking through Intercom, which lets us know where, and why, the applicant is stuck. Now we are able to offer help without asking a ton of questions to diagnose the issue – saving ourselves and our applicants valuable time. Since moving to the Fast-food inspired design standard we have seen a significant decrease in the time it takes users to submit their applications, as well as an increase in success rate!

October 27, 2020
Arjun Thyagarajan