Venmo Concept: Ensuring Payment Security

Discover

The focus of this initial stage is to interview users on their experiences and attitudes with Venmo. After conversing with some peers about their interactions with Venmo, I created a survey to gather more user data surrounding the reservations, concerns, difficulties, and problems users have surrounding Venmo. I created survey questions to delve into these topics:

  1. Describe your firs texperience using Venmo.
  2. What are some concerns you still may have when using Venmo and how do you think they can be resolved?
  3. Have you made any errors while using Venmo? If so, please describe!
  4. What do you dislike most about Venmo? Why?

From the survey results, I pinpointed several pain points within the Venmo user experience that were common among multiple interviewees:

  1. Venmo users knew it was a widely-used app but still had initial reservations and concerns about security issues : Some users are concerned with connecting their bank accounts and leaving money in an app instead of their bank accounts since transferring the app money to their banks took way too long. Others are concerned with paying large amounts of money.
  2. Venmo users found it easy to search up “top friends” but found it difficult to find someone for the first time: Since Venmo usernames are automatically generated, it became difficult to find someone for the first time. Without a profile picture, multiple people can have the same display name but different random usernames. Even with a profile picture, simply relying on a small icon can lead to mistakes. Multiple users expressed concerns for paying the wrong person with the same name.
  3. Venmo users found it convenient to pay and request money at most times but often mixed up “pay” and “request”: Users often paid instead of requesting money and had to manually contact the person to fix the mistake. Once the “pay” button is clicked, there is no way to retract.
  4. Venmo users found it intuitive to type in the amount of money but sometimes mixed up the typing or calculations: Users occasionally typed one more zero or forgot to put a decimal point. Since there is no confirmation feedback page after pressing the “pay” button, mistakes are often made.
  5. Venmo users found it easy to click the “remind” button the first time but found it uncomfortable and awkward to remind the person after the first time: Venmo notifications are too easily forgotten and ignored. Although sending a reminder is only one click away, sending subsequent reminders cannot be done until after a set amount of time. Therefore, users must resort to other modes of communication such as manually reminding by forms of social media. Users expressed concerns about being uncomfortable when constantly having to remind someone to pay back.
  6. Venmo users found it convenient to pay back when there is currency in their Venmo accounts, but found it frustrating to pay with their bank cards: Users did not like the fact that paying with a credit card required a 3% surcharge. For those who do not have Venmo currency and does not have a debit card, this can be very inconvenient.
  7. Venmo users found it easy to request money from 1 person but found it inconvenient when splitting the bill more than 1 way: Venmo does not have a calculator-like function that allows a bill to be split unevenly. This requires requesting each person separately.
  8. Venmo users found it easy to request and pay momentarily after a transaction but found it difficult to remember the exact transaction if Venmo request was not sent momentarily: Users expressed concerns about not remembering certain Venmo requests as the description blurbs may only be an emoji or a non-descriptive word like “food”.
  9. While some Venmo users found it fun to see a social aspect of Venmo, others found it uncomfortable to associate “money” with a public social-media-like feed: Some users expressed privacy concerns as they found it uncomfortable to be “downplaying” the importance of money. Payments are all made public unless users manually change the settings to private.

After analyzing the results and grouping them into categories, I decided to further explore three specific pain points:

  • Security concerns: pain point #1, 2, 9
  • Inconvenient experience: pain point #5, 6, 7, 8
  • Lack of feedback for confirmation: pain point #3, 4
Brainstorming problem spaces with sticky notes

Define

We can see that most of the pain points result from an inconvenient experience that makes users more prone to making mistakes. Although solving any one of these pain points would improve the Venmo user experience, there exists a more pressing problem that should first be addressed.

This problem is security.

  1. Out of 30 people I interviewed, 18 mentioned the word “security”
  2. Of these 18 Venmo users, most expressed concerns regarding paying large amounts of money and being afraid that they a)paid the wrong person or b)their money gets lost in the transaction
  3. These users are concerned because of a lack of verification process in a)finding/paying the right person & b)paying the right amount
“ The only way I was able to find and confirm my landlord was when he screenshotted his Venmo profile picture and name. And that is pretty sketchy. ” — Tony L.
“ I think sending large amounts of money scares me a little, especially when there is no verification. ” — Agnes S.
“ I requested money from someone and was wondering why after so long he hasn’t paid me back. I then realized I requested a stranger with the same name. But now it is too late to request the right person after this long. ” — Chris W.

When I need to pay a large amount of money with Venmo, I want to find and verify that I am paying the right person, so I can make a correct transaction and avoid mistakes…

But I can’t do that well because:

  1. Multiple users with the same name pop up at the same time
  2. Venmo usernames are automatically generated with no intuitive pattern
  3. Venmo profile pictures are small and hard to see, or even non-existent for some users
  4. There is no verification process to confirm if I am requesting from or paying the right person (particularly risky with large amount of money e.g. paying rent to landlord)

Develop

The problem primarily lies in the lack of that extra step of verification when finding and paying an user. For top or mutual friends, it may be easy to find and confirm the right person. However, this may not be the case for strangers with no mutual friends.

Scenario:

  1. Cathy needs to pay rent to Pam Johnson at PJ Apartments
  2. Cathy has no mutual friends with Pam Johnson and has never Venmo-ed Pam before
  3. Cathy does not want to pay such a large amount to the wrong person

In this scenario, I further analyzed Venmo features and pinpointed what works and what can still be improved.

What works:

  1. Top friends list allow easy access to frequent transactions
  2. All Facebook & contact list friends can be searched by name
  3. Mutual friends can also be searched by name

What can still be improved:

  1. Searching for a user with no shared mutual friend and no prior transaction can become confusing
  2. Multiple users with the same name
  3. Lack of profile distinction
  4. If accidentally pressed the wrong user, the second page would nevertheless be the same

Possible solutions:

  1. Incorporating detailed profiles as a way of verifying the right user
  2. Venmo generating a link user can paste to other users
  3. Venmo generating a four-digit code sent through other modes of communication like text message or Facebook Messenger

Incorporating profiles would effectively confirm the right user but this would require all Venmo users to complete a detailed profile. Generating a link that the user can paste to other users would also be an effective verification method but links may be easily forgotten and the receiving user may never be paid as a result.

Therefore, I decided to go with the third solution.


Possible Solution Sketches

User flow leading up to code verification
Verification code sent through different modes of communication
Recipient side userflow

User Flow

Cathy paying Pam Johnson:

Creates new transaction → Types in “Pam Johnson” and clicks Pam Johnson → Types in amount and description →Clicks pay → Venmo generates 4-digit code (only if 1. I am paying Pam for the first time, 2. Pam and I have no mutual friends, 3. Amount is greater than $500) → Choses mode of communication → Prompts email address/phone number/messenger handle → Enters information and clicks send → Confirmation of sent message

High-Fi User Flow

User Side Prototype


Pam Johnson receiving money from Cathy: Opens Venmo feed → Enters 4-digit verification code → Clicks verify → Confirmation of successful transaction

Hi-Fi Recipient User Flow

Recipient Side Prototype


Reflection and Conclusion

The entire process took around 8 hours. I spent 1/4 of the time conducting interviews and gathering user input and half of the time ideating and re-iterating over my design solution. The rest of the time was spent putting everything together.

After finishing my mock-ups, I realized that my idea had a fundamental flaw that needed to be fixed. My initial iteration would have sent the 4-digit verification code to the chosen mode of communication through Venmo’s stored information. This would mean that even if an user paid the wrong person, the person would still receive the code and be able to receive the money. Realizing this flaw, I went back and added extra steps to my design solution. By requiring the user to manually enter in the email address/phone number or messenger handle, this eliminates my initial flaw.

My solution works to address the issue of security. However, it still maintains the disassociation between Venmo and other modes of communication. I began generating new questions to evaluate the tradeoff:

  1. Is adding extra steps worth the increase in confidence?
  2. What if the recipient doesn’t reply?
  3. What does it look like on the recipient’s end if they have numerous outstanding codes to verify?

Although I didn’t think of solutions for these questions giving my time constraint, these are important pain points that I intend to answer with future iterations.

Thanks for reading :)*This is a personal project: I am in no way affiliated with Venmo.

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