Design Thinking Exercise: Whole Bank Mobile Payment Function

Background: Whole Bank

Whole Bank is an American financial institution based in Massachusetts. The company is focused on shedding its more traditional banking systems and transitioning to more technological and user-friendly processes. One of the main conventional sectors they would like to improve upon is the the current Credit/Debit system, as many customers encounter inconveniences and difficulties with it, particularly while traveling abroad. I

The goal of this exercise is to create a feature(s), which enables customers to pay for items using their mobile app rather than having to swipe a physical card upon checkout. In order to follow a user-centered approach for this exercise, I implemented IDEO’s Design Thinking Process.

You can access the complete writeup of my findings HERE.

Utilizing IDEO’s Design Thinking Process


“To create meaningful innovations, you need to know your users and care about their lives.” — IDEO

The first step in IDEO’s Design Thinking Process is to empathize. I interviewed five potential users and asked them the following questions so that I may get a more in depth understanding of any unmet or unarticulated needs.

Interview Questions:

  1. How often do you travel abroad? Where do you travel? Do you travel for pleasure, business, both, or other?
  2. What is your preferred method of payment while traveling abroad? Why?
  3. What is your experience like when making purchases abroad?
  4. Have you ever encountered any difficulties / been in a complicated situation with regards to payment?
  5. Have you used a mobile payment system before? Why or why not? Experience?
  6. What would make your life easier when it comes to traveling and payments?

Overall, the main themes I noticed after the interviews are that most people prefer to use credit cards instead of cash, foreign exchange rates are a hassle, and an there’s an openness towards a mobile payment system as long as it is easy and effective.

A more in depth review of my findings, can be accessed here.

Main Pain Points:

  • Foreign exchange rates and transaction fees // not knowing which currency to charge
  • Credit card company blocking transactions because assumes it is a “fraudulent” charge. Wasting time and money making calls to the bank
  • Losing cards in the ATM and unable to receive replacement while traveling

According to the Interviewees, Life would be easier if…

  • Knowing exact FX rate that will be applied and having a built-in converter that can be used when shopping
  • Daily/weekly travel budget and/or total payment tracker (in home currency) with subcategories and alert systems
  • Ability to edit and/or make notes on individual transactions
  • Can notify bank of travel dates within app
  • Transactions geo-located so can view on a map


“Framing the right problem is the only way to create the right solution.” — IDEO

The goal of the Define mode is to craft a meaningful and actionable problem statement.

Problem statement:

Provide customers with an optimal mobile payment platform for use while traveling. The goal of the project is to eliminate travelers’ inconveniences, such as foreign exchange rate uncertainty, lost/malfunctioning cards and blocked “fraudulent” transactions, by providing a user-friendly, efficient payment feature. Additionally, because foreign currencies are harder to intuitively calculate cumulatively, users will benefit from a built in budget/total payment tracking feature.


“It’s not about coming up with the ‘right’ idea, it’s about generating the broadest range of possibilities.” — IDEO

Whole Bank Pay Mind Map

The idea for a separate “Whole Bank Pay” app, which would supplement Whole Bank’s existing app was generated after brainstorming several new features, which can be seen mapped out in the image to the left. It is possible to include these features in the existing app; however, I felt as though it would enhance and streamline the user’s experience if this interface was it’s own application.


  • Functions without need for data as many turn off cellular data while traveling in order to avoid large roaming fees
  • Security issues and other limitations not relevant


“Build to think and test to learn.” — IDEO

Given the above findings, I have created the below wireframes.

The main features of my proposed application includes:

  • A contactless payment feature
  • Currency converter calculator (which compares bank rates with current exchange rate)
  • Activity tracker (where in addition to the normal transaction list view, charges can also be filtered and displayed by daily/weekly totals or categories, and locations can be mapped)
  • A wallet where cards are added, edited and stored.

Additional features include the ability to notify the bank about travel dates in order to avoid blocked cards, input daily/weekly budgets, and execute fee free transfers to individuals. There are also notification options that can be activated to send an end of day update informing the customer of the total spend (in home currency) that day, or if they are approaching their budgeted amount.


Design thinking is an all-encompassing and helpful tool when moving through a user-centered design process. It is imperative to be objective and, above all, listen to users needs, problems and desires. This process is highly iterative, so it is important to keep an open mind as the design will most likely move through multiple phases before reaching the final iteration. However, as long as your problem is properly defined and users’ feedback and opinions are at the forefront (while also considering businesses’ needs and wants), then one will be able to execute a successful design.

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