Mobile Banking: A New Approach

Why web apps aren’t good enough.

The Challenge

Every month on the second Friday, Inner Geek does something called a Personal Development Day. This Friday, we’ve decided to try out an internal hackathon to tackle a big challenge in an old industry: mobile banking.

That’s right, in a matter of 8–9 hours, we’ll be completely overhauling the experience of mobile banking and building a native iOS prototype. The challenge seems crazy, but it’s something we’re used to.

While the geeks are busy discovering, designing, and developing a new approach to mobile banking, I will be writing this blog in real time.


So, what’s the problem with online banking platforms, which are often used on mobile devices. Sure, the interfaces are a bit dated (some more than others), but they get the job done and isn’t that enough. From my perspective, no, it’s not enough, and the reason is much deeper than an interface from 2012.

Given that the mobile app industry is only 7 years old, a two-year-old mobile interface is essentially the same as using a website designed in 2006. For clarity, this is not ok.

In general, the financial industry is stuck in the past. Innovators within these institutions are trying to push new design and technology paradigms forward, but they’re often overwhelmed by a lot of red tape.

It’s time for a mobile banking revolution and I believe that it is going to need a marriage between new imagination and existing expertise to bring these institutions to present-day mobile.

Let’s get started.

Phase One: Review (Thursday, 11am-12pm)

The hardest thing to get right about any project is product-market fit, so we always undergo a massive research process to understand as much as we can about the project requirements before diving into design or development.

We’ve indicated that at a high level, most online banking platforms have the following functionality:

  • View Account Balances
  • View Transaction History
  • Pay Bills
  • Transfers and E-transfers
  • View Cheques

Phase Two: Plan (Friday, 10am-10:45am)

Update (11am): We’re currently uploading a timelapse of the office shuffle and planning session to vimeo. Check back to see it soon!

Update (2:30pm): As promised, here’s the link to our morning office reshuffle and team huddle timelapse on Vimeo.

Phase Three: Design (Friday, 11am-2pm)

Update (11am): We’re only a fraction of the way through the redesign, but here’s a sneak peak! It’ll be interesting to see how much this will change, going forward.

Quick user flow before Ella dove into interface design.

Update (2:30pm): As the day is progressing, we’re starting to identify new functionality to build into the experience. In the next few screenshots, you’ll notice how we’ve gone from a closer-to-status-quo tableview approach to allowing the user to select one or more dates to filter transactions.

Update (2:30pm): You’ll also notice some colouring on the date picker. We’ve chosen to visualize spending patterns based on total transaction amounts for each day (ie. above average spending is visualized as red, average spending yellow, below average spending green, and no transactions white).

A very early version of the transaction history view.
Cleaning up the header and adding some realistic data for effect.
Visualization of multiple date selections to show some transaction filtering.

Phase Four: Develop (11am-5pm)

Update (6pm): Unlike design, it’s harder to provide you with a visual representation of what we’ve done here, so I’ll do my best to discuss what we tackled for our prototype, and *conveniently* leave the rest up to your imagination. Ok, in the name of full disclosure, rebuilding the entire mobile banking experience in less than a day was a huge challenge. Our lead iOS Dev, Forrest, did an incredible job to put everything together!

So, what did we actually achieve and how did we do it? Here’s some top level functionality that we bundled in (or didn’t)…

Account Balances = nope.
Transaction History = you bet.
Pay Bills, Transfers, E-transfers = nope.
View & Scan Cheques = nope.
TouchID Login = yep.
Notifications (with edit category) = yep.

Update (7pm): So, all things considered, the transaction history view is a monster and that used up most of our day. What is traditionally a simple table view can and should be so much more. As you’ll see in the following video, we added search & sort functionality, categorization of transactions, and heavy spending identification. What’s more, is that we found a way to add all of this user functionality without compromising too much of the interface real estate (which could be further improved with scroll animation).

Reviewing the Process & Product

Update (7pm): Looking back at the day, the entire team was able to come together to figure out what we love and hate about online banking, and specifically how it works on our mobile devices. The collaborative approach to tackle a product that few of us had ever imagined reinventing was a huge success.

But, where do we take it from here? Is this the end of the conversation? No. We also started working on a user feedback module that will allow us to publish the application (once we polish a few things) and get real crowd-sourced feedback from the public. In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing this product to the world via the iOS App Store and are looking for you to interact with our vision for a better mobile banking experience and tell us how it can be better!

In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on today’s process and this blog post. Feel free to reach out.

Thanks for following along!

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Colton Hathaway’s story.