The new Scotia app

A (make things all people will) love story

Three women sitting in a small auditorium smiling
Three women sitting in a small auditorium smiling
(From left to right) Julie, Jera, and Monica: part of the team that brought the new Scotia app to life

In Canada, we recently launched the new Scotiabank mobile app. We take pride in every product and experience we build at Scotiabank, but we’re especially excited about this one, because we co-created it with our customers.

Today, we invite you to take a peek behind the scenes of the new Scotia app with part of the team that brought it to life: Monica, Julie, and Jera.

Part 1: An inclusive foundation

The mandate for the new Scotia app was clear, though by no means easy. The team was asked to design an experience that would empower all of our customers — regardless of ability, context, or situation — to take control of how and when they bank.

Monica Ackermann, Global Director of Digital Accessibility, knew that designing for inclusion started with recognizing exclusion. Before anyone opened Sketch or began to code, Monica worked closely with the Design Research team to see beyond the mainstream, and institutional bias, with a wider lens. Customers with disabilities were interviewed in their homes, and their insights were used to inform and shape our inclusive design framework.

“Being accessible and inclusive requires a cultural shift of thinking about disability,” Monica says. “Exclusion occurs when there is a mismatch between the needs of an individual and technology. It is in solving for this mismatch and designing for the edges that we find innovation and create digital experiences that delight all customers.”

With government accessibility standards and myriad resources available in the field, the idea wasn’t to reinvent the wheel: it was to articulate guiding principles that would be particularly meaningful in our context. Monica and her Digital Accessibility team arrived at four key principles of inclusive design:

Principle 1: Design for all types of users, regardless of ability, context or situation.

We design with each user’s vision, hearing, thinking, and broader context in mind. This includes customers with a range of accessibility needs, customers who use assistive technologies, or customers facing situational challenges.

Principle 2: Be obvious.

We believe banking can and should be barrier-free. We use plain language and design with clarity, simplicity, and transparency to remove points of friction.

Principle 3: Communicate relevant information when and where it’s needed.

We believe an informed customer is better off, so we aim to empower our customers with insightful and contextual information.

Principle 4: Build it right for everyone

We believe in taking compliance to the next level. The new Scotia app was built to conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA at a minimum, and push beyond wherever possible.

Watch, laptop, phone, post-it notes, and a cup of coffee
Watch, laptop, phone, post-it notes, and a cup of coffee
Tools of the trade: a peek inside Julie Do’s bag (plus coffee)

Design Director Julie Do took these principles and created a process that put inclusive design into action.

“In order to design equal, accessible, and better experiences for all, inclusive thinking needs to be embedded in the way we work at a foundational level,” Julie says. “It should guide us every step of the way. For the new Scotia app, we designed with our users, and not just for them — giving us the most valuable insights to make the right design and product decisions.”

Inclusive design led the way not only for the new Scotia app, but also for our design system that powers all of the digital experiences we build. That means that Julie created a lot more than an app interface: she designed a reusable platform that we can innovate on for years to come.

Part 2: A co-created experience

Jera Bortolussi, Senior Product Owner, is part of the team that takes the needs of our customers and those of our business and breaks them down into buildable chunks we call stories.

“Product Owners are problem-focused,” says Jera. “We start with a goal — something we’re trying to achieve — and from there we consider the value for our customers and the goals of the business to get to a solution.”

A small problem could take a few weeks to solve, while something more complex can take 2 to 3 months of collaboration across teams. As the solution becomes clearer with input from our analytics and research teams, Product Owners work with designers to create the experiences, and engineers to bring those experiences to life. When it comes to the new Scotia app, Jera says, “to say it was a team effort feels like an understatement. We’re all invested in seeing our customers succeed.”

As we began to build out the app, we called in customers to our Usability Lab to test prototypes, collect and integrate feedback, and verify our changes. And as our launch date approached, we shared the app with a group of 25,000 colleagues, friends, family, and customers in a holistic beta testing program. Those beta testers gave 3,200 pieces of feedback over 8 months and contributed to a significant redesign of part of the experience.

End-to-end, Monica and her Digital Accessibility team empowered the team with the knowledge and tools they needed to keep inclusive thinking at the heart of their decisions. “Each member of the app team,” says Monica, “from product owners and designers to developers and testers, played a key role in putting our inclusive design principles into action and creating a culture of embedded inclusivity.”

Part 3: The beginning

Back in the 1990s, engineers would release what they called a Gold Master: a compact disc with the finished, ready-to-ship version of their software engraved on it. There’s something to be said for the nostalgia of a real CD, but what’s a lot more exciting for us is that even though the new Scotia app is in the hands of our customers, it will never be truly finished. We’re constantly asking for feedback from our customers, and that feedback has a real impact on what we choose to design and build next.


Want to shape the future of mobile banking with us? Check out our job openings!

Scotiabank Digital Factory

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Scotiabank Digital Factory

What we talk about when we talk about transforming digital banking.

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