Design Thinking Vital to Customer Experience Excellence

The best definition of design thinking is the connection between creativity and innovation, impacting the consumer, products, location, process and performance. Done well, it can be a key differentiator in the digital delivery of services.

A recent Gartner report, The App and its Impact on Software Design says, that App design requires an approach “fundamentally different from a traditional application. Its key characteristic is purposefulness. CIOs and application leaders must understand the changes necessary for software design and development practices to produce this next-generation software.”

Many financial institutions have embraced a mobile-first strategy or omnichannel strategy, placing mobile design as a critical component of their user experience and customer experience strategies. The report suggests that these businesses will need to consider an enterprise approach to mobile app design.

Design Thinking, which has been around now for over a decade, is a design methodology that helps businesses understand their problem statements better by rooting it in end user research, and uses that research to influence a more impactful design solution. As a bank or credit union approaches service design, it is important to apply design thinking across the following dimensions:

  • Empathize with Users: Regardless who they are, customer facing or internal stakeholders, we have to completely immerse ourselves with users and understand their environments and problem statements.
  • Create Definitions: Clearly articulate the problem statement(s) and how it pertains to those users as well as the core business owners and technology partners.
  • Ideate: Create many design possibilities, using a multidisciplinary team, going wide and not deep to explore various solutions and then start to rate and rank them. Constantly going back to your core design problem statements so you can define your core design pillars.
  • Prototype: Move away from explanations and start to craft prototypes that explain your solutions effectively. Focus on many, but narrow it down to the solutions that are in line with all of your above processes.
  • Test: Early and often, this is an iterative approach, going back to our users and validating all we have done is a tasks that gets all the kinks out and solidifies the designs while empathizing with our user base.

Research is done to understand the current state of business across these five dimensions, and then used to re-imagine the app, function, process, etc. so that it is a joy to use. As financial services organizations look to elevate their brands, communicate authenticity, and engage with their customers, design thinking can deliver meaningful data to support those initiatives.

Read More:


According to the Design Management Institute, design-led companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, Nike, Procter & Gamble and Whirlpool outperformed the S&P 500 by 219% over the past 10 years. This is a significant finding in that it suggests that design has the power to impact the financial performance of a company.


With that mindset, rather than design the company’s website, app or other engagement channel based on an isolated understanding of the project’s goals, financial services firms can elevate the experience they are creating by using an iterative design approach that takes in consumer data and uses it to implement an agile design methodology.

On a recent project, we worked with a well-known global bank to re-imagine their online customer banking portal. We knew the design needed to give the bank the ability to offer the customer an understanding of their spending patterns by category, their savings history and a number of other features that it seemed consumers wanted based on the rise of personal financial apps like Mint. Design thinking played a critical role in this project, allowing us to speak with a sample group of customers and A/B test different visual placements of data to survey which features achieved the most interaction in the final rollout.


A recent report by Cohn & Wolfe defined ‘authenticity’ in the eyes of consumers and found that consumers are looking for daily, real-life reminders that they can count on brands. Design thinking can also play a role in helping organizations demonstrate authenticity through strategic design.

Think about the simplicity of Google’s homepage – a simple white page with a logo and a search bar that is a portal to anything you could ever want to find on the Internet. The now iconic Google logo changes almost daily to align with a special event on that day in history.

The simplicity of this design says something very clear about Google as a brand. The function and value of the service it provides is the focal point of the site, and that is enough. The changing logo alludes to Google’s fun-loving and intellectual nature. The delivery has a message, and it is authentic. And that resonates.

Financial services firms today have an authenticity problem. They are functioning in an environment where consumers are expecting banking applications, investment advice, estate planning, applying for a credit card or mortgage or student loan to be as easy, personalized, powerful and authentic as the consumer experiences they are having on Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others. A design-centric approach is the secret to engaging them in a more authentic and meaningful way.


We can’t forget, the rules for design have completely changed due to mobile technology. In a world where we unlock our phones every few minutes – every 5.6 minutes to be exact – according to a Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers report, design thinking and an interactive approach to design based on mobile usage data can help firms create stronger customer experiences.

The curse of the mobile phone is that financial services firms are competing for a download on a device, and if they do win a download, they need to continue to compete for engagement and the ongoing delivery of valuable services. The blessing is that the mobile world allows organizations to collect unparalleled data into how their consumers are engaging with them, and to use that intelligence to inform a more iterative design strategy and delivery.

Design Thinking for Financial Services

Design Thinking is not a new concept, but as financial services firms look to double down on mobile, regain trust after the financial crisis, and elevate their brands as they compete against fintech providers, design can and should play an instrumental role in their business strategies.

As mentioned by Fjord, “Moving from design thinking to design doing is where the craft of design really comes into its own. Ideas are made tangible, prototyped, tested with users, iterated and released to market in a rapid cycle of build, test and learn.”

Alexander Zaky  is the Head of Experience Design at Synechron where he brings over 20 years of interactive design and UX/UI expertise to its global financial services clients. He has worked for well-known brands like AOL and co-founded Usable, a New York-based design firm which worked with companies like Google, before being acquired by Synechron in 2015. Zaky was a recipient of The Webbys Award and the IBM Industry Standards Award for Application Design. You can also follow Alexander on Twitter by clicking here.

This article was originally published on . All content © 2024 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.