When Building 'The Next Big Thing' in Payments, Leverage User Research Early

When Building 'The Next Big Thing' in Payments, Leverage User Research Early

When Building 'The Next Big Thing' in Payments, Leverage User Research Early

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

Michael Williams is currently a senior UX architect at TSYS focused on UX strategy, research and design. In this role, he has led the UX effort on multiple TSYS products ranging from customer service to data and analytics.

More Info

In the payments industry, it's never been more important to innovate, and that often means building new products and features. However, one of the most overlooked (yet most important) questions to ask before even getting started is, "What do the users of my product need that they don’t know they need?"

The answer is not always easy to come by, but through a combination of strategic user research and agile development, you can bring a product to market that becomes essential to the lives of its users.

Without this combination of user research and agile development, the consequences are steep. Failing to understand what your users really need can stymie innovation in product teams and make it more difficult to build products that truly solve the user's problems. Products can easily become stale or just re-creations of past mistakes.

Here's how to get started

In the early stages of a new product build, in-person user interviews and observations can play a crucial role in identifying ways to innovate. Users can tell you a lot about their current process, the functionality of the tools they use, and even about the culture of the company they work for. However, they are often unable to think outside of the tools they use and processes they go through daily (otherwise known as a 'mental model'). That means you must use this data with caution.

Remember the old adage about Henry Ford? If he asked his customers what they wanted, they would ask for faster horses. While the suggestions and specific feedback from users is insightful to an extent, the insight you can gather from users by listening to them talk about their holistic experience with your product and observing the everyday use of the product in its natural environment is even more valuable. This is where trained user researchers can help.

User researchers look for patterns and connections beyond the specific details of data gathered through interviews or observations. They use the data to draw a much broader picture, looking for opportunities to make things more efficient, cost-effective, and ultimately ways to solve problems or eliminate friction for users. Tools such as personas, journey maps and service blueprints can be created to help visualize the user base you are designing for, and most importantly, highlight any opportunities available.

All of this research can sometimes result in a bit of 'post-research paralysis.' There are so many data points, so many features to add and, of course, so little time. Yet, there is a way to organize, prioritize and actually build this thing — and that entails design sprints within the agile methodology for persistent innovation.

An agile approach

Incorporating user research into your development life cycle can be tough. Speed to market in this fast-paced world of new tech is important for new and innovative products. But don't believe for a second that it's not possible to incorporate valuable user research into agile sprints.

The trick to utilizing agile development is to get your research finished ahead of the development team. Your research and design teams can work together ahead of the development team to iteratively design solutions that have been tested by the users of your product themselves and were proven to meet their needs.

The scope of each story can vary greatly, so it is imperative to find the right cadence when integrating your research into iterations or sprints. You may need to start your research earlier for larger stories and later for smaller. Sometimes user research may not even be needed for a particular story at all. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to understand the user’s true goal and design a solution that meets (or even exceeds) that goal.

Some agile purists may buck at the idea of including user research in agile methodology, and that's fine. But when done properly, it can provide an enormous benefit to all stakeholders of the product. The cadence between the research, design and development teams can take some time to sync up. But rest assured, when you are able to find the right rhythm, you will be on the path to continuous innovation.

A good cadence might look something like this:

  1. Research teams fill a prioritized feature list (otherwise known as the 'backlog') with recommendations and ideas from research efforts, design and product.
  2. The product and development teams work together to groom the backlog and design concepts around those recommendations.
  3. Simultaneously, the research teams test the concepts with users and provide feedback to the design and product teams to update the design.
  4. The development team picks up in a later sprint (typically 1-2 behind research) with a fully tested prototype or fully groomed stories, ready to develop the solution.
  5. Repeat. As the development team builds what has been fully tested and approved, research teams start the next iteration (back to step 1).

1. Create & Prioritize a Backlog 2. Groom list and design concepts 3. Test concepts with users 4. Develop the solution 5. Repeat with the next iteration (back to step 1)

Integrating design sprints for better innovation

If you want to build amazing products and boost innovation, it isn't as easy as just asking your users to tell you what to build. Alas, innovation requires a bit more structure than that.

Anyone can build a good application, but it takes the necessary attention to the user and the discipline to integrate design sprints in agile in order to deliver something truly innovative.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

Other Articles by Michael

Michael Williams

Michael Williams is currently a senior UX architect at TSYS focused on UX strategy, research and design. In this role, he has led the UX effort on multiple TSYS products ranging from customer service to data and analytics.

Prior to this role, he was a UX designer for W.C. Bradley Company where he led ecommerce UX for multiple companies including Char-Broil, Zebco, and Lamplight Farms. Williams has more than 10 years of experience in UX and design, working in ecommerce, digital media, and payments.

Share this story via email or social networks

  1. You Know You've Been Part of the Payments Industry Too Long When…

    Tue Oct 30, 2018 09:00 AM

    You Know You've Been Part of the Payments Industry Too Long When...

    Categories: Articles and Blogs
  2. Winning at the point of sale in the convenience sector

    Mon Mar 18, 2019 12:02 AM

    Winning at the point of sale in the convenience sector

    It’s quite possible that there has never been a more pivotal time in the convenience-store industry. With the obvious exception of e-commerce, the convenience-store and club sectors are the only two other retail channels expected to grow over the next three years – and not nearly as briskly as e-commerce.more...

    Categories: Articles and Blogs
  3. Will Globally Popular Regulatory Sandboxes Ever Crack the U.S. Payments Market?

    Tue Jan 29, 2019 08:59 AM

    Will Globally Popular Regulatory Sandboxes Ever Crack the U.S. Payments Market?

    Categories: Articles and Blogs
  4. Why Your Business Needs to Accept Chip Cards

    Wed Mar 6, 2019 12:06 AM

    Why Your Business Needs to Accept Chip Cards

    It feels like forever ago that the EMV® Liability Switch took place on October 1, 2017. But even now, many businesses have not switched over to taking exclusively EMV (colloquially known as chip cards). more...

    Categories: Articles and Blogs
  5. Why the Payments Industry Needs to Hire More Veterans

    Tue Jul 2, 2019 09:00 AM

    Why the Payments Industry Needs to Hire More Veterans

    Tags: purdy
    Categories: Articles and Blogs
  6. Why It Pays to Be a Payment Facilitator

    Mon Jun 3, 2019 01:02 AM

    Why It Pays to Be a Payment Facilitator

    Payment facilitators. You already know of them and what they do, even if you’re not familiar with the term. In fact, PayPal®—which might be described as the original payment facilitator—is sometimes referred to as a kind of “Super Facilitator,” with Square® being a more recent player.   more...

    Categories: Articles and Blogs
  7. Why Isn't Mobile Pay Usage Spreading Faster?

    Fri Apr 13, 2018 05:52 PM

    Why Isn't Mobile Pay Usage Spreading Faster?

    Categories: Articles and Blogs
  8. Why is Fintech So Focused on New Payment Rails?

    Fri Apr 13, 2018 05:36 PM

    Why is Fintech So Focused on New Payment Rails?

    Categories: Articles and Blogs