In my design career, I’ve tended to approach whatever I’m working on at that moment as the most important project I’ve ever done. “Fixing the spelling on this Continue button is about to blow the lid off this thing,” I’d think to myself.
Of course, it’s rarely true. One’s trajectory can’t exponentially rise forever or else I’d be writing this on my cold fusion quantum computer from my moon-based startup right now. I’m in my laundry room.
However, since joining Even I’ve been lucky to be involved in what is truly some of the most important work I’ve ever been a part of. The reason is simple: We handle people’s money. We are impacting the most important resource belonging to hundreds of thousands of people every day. We are partners in people’s psychological (sometimes even physical) safety.
With that kind of importance placed on a utility, members are looking for one thing above all to even begin to interact with it: Trust. While building Even, we’ve learned a lot about the conditions people need to trust us as a positive force with their money.
Even’s product is an app that employers offer to their employees as a benefit. We call those employees who use Even “members.” Because we’re offered through a member’s company, we get a natural boost of trust immediately as there’s an assumption that we’ve been vetted by a members’ employer (and we certainly have been). In one way, this gives us an immediate platform to start showing value. The flip side is employees have not chosen us themselves, so we have to make it very clear that we’re here to help them—not just the company they work for.
Most of the ways we offer to help are very different from any existing banking interaction, so this could be the first time a member has seen something like this. It’s important that we explain the core concepts behind how Even works, and how it will affect the member’s finances. Our app, including all its design and copy, acknowledges that this might be a new way of interacting with money for our members so they feel supported, not confused.
Members often hear about Even for the very first time through marketing materials from their employer. We work extremely closely with our customers (the members’ employer) to ensure that whatever message is conveyed matches the actual experience in the app. We don’t budge on this one: Market your product honestly.
Our members have busy lives. Nobody actually wants to manage their money, it’s often stressful and confusing. We have to show them value as quickly as possible, because promising to do something soon doesn’t compare to doing that thing right away.
One way we do this is by making the architecture of the app immediately recognizable, and easy for members to understand how it fits into their lives. We call things what they are, and group actions that are naturally grouped in real life.
We also surface solutions to problems when and where members need them most. Sometimes just doing simple math is the most helpful thing—for example, telling members “Your paycheck is in 10 days.” Other times, members benefit from a deep integration between Even and their employer’s payroll system that allows them to take action, like using money from a future paycheck to pay a bill on time.
Why make a complicated visual or diagram when you can just explain something in a short sentence? Language is often the easiest way to get on the same level as a person. The key is boiling it down to the simple language that a human would actually say.
It’s also important to remember that our members are adults dealing with adult problems. We avoid infantilizing the interface with cutesy illustrations or distracting attempts at hiding the (sometimes hard) truth around someone’s current financial standing.
We don’t veer into the land of overwrought celebration or insincerity. We want members to feel good about achieving their goals, and celebrate with them, but having confetti explode onto your screen every time you get paid gets old fast. When something significant happens, members need to know exactly what happened, how it happened, and what they can do about it.
We actively destroy anything that comes remotely close to a dark pattern. They suck.
Members deserve our trust. They have their own best interests at heart and know more about their own lives than we ever will. We don't feature magical AI that promises to solve all their problems, or give them paternalistic advice. We recognize their unique knowledge about their lives, and provide tools that let them achieve their own goals and make progress towards financial health.
We also make it easy for members to understand the ramifications of their actions. Our job is to give them a set of options, help them explore those options, and show them what will happen if they take action on them.
One of the most important elements of our product—our entire business, in fact—is the team of member advisors available for Even members who need help. We don’t hide them away, or make members jump through hoops to reach an actual human to help them. The knowledge that someone is within reach for help gives members a fallback plan when something doesn’t make sense to them in the app.
The most important element in creating trust with our members is ultimately one of the hardest and something we will never stop working on: understanding them.
Finances are incredibly personal and emotional for people, so building understanding & empathy in a way that is representative of our entire member base is incredibly hard. Everyone handles money differently. Everyone has a different life situation. Everyone is in a different emotional state. There is no one answer or action to handle this kind of variance.
We’ve found success in putting a lot of time and effort into member interviews and validating hypotheses through user testing. To us, understanding members is not grouping them into cohorts or creating personas that inevitably become too large or narrow to be useful. Instead we try and understand perspectives, we look for common needs (often the most obvious thing is the right thing), and find moments that we are uniquely positioned to be able to help.
If this all sounds good, you should join us. We're hiring.