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The importance of good design when caring for vulnerable customers

The FCA estimates that 1 in 5 financially vulnerable customers have overdue payments. And while not all people in debt are considered to be vulnerable, having an outstanding balance can be a huge source of worry for anyone.

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Improving one's financial health is often a long journey, and as such, lenders, creditors, advisors, collections teams and other financial institutions who interact with people with financial instability have a great deal of responsibility to help them along the way.

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At Ophelos we believe that good design, achieved by engaging user interfaces (UI) and a coherent user experience (UX), is an essential component to helping our users make informed decisions.

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Here, we explore some of the principles our design team have drawn upon to get there.

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Doing more with less.

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The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices - Hick's Law

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When elements fight for attention, nothing stands out.

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If there's too much going on, people will simply gloss over it - especially if they are stressed, or in a vulnerable position. This truth applies to many areas of UX/UI:

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  • more options to choose from means a longer time taken to answer
  • the longer the block of text, the less likely we are to read it
  • the more we need to scroll, the less engaged we are when we reach the bottom
  • the broader the category, the more time we need to get to grips with it

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Our design philosophy focuses on removing stimuli at each user touch point and stripping things down to the essential. We've made each page easy to digest and limited the number of decisions on each page.

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This is reflected in our new approach to the budget assessment, where we have boiled the questions down to just a few words and divided them up so that users only have to concentrate on one thing at a time. Consider the difference between 'How much do you spend on personal care?' vs 'How much do you spend on hairdressing per month?' - one question is much quicker to answer than the other.

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This approach results in a journey that looks longer in terms of pages, but critically it feels shorter.

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Using design to empathise, guide, motivate.

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We're redefining the stiff and stuffy stereotype of finance with bright splashes of colour, clean fonts and playful illustrations.

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The soft colour palette that we use across our website, user journey and outbound communications aims to make people feel more at ease with their debt, mixing calm blues with subtle yellow-tinged creams.

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We punctuate these tones with our signature Ophelos Green #28ED91.

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We strived to find a tone that balances comfort with motivation and we felt that this green - green being the colour of safety, nature, progress and wellbeing - is both soothing and optimistic.

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The contrast in our colour palette allow us to gently guide and nudge customers towards options that we believe are best suited for them. In certain scenarios, it might be in the user's best interest to follow a certain direction, and so we might use a more vivid colour for a button that would guide them there.

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At Ophelos, our outlook is less focused on immediate collections and more on finding the right solution for the right person. This also allows us to free our design from funnelling people into one-size-fits-all solution and instead guide users towards different outcomes which would best help them in the long-term.

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Design with personality.

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Users often perceive aesthetically-pleasing design as design that’s more usable - Laws of UX

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Design does not exist in isolation; it is a reflection of wider society and where we are as a culture. As our lives become more digital, we also expect what's digital to reflect our lives.

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Bountiful personality perhaps isn't something you would expect from a company dealing with debt, though maybe it's less surprising coming from a company that's trying to solve a problem in a more human way. Despite being a fully-digital solution, we believe that solving difficult problems that affect real people means taking a more human approach.

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Being in financial difficulty is complex enough, so companies mustn't make it feel intimidating to get out of it. We use illustrations and animations to reflect our brand identity and values, we ensure our customer service delivers help with empathy and tact, and we use simple copywriting that takes on a warm, friendly tone to make the journey easily comprehensible (more on that here).

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This approach isn't revolutionary but it's one that is having profound effects on industries that have been for too long seen as complicated and antiquated. Lemonade, for example, have made insurance more accessible and understandable, and their friendly approach has greatly improved their reputation.

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Interested in hearing more about how we're improving the customer experience? Why not get a demo.

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