Designing the banking app of the future

Today we are introducing two major feature additions to Outbank: Automatic Tags and Reporting. Both of them have been in the works for quite a while now and we couldn’t be more thrilled that they are finally out. On this opportunity we also wanted to give some insights into our thought process, what’s behind the release and how we applied the magic of UX to create a better user experience in a banking app like Outbank.

Automatic Tag in Tagging UI

In October 2016, six months ago, we launched Tags. Tagging is a simple and easy way to manage your finances, and although this feature seems pretty straight forward from the outside there was some deep thinking involved. By concentrating on tagging all the way we pushed into a direction no other banking app had been in before. Every other player in the field chose to go the traditional path: Provide the user with a limited set of categories and let them apply one category to each transaction. Sometimes these categories were applied automatically or the user could even add his or her own categories, always only being able to apply just one category to one transaction. While brainstorming this feature for Outbank we had similar options on the table, but ultimately realized something: This is not how finances work. Finances are fluid, they evolve. Today we have many different small subscriptions for services we use on a daily basis, we do more and more online shopping and use our phones to transfer money or make payments on the go. This is a world where flexibility is key, and that is what made us create Tags.

We were certainly not the first ones to come up with the concept of a Tag. Social networks have integrated tagging years ago, focusing its functionality on search and exploration. Users are getting more and more used to the idea, and it even changes our way of organizing our content. Just a few years ago we used to organize our files mainly in the real, non-digital world. Documents would go into folders, folders would go into boxes and these boxes went into some cabinet.

In 2017 all of our files are stored digitally. Our photos live in the cloud, we stream music from wherever we are and we even digitize paper documents to make them available on all our devices. This also shifts our organizational patterns in a major way. When we want to look at a certain document or photo we just open an app and search for it. Apps are becoming a portal into our files, replacing folders and boxes. You can apply multiple labels to a single file, because a file does not always only fit into one perfect category.

We saw that shift early on at Outbank and applied it to finances: The user is able to create as many Tags as they like and apply as many of them as they want to a single transaction. This way all the subscription services are not only #subscriptions, but each and every one of them can also have it’s own hashtag, like #netflix, #amazon and many more. If the user wants to go deep into their finances, they can then search for Tags and find exactly what they are looking for. Search is a key part in that all new universe of Tags. Outbank has a powerful search build right in, not just letting the user search by transaction title or Tag, but also by amount, transfer reason and combining all of them together. Filters bring in even more granular options like time range and accounts.

Now, six months on, after a lot of work and careful consideration, we are finally launching Automatic Tags. Auto Tags take away much of the users effort to categorize their finances, doing most of that work for them. At launch there are 16 available Tags which will be automatically applied to a user’s transactions by analyzing transaction details and finding the perfect match in our ever-growing library of localized Tags. Since security is top priority at Outbank all of this happens on device, never pushing data to a server.

From the users perspective Auto Tags should work similar to main categories. Subscriptions from Netflix and Dropbox and purchases in iTunes will be sorted into the #media Tag, which the user can then further define with their own manual Tags. By doing this we can minimize the user’s effort and they can themselves decide how much more detailed organization is needed.

The intelligence behind Automatic Tags is constantly evolving, mainly based on user feedback. We integrated an easy and simple way for the user to send in feedback if an Auto Tag is missing or wrong by placing a button in the tagging section of the transaction details. Here a user can pick the missing or right Tag and send the information in. Since our smart algorithms are being updated and enhanced over time there is an option available in Tag Management to “Update Automatic Tags”. By default new transactions will always be tagged by the latest algorithms, but if a user wants to apply those to older transactions we enabled that option for them.

The second main feature launching today is Reporting, which has been highly requested by users. Reports are based on Tags, which is why it made perfect sense to launch it alongside Automatic Tagging. We created a whole new section for the feature, easily reachable right from the home screen of accounts. They combine our previously launched Graph Header with a list of Tags used in the app, sorted by absolute value. Additional graphs for each Tag make it easier to understand the value of them compared to each other, the first in the list being the base for everything underneath. Being able to switch between different months completes the featureset for launch, though more is planned for the near future.

Reporting for Tags

One essential problem that came up while designing both of these features is connected to the user being able to apply multiple Tags to one transaction: We could not add up multiple Tags to a sum of 100%. Since one transaction can be found with multiple Tags we would not be able to represent reports by traditional pie charts or anything of that matter. This was deeply discussed by the whole team for many rounds and in the end we decided to go for it. We think that users want a visual clue for how much money is going where but that a pie chart is only one way to represent that data. Ultimately being able to finely tune Tags and apply more then one to a transaction is more important for optimizing a users financials.

Automatic Tagging and Reporting is just the first step into a smart and conventient future for managing your money and we can’t wait to show you what else we are working on.

If you want to find out more about Automatic Tags and Reporting head over to our blog for even more information. Also try out Outbank for iOS and macOS if you haven’t already!