The Superman Effect: The Human Side of Banking UX Design

When artificial intelligence arrives, there will be no trumpets. There will be no rocket trails in the sky from the newly-released nukes. A renegade robot will not be rampaging across the streets. It won’t come with a bang; The power of these ideas will develop over years and years, through careful tunings and fearless plans and intuitive design. It will lead us, and we will lead it harmoniously. How do we know?

In 2011, Ayse Saygin, a University of California at San Diego professor in the department of Cognitive Science explored the “uncanny valley” (the hypothesis that replicas of humans, in animation or robotics as an example, that appear as real humans elicits unsettling and aversive feelings among those observing). Professor Saygin attached viewers to an MRI, testing their brain activity when shown an android “stripped of human qualities.” People’s brains lit up like a Christmas tree.

“What we found was that if you’re going to get so close to what the brain considers a person, you better get it right,” Professor Saygin says in Huffington Post. “The brain is not very tolerant of deviations from that.”

More and more, as people tune into the inner workings of technology and digital experience, our tolerance for misshapen design and snake-oil gaming in user flow has plummeted. Pagination is antiquated and obvious. Social media algorithms can be mind-numbing. Who among us hasn’t considered hurling our phone into an active volcano after a phone pop-up ad follows your thumb around?

We know when brands are trying to game us. Like Professor Saygin’s uncanny valley testing, we know when something feels off in user experience design. When it comes to real, on-the-ground needs like the digital mortgage experience, understanding the human experience–the stress and harrowing spending that the average person experiences while finding a place to live–is essential. The digital mortgage UX is the last frontier that people want littered with Big Soda-level attempts at tapping into the human soul.

When UX is genuine–when it recognizes the pitfalls and joys of being a real person–it can soar. We, the people, no longer tolerate passive aggressive UX that appears out of touch with the noisy waters of the digital world. So, what makes for a genuine UX?

  • Fearless design: Crafting a look and feel that doesn’t just digitize the brand’s mission. It is the mission.
  • Enticing calls-to-action within a narrative: Marketing elements and copy should be succinct, engaging and approachable. It should tell a story.
  • Tested user flow: Build an intuitive site map, beta test it and follow the narrative of the analytics.
  • Anticipation: When analytics tell that story, it’s easy to anticipate your user’s needs.

Buying a house is one of life’s great mountain climbs. It’s our homes we’re talking about here: It’s the place where we’ll live and name our dog after a Game of Thrones character. There are already hills of paperwork and expenses that steal the breath right out of our lungs. Therefore, customers want technology to anticipate breathlessness. Actually, smart UX should guide us through its service like Marlon Brando’s character Jor-El in the 1978 film Superman: A benevolent, all-wise parent. Let’s say we call this Superman effect in UX: When parental free-floating apps and digital experiences lead us, pragmatically, to the thing we find most valuable.

Optimize Your Digital Mortgage Experience

If that sounds like climbing Everest, it’s not; we’re already there, and the technology is ready. There’s a search engine, for example, to connect borrowers with lenders nearly as fast as you can imagine one. Morty, the New York-based startup, is a wholly digital mortgage marketplace that aims to cut through massive stacks of paperwork and broker costs. A 2016 TechCrunch op-ed added:

“Closing a home loan today takes more time and has become more difficult and costly than ever imagined…The good news is that both of these problems are being aggressively tackled by tech companies working to transform the mortgage experience and bring lending into the digital world.”

UX that’s inspired by a true understanding of what people are going through is the first rung of a step ladder that leads to customer loyalty. In a November 2016 issue of Journal of Marketing on building customer value, authors V. Kumar and Werner Reinartz prove that customers will return value “through multiple forms of engagement (customer lifetime value, in the widest sense)” for the organization that takes the time to measure their needs and provides real, valuable “marketing-mix elements.”  

When brands employ technology that is harmonious with customers’ human experience, when it leads us and we, in turn, lead it, there will be no Terminator-level dystopia. In other words, the moment we feel that design is over-reaching or brands are using the space disingenuously, whether it’s the oddly humanistic qualities of robotics or an app that gets us into owning a house quicker, the whole experience becomes unharmonious. When technology doesn’t guide us, seamlessly and invisibly, it becomes UX’s uncanny valley.  

The technology is already working for us, and we’ve proved that we can utilize it to benefit the real needs of people. We can sleep well knowing that the robot-overlords have been staved off for now.

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