Great design is often highly subjective and can be maddening for executive decision makers. Steve Jobs’ well-known response to his engineers trying to find a solution he would accept was: “I’ll know it when I see it.” Design, and the delightful products and experiences that result, is an art informed by science. And, like other arts, it requires taste to recognize and restraint to implement.
For many years design was secondary for many business processes. Payments would certainly fall in this category. There was engineering in a payment process and there certainly was logic. But there wasn’t joy. There was rarely an engaging or even memorable experience. The purchase experience often didn’t match the overall brand aesthetic and messaging.
The car-buying process is a fine example. Porsche, BMW or even Ferrari are world leaders in design at all levels. But buying or leasing one of these luxury automobiles is a multi-hour nightmare of paperwork and fine print that leaves the purchase as an unbranded—and often dreadful—experience.
As payments moved online and now are heading to mobile, the experience of finalizing a sale—of actually accepting money from a customer—is an important frontier in design. Like every other area of industry that great design has entered, this is both a threat to established players and a huge opportunity. Mobile payments, in particular, present unique challenges.
|The talent race will be fierce, but firms with the ability to create great mobile payment experiences will be well-positioned to thrive in a market that is being conditioned to expect more than a standard, secure payment process.|
In mobile, brands must understand that the purchase process is central to successful app design. Apps are best designed with a limited feature set optimized for short sessions and immediate gratification. Because smartphones have become an indispensable tool of modern life that literally go everywhere with their owners, there is also a personal connection between the user and the brand that is impossible to duplicate with legacy technology.
This combination of short bursts of use with personal connection is common among all top-tier apps, from the stoplight photo-editing session of Instagram to the Angry Birds level that can be completed (or at least attempted) in a 10-floor elevator ride. Payment processes must be fast, engaging and personal to elevate a brand in this environment.
Leaders in the mobile payments space understand this reality. This month, for example, Square acquired80/20, a design firm in Manhattan. The resumes of the 80/20 co-founders include leadership roles at Apple and Adobe, but the acquisition also gives Square a solid foothold in an area rich with high-grade design talent. The talent race will be fierce, but firms with the ability to create great mobile payment experiences will be well-positioned to thrive in a market that is being conditioned to expect more than a standard, secure payment process.
What will the best mobile payment experiences look like in five years? Some of today’s leaders are pointing the way, and I’ll discuss what they’re doing right in my next post. But for many of us, the mantra that Jobs used still holds true. It is hard to define exactly what will make a mobile payment process great, but we certainly will know it when we see it.
* Republished with permission from Paybefore, as published October 2012.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph DeSetto is Paybefore’s emerging payments blogger and program manager of the Mobile Development Bachelor of Science degree at Full Sail University. He is the author of The Business of Designand previously served as chief technology officer for two mobile startups.
Paybefore™ is the leading provider of information to the prepaid industry.
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