Intuit's Financial Data Services team designs elements of user experience that span across Quickbooks, TurboTax, ProConnect, and Mint. In an effort to build a unified suite of products we were designing a common set of interfaces for onboarding. We focused on authentication, the first step of onboarding because usage data showed that when people successfully completed it, they were more likely to engage with the product to complete other tasks.
What are the key breakpoints in the authentication experience?
To answer these I looked at quantitative usage data, and then designed and tested user interfaces in multiple iterations.
11 of the top 50 financial institutions that we connect with to get data have unusual authentication fields that go beyond username and password. The error rate, in this case, ranges from 28% to 85% which is significant.
I investigated what might be causing this. The instructions are all provided but the problem is how and when it is presented. Based on an analysis of all the unusual authentication fields, I created a taxonomy of help types and sub-types to find patterns. I found that these fields were not only inconsistent with the others, but they were also inconsistent among themselves and needed custom solutions.
I conducted moderated usability tests of the user interface iterations at the initial phases. At the early stage, I recruited colleagues who were unfamiliar with the project and were not part of design or research teams. At a later stage, we recruited 7 participants who were owners of small to medium businesses who are more likely to deal with their taxes on their own. They are also the primary audience for Quickbooks, Intuit's largest product.
I followed a think-aloud task-based protocol to understand when and why people faced difficulties with the design. I also used several printed tax forms to recreate the experience of filling finding the right number on the form in the moment and entering it. Though everyone was successful in completing the task, the amount of time they took varied enough to indicate the design approach for subsequent iterations.
Using usabilitytesting.com to recruit people who had not used any of Intuit's products before, but dealt with their own finances and were comfortable using the internet, and creating the study, I conducted unmoderated tests with 15 participants. Each participant was presented with 2 kinds of authentication processes - one step and two step.
Based on the moderated tests, I derived design guidelines for future authentication fields that might come up due to additional security or regulatory requirements.
Integrate the instructions into labels
People did not think they needed help filling out a field, so did not click on any icons or links to seek more information. They did not want to interact with anything other than the field itself, so would spend minutes searching for a specific word on the physical form itself. They did not pay attention to any instructions above or below labels or fields, and the design with the most positive response was where the instructions were implied in the label.
Break up the form into multiple steps and screens
Three fields may not seem like a lot but when they involve multiple steps with varying amounts of cognitive load, people are more likely to complete a form if it's broken up into multiple steps. Having a dedicated screen for the most involved field and step by step instructions was helpful to most participants.
Provide customized cues to help recognition
Since they don't look at explicit instructions when user input is expected from them, people need additional support to find what they need quickly on the document. What worked best was providing an example of a chunked or hyphenated number that reflected how the number was presented on the document. This helped them locate the number quickly but also had the additional benefit of helping them input the number correctly.
Use very specific instructional images, if at all
Tax documents have enormous variations depending on the type document, the financial institution generating it and the year. Though the ideal solution was to present a highly customized image indicating where to find the document or tax id number, this wasn't scalable. When a generic image was provided, it only confused people more.
Screen mock ups