Designing and building products that meet evolving customer expectations

At Adminovate 2024, Karolina Coates, Head of Design at BoatyardX, joined industry leaders Jac Dunne, CEO of dimply; Simon Gillis, Head of Product Operations at Fund Recs; and David Delehanty, Group Manager at Link Fund Administrators (Ireland) Limited, to discuss the evolving landscape of user experience (UX) and fintech innovation. The panel delved into the increasing demand for frictionless, intuitive digital products as customer expectations continue to rise. With a focus on simplifying experiences rather than adding features, the discussion highlighted the crucial balance between business viability, user desirability, and technological feasibility in product design. Let’s dive into the key takeaways from the panel discussions. 

Key takeaways: 

1. End user expectations continue to evolve.  

Whether we’re talking about our customers or colleagues joining the workforce, the common denominator is waning tolerance for level of friction. We all know that a good user experience is a key differentiator, but what defines ‘good’ can be elusive precisely because customer expectations are evolving constantly. 

For example, 15 years back it was a common practice to wait for bank branch to open in order to make a money transfer. A few years back, we were trying to figure out the most efficient way to input the credit card details for online shoppers. Today users get frustrated if we make them type in the long number, or an option to pay with FaceIDverifiable ApplePay is not available.  That’s because the ease of completing a transaction has become table stakes. To beat that, we don’t need to add cool features, as we’re often led to believe, we need to simplify the overall experience. Simplicity requires a lot more thought and sustained effort. 

2. Good user experience is frictionless. 

This fundamental premise is common knowledge in the startup world. But what about larger organisations? BoatyardX has roots in fintech innovation, so we’re well in tune with challenges faced by this heavily regulated, security-focussed industry sector.  Frictionless experience requires focus and orchestration on the company level. It holds true for the larger organisations, who are facing build vs buy dilemma.


In the world of SaaS solutions a solid understanding of human needs, the problem we’re trying to solve and sustained focus on the big picture is fundamental to navigating configuration vs customisation dilemmas, successful rollouts and continuous improvement of customer experience. An excellent example of how this premise can work in practice is the new breed of insuretech companies, including parametric insurance.  

Where previously the end customers were facing drudgery of slow, convoluted and paper-based claims process, the disruptors in this space are collaborating with underwriters, regulators and partners to orchestrate an experience which is much more focussed on fair, timely and often pre-specified payouts. They understand the importance of delivering practical benefits of not just competitive pricing but real value, such as convenience, peace of mind, and utility through technology-enabled features.

3. To create products and services that meet evolving customer expectations balance Business, User and Technology needs 

In a nutshell, creation of successful digital products evolves around balancing Business Viability, User Desirability and Technological Feasibility.  

In practice, we start by exploring the big picture, context and product vision. When our end goal and context is clear, we move in a rapid and structured manner towards defining product backlog, roadmap and all the assets necessary for developers to start building the product. It’s a classic Diverge-Converge Design Thinking approach, just executed in a very pragmatic, lean way. 


Crucially, we establish a reliable feedback loop between the team and end users which allows us to take guesswork out of the process and provides the team with data for making decisions with confidence. 

We facilitate discovery, ideation and co-creation sessions using Miro a virtual equivalent of whiteboarding, a skillset that we found irreplaceable and honed over the years. What we’ve seen is consistently is that the issue is not that our customers don’t know what they need, the challenge lies in alignment on shared goal between departments and stakeholders and effective prioritisation. Where we add value is a) by creating an environment which enables collaboration and co-creation with the users b) add our technical expertise and c) lend our experience executing design and build in an agile manner.  

4. GenAI: what role does design play in this context and how do you see the role of designers evolve in the wake of GenAI?  

Designers play a fundamental role in keeping products honest and companies in touch with human needs. Their role is to ensure that the vision is clearly defined and carried through the development. Not only AI is not going to replace this, even more than ever we will need the creative, human-connection and alignment building skills. 

Ironically, currently available GenAI tools are perfect illustration of why we need designers more than ever.  


GenAI tools are technologically brilliant and incredibly powerful, yet the current experience is poor, limiting their adoption and impact. We’re at the command-line, DOS console stage of experience maturity and we have a long way to go to make it intuitive and usable to wider population. 

In conclusion, the key to designing and building products that meet evolving customer expectations is to balance business viability, user desirability, and technological feasibility. This can be achieved through a structured approach that involves exploring the big picture, defining the product backlog and roadmap, and establishing a reliable feedback loop with end users. Designers play a crucial role in this process, ensuring that the vision is clearly defined and carried through development.

By keeping products honest and companies in touch with human needs, designers help to create experiences that are frictionless, simple, and focused on delivering real value to customers.

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