1.3. Design solutions

Published October 25, 2018


The implications of our research on our personas are recorded in Blog Post 2. The research and personas drove our mission to update the payments flow and to add a Favouriting accelerator and “Stealth” feature to preserve privacy.


Ideation and discussion were supported with sketches and hasty kinetic artefacts (folded paper prototyping at Figure 1). User research confirmed that the Pay flows were disparate.

Our objective became to remove an interstitial stage of six payment-related flows and combine the three payment tasks into a branching flow.

We agreed the Payments form layout was satisfactory. Improving the poor UI criticised in our heuristic evaluations was out of scope although a result of our design was to remove the confusions in the Profile/Menu/Next/ and Continue secondary navigation, top-right.

After prototyping using technology later, we identified that the International flow could fit on the form. Later, working at scale, it was too cramped.

sketches used to analyse the payments flow
Figure 1. Early sketching, ideation, and analysis around the Payments flow building on ideas shared in our meetings

Working toward prototyping

I had made a cardboard model of Ulster Bank UI elements to help us move features around the flows and to ‘card sort’ features into goal priorities and task models.

Cardboard tiles laid out to represent the banking app UI and developing toward new task models
Figure 2. Cardboard tiles used to explore relocating support features around the app and surfacing and combining essential features and task models
paper prototyping with card cut out UI elements
Figure 3. Ideating content and UI using the card cutouts and sorting features including links, buttons, and dialogues

Accessing the live banking app threatened our own privacy. I had used Adobe XD to visualise the existing flow through screen-grabs. This supported our discussions, card sorting, and sketching probable solutions.

screen grabs of an app laid out on the page with connectors between them
Figure 4. Using XD’s Prototype view to surface the Ulster Bank user flows through the UI
The team working over a monitor displaying the app screens mapped into Adobe XD prototyping software showing connections
Figure 5. Using Adobe XD in the Design Studio to visualise flows through the Ulster Bank app and look for opportunities and analyse for threats

We progressed toward our solutions iteratively.

Monitor and paper sketches and models
Figure 6.Our busy workstation with iterations of our work. (Bin out of view).

The solution(s)

With our flow mapped on the desk, adjusted and dry-finger-tested for accuracy we arranged our final paper wireframes onto a door to compare the flow against the Ulster Bank on display in Adobe XD (Figure 7). It was clearly lighter.

Person affixing a sticky note to a paper wireframe flow on a door
Figure 7. Teammate Goran Peuc adjusting a dialogue on the final wireframe
A paper wireframe of the Payments page of the improved banking app
Figure 8. The fidelity of the final paper wireframes was high enough to feed accurately into Axure.
Eight Wireframe pages and string flows stuck to a door
Figure 9. Recording the outcome of our design meeting

Moving usefully out of scope

It was perhaps predictable that our professional workflows and passion would take us beyond paper drawings. Snyder (2003) allows that when digital wireframes are printed with meaningful content they are paper prototypes. Greenberg, Carpendale, Marquardt & Buxton (2011) promote recording and presenting paper prototypes digitally, too. After working in paper, we hopped into technology at least twice.

The first technology was Goran’s click-through of the Ulster Bank app. This was reasoned to remove the distraction of a completed UI when compared to a paper model in testing.

screen grab of an app screen made to look like a paper prototype
Figure 10. The Ulster Bank app devolved to paper-style

The second was to present our finished paper prototype in a similar “digital” paper style – now to avoid discrimination between a smart print and hand-drawn artifacts. Of course, while having fun with Axure I was able to emulate our design digitally. (Axure click-through as an emulation (V.1.)).

scren grab of Axure prototyping software
Figure 11. Adding interactions into the Axure prototype to confirm the flows and experience
iPhone user using the prototype banking app on the screen
Figure 12. Progressing the paper into an interactive emulation and testing on an iPhone. User testing combined with our own heuristics improved on this first version again.

The Axure emulation was unnecessary and also useful. It tested concepts including the Favouriting and “Stealth” features. Favouriting was incomplete, which could detract from our improvements. User testing surfaced other concerns, too.

Detailed discussions and solutions arising from testing are highlighted in Appendix B.

New Flows

Although work continues around the presentation layer, our new pay flow is set (Figure 13) and available at Appendix D (PDF 35 KB).

Figure 13. The new pay flow including Pay existing payee, Add (new) payee, International payee, Scheduling payment, and Favouriting a transaction.

This video runs through the seven tasks completed during user testing of the first paper prototype.

The following video is the original app’s click-thru created by Goran Peuc for comparison.

The Pay a saved payee task is the same number of steps. The new flow is an improvement. It removes needing to choose a task flow and embeds separate flows into one. 

The new Paying a new payee task is a step less than the original app. The pay flow is more efficient if performance is evaluated across all Pay processes including cognitive and motor effort and experience – and not only steps or speed. These are difficult to measure. User testing is required.

Usability testing

Seven tasks were assigned to test the Pay flows (Figures 14 and 15).

Figure 14. The seven tasks
  1. Schedule your usual electric bill payment of €350 for February 11, 2018. Use your customer number as a reference. Your customer number is “ESP-WX-3465”.
  2. Pay Johnny Ives reference “Watch Royalties” of €200. He has agreed to share the transaction costs with you. Favourite this task.
  3. Pay Michael D. Higgins €446.50 with reference “Printing of 100 promotional postcards”. You will need his IBAN, which is “IEBOIL3542769843”.
  4. How much did you pay for fuel three days ago?
  5. Remove your favourited task.
  6. Delete Francis Wright from your list of payees.
  7. Log out of the app.
stacks of paper prototype pages
Figure 15. The seven paper prototyping scenarios prepared for user testing

The video of a candidate attending usability testing discovers UI assumptions that did not meet their mental model. This is an excellent result from a candidate keen to, “do well” as we have identified areas for improvement or redesign.


  • The Profile icon was not understood to signify system settings and options and the candidate unexpectedly navigated to the Payees page following the memory of a previous task.
  • The candidate did not recognise the “kebab” menu on list items to open options.
  • Once shown these functions she demonstrated her learning by completing further tasks using the intended UI features.
  • The Accounts and Favourites tabs on the Homepage were not obvious.
  • The candidate wanted to click on list items to drill into more detail.
  • The Favouriting feature had not been seen before. Cool! A competitive advantage?

Axure UI test

The “live” Axure was now tested.

Highlighted improvements are:

  • Cognitive. On favouriting, our user must be navigated to the Favourites tab on Homepage.
  • Motor. The Kebab menus on list items are too fiddly. Make swipes.
  • Cognitive. Update the tab design to look like tabs.


  • More care needs taking not to mislead candidates with fictional dates, data, and copy texts.
  • Paper is not our users’ natural medium. Our users expect screen interactions. Paper may distract?
  • We should anticipate procedural differences, assume nothing, and learn to shuffle more quickly!

Detailed UI discussions arising from testing are highlighted in Appendix B.


The Ulster Bank’s art direction and UI design are flawed. While aiming to improve only a flow, heuristic evaluations and usability testing proved the UI required some updating too.

While testing “paper” prototypes seemed a poor second-cousin to software prototyping and wireframing, it proved its worth toward our use of technology. Although the technology was reassuring and a bit of fun – and if not entirely outwith the project scope – the Axure click-thru and Principle animations helped confirm and shape our assumptions made during “paper” prototyping. We – and our users – are able to feel the experience in real-time.

The result is contained in my final version of the Axure click-thru and Goran’s final video, which differ slightly–as they should at this stage. Is the design finished? No. Or, it depends.

quick reference code
Figure 16. QR code for further developed Axure v4


Greenberg, S., Carpendale, S., Marquardt N., and Buxton, B. (2011). Sketching User Experiences, The workbook. Waltham, MA, USA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Snyder, C. (2003). Paper Prototyping, The Fast and Easy and Refine User Interfaces . San Francisco, CA, USA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.

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