UI Design & Research:

United Services Automobile Association (USAA)

The objective

Analyzed, designed and implemented changes to interaction points between the customer and the company, enhanced the visitor experience. Worked closely with the business as a customer advocate to understand problems and collaborated with teams to achieve business goals and improve customer experience.

My role

I performed research, design and implementation of user experience on projects across the enterprise for both external and internal stakeholders.

I contributed to the enterprise re-design, patterns and library initiative and as a designer with the banking fraud group.

I was very fortunate to be aligned with a senior web producer with years of experience who helped me navigate the organizational ins-&-outs as well as promoted a nurturing learning environment.

Services Provided

  • UX Research
  • Information Architecture
  • UX Design
  • UI Development

Problem Statement

As Lead UI/UX with the fraud group we worked to address losses the business was incurring due to fraud executed in the form of account takeovers achieved by phishing schemes and soft account security practices. The fraud takes the form of kiting and systematically exposes the business to losses in other lines of business due to customer account integrity being compromised.

Research Process

Identifying Business Goals

Analytics reflected account intrusion and takeover by showing discrepancies in account access. The perception that one area of the business may be exposed to soft security practices could spill over into other product lines, ultimately hurting the enterprise's reputation across multiple lines of business.
We were tasked with employing a robust solution to address the technical implications of account takeovers and kiting practices via the "Add Account" user flow in banking while preserving the customer experience.

Specific, Measurable Objectives

  • Recognize the limitation inherent in the accelerated timeline & lack of flexibility presented in the technical backend.
  • The solution will track users behavior within the flow and reveal bad actors.
  • The process had to be changed to verify external account ownership.

  • The business can verify customers complete the new verification process with comprehensive data.

Actionable, Realistic, Time-based Deliverables

Customers would have to be acclimated to a new way of adding external options to their USAA bank funding options which would not drive them away from the business.
Retention and reaffirmation must be built into the solution so that customers feel empowered in their decision to undergo the verification process.
Implementation target date is defined "as soon as possible" due to the nature of exposure to fiscal risk and legal liability. Iteration of solution is not feasible. Solution must be holistic and durable.


Stakeholder Interviews and Requirements Gathering

The changes are employed within an existing flow which was built within corporate standards using existing patterns. This alleviated having to create a new user flow from scratch.

Input from the banking SME was invaluable for insight into the Automated Clearing House electronic financial transactions network and the changes that would need to be developed to introduce connectivity to that external system.

We worked together to pinpoint a list of new specs that would account for re-routing customers away from the flow and ask them to return later when they had more information.

Persona Generation

I interviewed banking Customer Service Representative Specialists (CSR) who dealt with fraud calls, screening them for particular challenges they encountered as well as monitored support calls.

I created referential personas to help bring others along in the thought process and help generate ideas and changes to strategy.

The interviews provided us the opportunity to dig deeply into the CSR interfaces. These internal interfaces would be updated with elements for the project to enable CSR's to address and manage the new elements.

Journey Mapping

Leadership was concerned that customers would abandon the flow if it became overly complicated but recognized that elimination of all friction created a significant security vulnerability.

We began to assess what the implications of injecting account validation into the process would entail from the technical back end and how the requirements to make that successful would impact the customer experience.

A future state journey map implied a very different UI flow that would require straitforward language to communicate a more complex interface associated with the Add Account process.

Iterative design couched with qualitative usability testing

I generated low fidelity wire frames to socialize the proposed changes among the design group and team.

Until we could present walk-throughs and prototypes to users we could only go on hunches as to if the combinations of page elements and content were striking the right balance.

Verbiage and specific concise textual instructions early on identified as being cornerstone to task completion.

Design Stand Ups

Stand up sessions presented opportunities for feedback on technical and philosophical issues, to see failings within a design and refine forward. I increased the code complexity of the prototypes to mimic production quality behaviors.

Supportive feedback informed the choice of flow and design elements used. We moved forward with direct user engagement to validate the design direction.

User Testing

My team had a huge advantage in having a dedicated customer recruiter available to onsite customers to test in usability lab.

Multi-session user testing presented an opportunity for simple structured discussion with users to highlight breaking points, roadblocks and opportunities and hear the realistic applicability of the solution.

I learned facilitation techniques and was able to practice hands-on guided usability interrogations.

I worked with our customer engagement specialist to boil down the session findings into actionable, presentable reports
Critical path deviations, blocking points, insights, problems, comments and recommendations all found their way into the after action
The session produced an informing artifact which we could immediately use to refine the design backlog

Our solution had to communicate a seamlessly integrated feeling with the site to achieve a sense of ease and prevent users from abandoning the process.

The process could easily become too complicated. Our goal was to optimize content making it accessible to the widest audience.

The User Testing helped us solidify what would be necessary to enable the user to successfully complete the Add Account task.

User Testing empowered us to make a informed decision on where the new data validation capture process could occur within the technical implementation.

The technical architecture of the legacy system was tightly knit & not originally designed to allow for the type of functionality we were demanding of it.

Technical Architecture

I co-authored the technical architecture roadmap that illustrated exactly how the solution fit into the workflow.

The initial rounds of user testing informed crucial decisions on at what point customers would be comfortable deviating from the expected task completion or simply abandoning altogether.

The customer validation against the ACH database required specialized data verfication capabilites.

We engaged a external vendor who specialized in the type of solution we were looking for. They would be able to provide a robust, time tested solution within budget and provide long term support with a integration that could be brought inline with our timetable.

Production Ready Design Deliverables

I incorporated the changes into the pre-production designs and presented the final product to two different executive committees for final authorization for live release to the enterprise site.


Executive Presentations

There was concern about messaging to the customer and escalating awareness of direction to complete the process. I created a mockup of the messaging center page and example notifications and account alerts specific to our process. Copy clarity was a high level concern that I fortunately could tap a great Content Manager for further help with.

Updated prototypes were retested with a small sample set of users. The scenarios were executed with only one low severity navigation issue occurring in the prototype. At the final project presentation, I presented the scenarios to the executive committee with my Sr. Producer. We received the blessing to close the project and hand off the code base to the development group.

Our due diligence escalated the unforeseen impact introducing external verification would have on the My Accounts page. Augmenting this important customer services portal was outside of our project scope and though the sponsors were apprehensive to the fact that changes to the portal would have to be made they were enthusiastic that our research had revealed the need for changes.

We encouraged them to challenge their assumptions about the customers online experience and think more strategically about the My Accounts page redesign and to be aware that it would need to have a flexible design that could be updated as the enterprise services changed over time instead of being constructed in a way that prevented organic growth.


The application flow this team implemented was launched into production as designed and to my knowledge as of 2013 will have been in service to the membership over 5 years, protecting them and the business from fraud damages totalling over half a million dollars.