Portfolio: banking information architecture

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One of the bank’s product design teams needed to build a multi-product signup flow for multiple people—up to four people at once, in fact.

I leaned in temporarily from another team to see if content design could contribute to the solution.



  • Time frame: 2 weeks
  • Components: existing
  • Format: application

The challenge

Opening multiple accounts for one person is simple… but what about up to four at once?

That’s where the design team struggled with its latest project: an in-branch, advisor-led flow that accommodated up to 4 customers at once.

They grappled with questions like these:

  • Which products are eligible for promotional offers (and which kind of offer)?
  • How do we organize account types, and what’s the most important information to display for each one?
  • How do we assign multiple users to each account, and with varying levels of permissions?
  • How do we show compact views of banking snapshots for up to 4 users at once?
  • How do we figure out where to apply discounts for special customer demographic groups?

After a few working sessions it became clear that we lacked a clear mental model for how everything fit together. In fact, previous feedback showed that around half of employees didn’t have a clear mental model for this, either.

Two critical pieces of information surfaced in those working sessions:

  1. Customer lifetime value: data from the Product Owner stated that product adoption rates of 2 or 3 accounts per person would increase customer lifletime value exponentially—perhaps even for life.
  2. Incorrect mental model: the website’s mental model of “one price for one account” was wrong. Customers could actually open multiple accounts for free after the first one.

That’s when I realized we could improve the performance of this product significantly…. if we could communicate the idea of free accounts more effectively (and ethically).

I set out to answer foundational questions that could translate to clearer solutions in the bank’s in-branch UI.

  • What is the correct mental model for how these “free accounts,” and how does that work with customer billing?
  • How do we get users to sign up for more accounts without resorting to unethical patterns?
  • How do we assign multiple users to multiple accounts at once?
  • How do users, accounts, and special “welcome offers” fit together?

This is what I came up with.

The process

Research deep dive

I connected with business analysts and subject matter experts to get their insights, then I had them point me at the official documentation. It contained surprises even they didn’t know.

Entities, categories, and attributes

I took a page from the object-oriented UX playbook to consciously separate everything into entities, their categories, and their attributes.

Curveball: business architecture was different

I found a second set of rules for business acounts. It didn’t concern the team’s immediate project, but I knew it would be in the future—so I took a beat to get this sorted.

Before and after: personal accounts

I pieced together information architecture that actually reflected its core product. What did this change?

  1. We could assign a price to a plan, not an account. This lets us communicate the idea of signing up for multiple accounts—free of charge.
  2. We could map diferent types users, their status, and their account permissions.
  3. This let us assign and differentiate special welcome offers at the account level, matching business requirements.

Most importantly: all of this set up branch representatives for success in gathering more account sign-ups, driving the product adoption rate.

Before and after: business accounts

The branch sales software rolled all of these entitites into one “unit”:

  • Acount
  • Feature(s)
  • Internal platform
  • Currency (CAD or USD)
  • Monthly fee
  • Transactions

The new information architecture breaks apart that unit into manageable data that can be managed through a CMS (if needed) and represented accurately in the UI.

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