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I work for a bank and we want to redesign our online account opening process. We don't track analytics and we have limited insight into the user experience. We don't have the ability for people to open fake accounts for testing purposes, so we'll have to observe people as they open real accounts.

The user needs to input personal info (SSN, credit card numbers, payments, etc), so we need to respect their privacy. How do we respect user privacy while gathering good data? How do we put people at ease and encourage them to participate? Should we instead consider alternatives to direct user observations?

The plan is to observe users while sitting over their shoulder. I want to record the screen too but I don't want to make people uncomfortable. But that data would be very valuable so I'm not sure. My thought was to go to a bank branch and try to recruit customers when they mention to tellers that they'd like to open an account. Customers often go to the same tellers every time so they trust them. I'm hoping that the tellers can be our liaisons and put people at ease when they ask them to volunteer for research.

Thanks in advance!

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    What is the procedure you have in mind for conducting your research? Is 'direct observation' sitting over someone's shoulder, or using eye/mouse tracking software? Will they come to your offices or do it from home? Etc... (PS Good for you for embarking on this road!) – msanford Nov 16 '17 at 16:00
  • Sitting over someone's shoulder. I want to record the screen too but I don't want to make people uncomfortable. But that data would be very valuable so I'm not sure. My thought was to go to a bank branch and try to recruit customers when they mention to tellers that they'd like to open an account. Customers often go to the same tellers every time so they trust them. I'm hoping that the tellers can be our liaisons and put people at ease when they ask them to volunteer for research. – user50599 Nov 16 '17 at 16:09
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    @user50599 Your comment came through while I was posting my answer. Recording the screen while a user enters in SSN, bank information, etc. is very questionable. Could you provide some more detail regarding what you want to achieve from data collection? If there's an area of my answer you'd like clarified in context of your situation please let me know. – Alan Nov 16 '17 at 16:17
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    Yeah, recording the screen probably isn't possible for those reasons you mentioned. I want to capture videos of people using the software because UX is a new discipline at my company and my team (unfortunately) often does not trust my findings and recommendations. My main goal for this research effort is to understand user goals, concerns, and context for opening bank accounts. We currently lack information on all of those fundamental areas, and we only draw insight from secondary sources like subject matter experts. – user50599 Nov 16 '17 at 16:40
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For this scenario, if you truly can't rig up test accounts, I would suggest testing with high fidelity mockups/prototypes.

This could be as simple as taking screenshots on each page of the account opening process and printing them out on separate sheets of paper, then when you approach people at bank branch you can have them go through the process by "clicking" via poking on the paper and you handing them the next screen's screenshot.

For a more realistic experience you can rig up a powerpoint with specific click areas to simulate buttons that lead to certain slides to resemble screens. Or you can have a developer wire up basic functionality pages that users can click though but they can just enter "dummy data" into the private fields.

In the end people are not going to want to enter private data like SSNs in front of someone else, especially a "stranger" that approaches them at the bank, and even more so if they're recording it. Avoiding making them enter the private data altogether is a better alternative.

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User privacy is a very delicate and important aspect of software. This question likely requires more legal advice than UX advice.

However, here are my general UX thoughts regarding your situation:

  • Users must opt-in to have their data collected
  • Only collect anonymous metadata
  • Be up front about what you're collecting
  • Tell users how you'll use their data
  • Invest in security

Users must opt-in

It's important to establish a line of communication with the user about what you're doing. Don't sneak in data-collection policies into other agreements with the user, ask to collect their data in a clear way.

Only collect anonymous metadata

It is questionable from UX, legal, and ethical standpoints to mine personal financial data from your users (that is, data not necessary to the core service). Collect metadata about the user, and ensure it cannot be traced back to them.

Be up front about what you're collecting

If you want users to opt-in, let them know what you're collecting. This will give them peace of mind, otherwise they'll likely decline immediately.

Tell users how you'll use their data

This point doesn't always happen, as typically companies mine user data to serve them more targeted ads or services to increase revenue. Give users some reasons why collecting their data will benefit them, such as improving the service.

Invest in security

None of the above matters if a hacker can access your user metadata-base. If your cyber security and data storage teams aren't prepared, bring on help who can. As an online bank I hope I'm safe to assume you have qualified security talent.


Examples

Here is a basic example for your use case:

Help us make online banking better

Improve OnlineBank by providing us with anonymous data, such as banking frequency, types of banking actions, or other data listed here. This data is stored securely in an encrypted server, and is only used to help streamline the service for you.

Apple is a leader of user privacy among large tech companies. They achieve this using the methods I've listed here, for example:

enter image description here

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This sounds like a waspsnest of issues. Even if you can 'make people comfortable' it's still a breach of privacy. Don't mess with privacy, especially not such sensitive info.

Ask yourself what you want to test and why you cannot do that with test accounts. Because it sounds like what you want to test is very doable with mockups made of screenshots and a couple of text fields and buttons. Then you give your test group a wallet filled with fake info and have them fill that in.

It costs some efforts, sure, but it's less effort than running everything past legal, trying to convince users to publicly show their info, and quadruplechecking all your safetynets. And it's much easier to reshuffle the interface for improvements because it's not a tightly knit system.

  • This was my suggestion too. I got pushback because of the amount of time it would take to build a prototype of the existing system. As it is, leadership thinks testing what we have is a waste of time because it has obvious flaws. They think we should start from scratch. The problem with that is I know very little about banking and users' financial goals so researching the existing system seems like a good step. But it seems impossible because of privacy issues and no backing from leadership. – user50599 Nov 16 '17 at 19:52

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