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Business News/ Opinion / Online-views/  BHIM: Keeping things simple

BHIM: Keeping things simple

Good design is born of a deep understanding of the user's world; BHIM app scores a triumph over UPI apps launched by many banks in matters of design

BHIM’s screen shows icons to let users send money, receive money and scan a QR (quick response) code to pay. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/MintPremium
BHIM’s screen shows icons to let users send money, receive money and scan a QR (quick response) code to pay. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Alan George Lafley, a former chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble Co., once famously said, “Your products run for election every day and good design is critical to winning the campaign."

Good design is born of a deep understanding of the user’s world, and creating a product that helps solve a burning problem. User interface design of the best apps lets onboarding of users easily, allowing regular users to finish key activities with ease.

In this context, the recently-launched BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app scores over the UPI (Unified Payments Interface) apps launched by various banks. The UPI platform was launched a few months ago to seamlessly transfer money between accounts at 30 leading banks in India. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) had designed UPI as a common backend platform, with each bank working on its own user interface.

Despite the marketing push for UPI post-demonetization, the user interfaces of various apps were too complex for everyday use. These apps tried to help users who had some familiarity with mobile banking, but were difficult for new users to try out. I once helped a taxi driver install the SBI Buddy app on his phone, and realized that the interface and terminology were confusing for first-time mobile banking users. With BHIM, NPCI has designed the product with this segment in mind. The app is currently available on Android, with the iOS version in the pipeline. The interface is simple and learnable, and that is BHIM’s biggest advantage.

BHIM keeps user onboarding simple. Users choose a language (currently English or Hindi, with other languages coming soon) and set a 4-digit PIN (personal identification number). The app sends an SMS for verification, and when done, displays a list of bank accounts that are supported. Users can pick an account for which they have enabled mobile banking, and BHIM automatically configures that as the account for receiving money. The system uses the mobile number as the default ID, though users can create an ID of <username>@upi if they wish to.

This flow resembles the onboarding of apps like WhatsApp that they’re likely to be familiar with, meaning there’s a lesser chance of drop-offs during set-up.

Good design also lets people start and finish key activities quickly. BHIM’s screen shows icons to let users send money, receive money and scan a QR (quick response) code to pay. Users can type in a mobile number and do a look-up within the app to pay someone. If the recipient also has BHIM installed, BHIM pulls up details and allows users to send money in a couple of taps. Alternatively, users can scan a QR code within the app to make payments.

Interestingly, BHIM allows generation of QR codes for specific amounts within the app. These can be printed and pasted or displayed. When users scan this code, the account details and transfer amount are both pre-filled, allowing for one-tap payment. This can have interesting applications in retail stores, allowing users to self-checkout items if required.

There’s much more that BHIM allows. Users can check bank account balance and see transaction history. To replace cash-on-delivery use cases, BHIM allows users to send a collect request with an expiry date—recipients can authorize payment after receiving their purchased items.

Users can change the selected bank account, but this option is hidden under a menu, as the target segment is unlikely to have multiple bank accounts.

BHIM does have its points of friction. Users need to enter the UPI PIN for their banking app before BHIM allows sending money from the account. This may be different from the BHIM PIN, potentially confusing users.

In my usage, I found that the BHIM app occasionally hangs when starting up, and is often slow or unresponsive. It’s also strange that there is no easy ‘sign out’ option and that hitting the back button on the home screen minimizes it instead of logging the user off. This is a security concern, as most users will not realize that they are still signed in. I hope these issues are sorted out in coming versions.

Given that BHIM targets first-time digital payment users, the simplicity of the design is its standout feature. It does what it aims to do, and keeps things simple. For a technology product, that’s a refreshing approach to take.

Shrinath V. is a Google Developer Expert (Product Strategy) and a design thinking consultant with Auspin Ventures.

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Published: 16 Jan 2017, 12:43 AM IST
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