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Dissecting The App: Revolut

The fintech company's app is marketed as being the one app for all things money. But what does that mean in practice?


Revolut is one of the fastest-growing fintech start-ups in recent years, whose app is currently being used by roughly 15 million people. In this episode of Dissecting The App, I'll be taking a closer look at what Revolut has to offer, within the context of its proprietary app.

When browsing their website, you'd be hard-pressed to think of anything Revolut doesn't do. I discovered they offers services related to:

  • Your everyday needs, such as easy spending and budgeting
  • Travel, such as hassle-free spending abroad at supposedly excellent exchange rates
  • Investing, such as creating a portfolio and managing your cryptocurrencies
  • On top of all of this Revolut promises to be faster, safer and simpler than your traditional bank.

Jack of all trades...

Sounds like a lot? That's because it is. Revolut’s website for instance is basically one, long enumeration of benefits, but with little to no context attached. You need a really focused value proposition to make a feature list of this size make sense. Two core questions in this regard are:

  • What problem are you solving, exactly?
  • Who are you solving it for, and why?

Revolut's somewhat unfocused value proposition made me hesitant to try out their services, as I didn't really grasp what it could do for me personally, nor did I really figure out if they were targeting someone like myself to begin with.

Home page of the Revolut website

So I started talking to a friend of mine, who I knew to be a Revolut user. He said he mainly used it for more secure online spending and for covering travel expenses without the fees. He also explained that, although you can use the Revolut card within the VISA and MasterCard network, it also doubles as a debit card linked to an online account. So you get the flexibility of credit card spending, with the limitations of a debit card. Kind of like a prepaid credit card. This is something I wasn't aware of initially, which is a bit concerning.

Anyway, I’m always looking for new ways to manage my splurg..., I mean, spending. Revolut's offering sounded like a match, as it would allow me to take more control over my online shopping behavior and it would cut my credit card costs. I decided to download the app, ordered a card and took it for a spin.

Master of none?

When I landed on the home screen, I got stun-locked pretty much instantly. I needed more than both hands to count all of the call-to-actions; multiple elements were demanding my attention and I couldn't always figure out what they meant without further exploration.

The home screen (left) and a separate hub where all the
features are just thrown together (right)

The app also lacks a clear head navigation, so I was a bit lost as to what to do next. In the process of trying to make sense of the home screen by exploring all the options, I even forgot what I came to do in the first place. This is a well-known phenomenon: if there’s too many items calling for attention or too many options presented, the user can freeze and end up not taking action at all. This is what's called the paradox of choice.

After a while, I even felt as if Revolut wasn't for me. The overly complex UX, icons that didn't really make sense, jargon I'm not familiar with... kind of made me feel unwelcome, like the app is only meant for a select club of people that speak the “Revolut language”.

Snapchat for example, is very aware of this technique. They actually make their UI/UX more complex on purpose to deter (older) adults, and maintain a more concentrated target audience of young adults and teens. They are more inclined to explore, because attaining the status of “power user” is more desirable among their peers.

Missing mental models

Going back to Revolut, its vast feature list also feels detrimental to its efficiency. As in, it makes it harder for users to complete even basic banking tasks. For example, I have to go through six (!) different screens to complete a simple wire transfer. Something I can do in three using my traditional banking app.

A very unfamiliar-feeling UX when doing simple wire transfers.

The problem is also that Revolut doesn’t exactly embrace mental models already present in our brains, making the whole experience feel less intuitive as a whole. Mental models are a set of beliefs and ideas that we consciously or unconsciously form based on our experiences. They guide our thoughts and behaviors and help us understand life. They’re basically thinking tools—shortcuts for reasoning.

Because of these mental models, we have certain expectations of how the world around us works. For example, we all know that doors are usually rectangular planes that can be opened by turning the knob. This standardization makes it easier for us to use doors we haven't seen before. The same goes for the digital world: if we've used online banking services before, we'll expect future ones to behave similarly.

It pays to know (through user research!) what mental models are present in your target audience so you can either work with them, or consciously change them for the better. Otherwise, you're needlessly risking new customers to churn.

What Revolut does get right

One thing that pleasantly surprised me though, was how Revolut handles notifications. You get a contextual notification when the app detects you’re in a different country, when you’ve made a payment, when a payment is refused or received and how much you’ve spent in total that day... If anything of significance happens to your account, you'll know. This overt transparency is great, and imparts users with trust.

Because this is something that actually goes above and beyond what you would normally expect, Revolut succeeds in delighting the user on this front. As you may remember from my previous post, notifications are a tricky thing to get right. Good job!

My recommendations

While there's nothing functionally or intrinsically wrong with the Revolut experience, they would very much benefit from getting to know their users a little better. Employing better storytelling on the Revolut website would be a a great place to start, highlighting what problems they are solving for whom and why. Revolut's services (or any company's services for that matter) should be directly correlated to real-world struggles and challenges their customers face in their daily lives.

With regards to the app, the cognitive load needs to be lowered drastically. The most-used (banking) features should be easily accessible at all times. My main piece of advice, would be to include a short onboarding questionnaire when users open the app for the first time. This will accomplish a couple things:

  • Encouraging loyalty by personalizing the experience from the get-go
  • Lowering the cognitive load by de-cluttering the home screen
  • Boost inclusivity by hiding features that are irrelevant to the user

Simply put, if I’m someone who's focused on creating financial freedom through investment banking and crypto trading, my core actions will be different from those of someone who’s focused on location freedom & traveling. And if I’m looking to get a better grip on my day to day spending, I’ll want to focus on even different actions.

Also, depending on the user, certain features can be gradually revealed once it’s clear the user keeps coming back and could benefit from more “power user” functionality. Another recommendation, albeit mostly just nice-to-have, would be to actively onboard users. A progressive onboarding allows users to get to know the app’s main features as they navigate, so they can learn by doing.

In general, I reckon it would pay to invest a little more in market research & user validation for each subset of their target audience. While I have been a negative Nancy for the majority of this review, it doesn't take much to effectively fix everything I just mentioned. With some UI tweaks and a more data-driven approach to UX, the overall user experience could be drastically improved.

I don't see why Revolut couldn't become your go-to for everything related to money, but feature-bombing your users is rarely a good idea.

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