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Using Design Practices To Build Better Personal Finance Apps

Personal finance app design - illustration by Pooja Jadav

For many people, their experience with budgeting began with pen and paper or Microsoft Excel. For some, it’s where the journey ended. Others start by using tools that designers made specifically for the purpose — apps for managing personal finances. The thing is, many if not the majority of people find managing their money a boring and even intimidating task. It’s a losing battle though because budgeting really does give you more opportunities if you find the right tool. Personal finance apps have the power to make budgeting seem less dreary and even make it enjoyable. The trick is to design a financial product that would almost not look and feel like one. Let’s look at what techniques can be used in the field of personal finance app design to achieve this effect.
There’s more information on developing a money management solution in our personal financial application development guide, be sure to check it out too.

UX/UI design company for finance app

Personal Financial Assistant App by Shakuro

Why design is important for financial apps

There is the classic Stanford Web Credibility Project — a study conducted by the team from Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab that wanted to find out what factors make people believe in the content they see on the web, and what motivates and influences them. One of the most important ones turned out to be the design with 46.1% of respondents highlighting its influence on their decisions. And guess what, with regard to the different industries, it looks like the design is most important in finance. 

Financial apps - Importance of design


Apps weren’t yet a thing back then but the basic principle remains. Same as with healthcare applications, the primary mission of a designer is to instill a sense of trust and credibility into the financial product, keep its look professional yet make it simple and approachable. 
In 2015, the Robinhood stock trading and investing App became the first fintech product to be awarded the prestigious Apple Design Award. The company became the fastest-growing brokerage of all time after having staged a revolution in the world of stock trading making it unprecedentedly friendly, easy to understand, and even pretty. A beautiful and modern design was part of their strategy:

Robinhood app design


Let’s look at what techniques they used and what else is there that can be of service based on our experience as a mobile app development company.

How to design personal finance apps: General principles to keep in mind

What factors do users take into account when deciding on which app for personal finance to use and which not to? Actually, there are a lot of them from how clear the onboarding is to the App Store rating and to what extent the developers are open to feedback. The main ones are: 

  • Ease of data entry
  • Accounting flexibility
  • Joint/family accounting feature
  • Debt control
  • How detailed the reports are and how they look
  • Availability of backup
  • Synchronization between different devices.

You can provide or highlight their advantages with a thought-out finance mobile app design.

Money management app design by Shakuro

Money Management App by Shakuro

Keeping the functionality rich (without overdoing it)

There’s got to be a reason for everything. For any product to be successful, it has to have a substantial user base. For that, it has to offer something that addresses a user’s pain points and makes their lives considerably better. In the case of budgeting apps, these are usually synchronization with banks, adding transactions from SMS and push notifications, QR code scan, analytics for expenses, income, budget, and spending trends. Add the ability to make separate reports: by category, spending money, savings, spending limit.
As you can see, there’s a lot you can do, though the listed above seems to represent today’s bare minimum. What functions to choose and how to make your solution unique depends on your target audience and the results of your market research where you study users’ needs, wants, and preferences and your competitors. For example, the feature of the money management solution Trim is the ability to save your money by negotiating bills and getting rid of useless subscriptions. If your target audience is “busy bees” who never have time for anything, consider making your app even more straightforward and quick to use than the ones by your competitors.
It might be a preferable option to make the functionality of your app rich and continue to develop it in the future. Even though a rare person is going to use all functions at once, the important thing is that if the need arises in the future, they wouldn’t have to start over with another finance management app.

Mobile app design for a finance app - Functionality

Finance App #Exploration by Rizal Ramadhan

Focusing on security

Security is an aspect that is omnipresent at every stage of personal finance app development. 
You’ll have to bombard your users with a number of personal questions and ask them for the ability to access some very sensitive information, so pay attention to how you are going to do it and what you are going to do with this data afterward. There’s more on the point of financial app security measures in this article.
One other thing is that it’s not only vital to provide the quality level of safety from a technical standpoint and show to users that you did. With design. Let them know that you have made all the necessary precautions and that you care, otherwise, they wouldn’t even know it in the first place. 
For example, if there are additional log-ins required that may hamper the smoothness of the process, tell users why things are as they are and how it’s going to help them feel safer and more secure in the future. Provide notifications about every important event so that they wouldn’t feel left alone. Ease their anxiety. With the right respectful copy that shows the advantages, you can turn anything in your favor.

Well designed finance app - Security

Monifin 🚨| Finance Anti-fraud application by Alexander Plyuto

Maintaining simplicity and actionability

Detail overload is a classic scourge of financial products and it’s what people at Robinhood got rid of to make their app closer to the greater number of people. Either way, there is going to be a lot of data in your app, it’s a feature of any financial product, it’s inevitable. The point is in how you arrange it. It’s very easy to create something packed with data to the brim and thus succumb to the usual pitfalls and make users feel uncomfortable. It also doesn’t help that it’s a mobile screen that is at your disposal. A lush dashboard that looks great in a web interface is totally off the mark on a mobile screen.
A well-designed finance app looks minimalistic and straightforward, making its user feel like everything is OK, that finance management is simple too. Complexity is exactly what people try to avoid in their day-to-day routines. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that there’s a study that confirms that the more complex a financial app is, the less satisfied its users are. Minimalism though is not (only) about flat colors and shapes, it’s more about how you structure information in your product. Best designed finance apps have everything at the tips of your fingers.

Stock trading app design by Shakuro

Stock Trading App Design by Eugene Machiavelli for Shakuro

Another aspect of simplicity is the ability to master the language. 

Personal finance terms

These are not the terms people usually use on a daily basis.

Financial lingo
Of course, there’s a reason why this jargon exists — to provide a common ground and mutual understanding. However, people who feel themselves free with this kind of language are going to be just a fraction of your audience. The rest are ordinary people who often can’t make sense of the specific data you are trying to provide them with. The best scenario is when your app is clear for everyone without downplaying. Ideally, create your own language based on user research.
Make everything meaningful. If your personal budget app can do a thing, even a complex one, there’s no value in it until it means something to a user. What’s more, apart from being simple and meaningful, the budgeting app you develop would look better if it presents data in actionable formats, i.e. telling users what to do next.
Successful financial projects guide their users from beginning to the end. It’s advisable to provide helpful and informative onboarding while developing a personal finance app and even a training session. Think about video games and how everything seems complicated at first whereas later you can’t even imagine what was so complex before.

Personal finance app - Meaningful design

Notification + First investment screen by Prakhar Neel Sharma

Combating the lack of motivation

Once again, managing finances is probably the dullest and boring everyday aspect of them all. People aren’t usually excited about these things and may have trouble with their motivation. It’s very common to lose interest in an app after the initial burst of activity. That’s why designers have a task to make their product look more welcoming and the user experience more enjoyable and rewarding to give users the reason to come back. 
A part of mobile app design for a finance app is using the power of positive reinforcement. Tell people when a decision they made helped them to save money, make them feel proud. Try to turn it into a new healthy habit that people would stick to with the help of your application as a helper and guide. People prefer to use things that make them feel great about themselves.
Add goals and objectives. Today’s culture is all goal-oriented, we are used to them from childhood and continue to set them for ourselves later in life and receive positive emotions upon their achievement. Analyzing the spendings is just the beginning. Add the goal-setting option in your app, which is one of the most coveted features of a money management app. 

Money management app design

Savings app by Andrew Tanchuk

You can even provide a sense of achievement with the help of animations that have become a standard mobile app design element in recent years.

Finance app design - Motivation

Finance App Animation by Ilya Sablin

At the same time, it’s better not to present a quite serious thing that finances are too lightly. Don’t turn something that people’s lives depend on into a game. Users should remain conscious about what exactly they do with their money, what the consequences might be, and how it can affect them.

Choosing the right colors

Since these are financial apps we are talking about, they are sure to contain a lot of data elements. Hence, financial app developers prefer to use a deep color palette to convey important actions and information by associating them with color hierarchy. For example, using a variety of different shades of color you can show what data is of more importance or is a part of another entity. Different colors mark the nature of the message, for instance, applying orange for warnings and blue for reminders. 
Colors can say a lot about your product without you even knowing it. It’s habitual to use the following colors for financial products:

  • Green — symbolizes growth and prosperity (and is associated with money in general).
  • Blue — is regarded as soothing, professional, credible.
  • White — neutral, light, and preferable for the background, though dark themes are still the rage and you might want to provide it as well.
Budgeting app design - Choice of colors

Budget Expenses by Alex Arutuynov

You can add a bright color to make the subject of finance more exciting and avoid making your app look bland. 

Finance app design - Colors

Spender – Personal Finance Manager by Nikolay Apostol

Gradients are still very popular. UI/UX designers use them because of their ability to add more depth to flat design and heighten the level of creativity and appeal. The abundance of techniques and richness of UI will psychologically make users want to explore your app more.

Customizing and personalizing

Customization means letting users make use of your app the way they would prefer to. Customize the budget details, limits, field names, etc. Judging by the personal finance app reviews, users appreciate it when apart from having predefined categories, an app lets them add their own and customize them in some way, for example, by assigning icons. They also find it very convenient when they are able to create categories and subcategories of expenses and incomes by themselves and build a logical hierarchy between them.

Finance mobile app design - Light/Dark

Set your budget home (version 1) by Prakhar Neel Sharma

Among the changes that were brought to us by the pandemic are the newly-found popularity of personalization and re-imagining the client-service relationship. With people flocking to digital products, there’s more at stake now and everything counts in the pursuit of making your product more attractive than others. KPMG’s Customer Experience In The New Reality report highlights personalization and empathy as two key pillars in engaging customers post-COVID.
Some companies already put personalization at the center of their business models. After all, it’s personal finance. A personalized experience is enabled by AI, machine learning, and other automation options. Some of the aggregators like Credit Karma are taking things to the next level by offering actionable insights on how to improve your credit score.


Financial fitness starts with being aware of how much you have and how much you (are going to) spend. Ability to handle and understand financial flow is paramount for any person who wants to keep and multiply. However, discipline and diligence are not so easily found nowadays. The good news is that budgeting apps can do it for you with relative ease.
Design trends change over time so be ready to use the emerging ones in the future to keep your product’s quality. Although there are things that are always welcome in apps for finance management: intuitive interface, flexible settings, and decent functionality of the free version. 
We can help you create a personal finance app like this. Contact us now.

Further reads on personal finance app development:

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Written by Kate Shokurova

January 01, 2021

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