Design for Oral Financial Inclusion: Briefing Note #2

Illiterate and semi-literate (‘oral’) individuals are typically unbanked and may live in villages and other cultural contexts in which the motivations to acquire the numeracy skills that are characteristic of banked consumers, can be assumed. This paper analyzes the behavioural and motivational context of oral users of digital financial services (DFS) and seeks design solutions that would support DFS for oral smartphone users. Recently CGAP suggested ‘an initial set of 21 principles’ for interface designs for mobile financial services. This blog seeks to extend CGAP’s initiative into the oral segment. On this open frontier, there remains an enormous scope for further innovation. Many points are still under debate. At this first blush of dawn of an era of nearly universal smartphone access, designs in mobile money remain far too focused on user experience (UX) and voice capabilities and pay far too little attention to basic usability and graphic capabilities.

Key advice for designs of oral user-interfaces for smartphones include the following:

Learn to recognize literate design elements. Voice is useful, but it’s no ‘magic bullet’. Code for usability first. Test numeracy; don’t assume it. Keep images and icons declarative, uncluttered and to-the-point. Avoid interface separation wherever possible. Orality affords both abstraction and hierarchy – just not in literate formats. Download here.