Meet our writer
Former Product Design Manager, Betterment
Crys Moore is a former Product Design Manager at Betterment and works on the Betterment for Advisors business. They are passionate about Inclusive design, democratizing finance, and smashing the heteropatriarchy. They are also an avid rock climber and total training nerd.
Articles by Crys Moore
Case Study: Preferred name
Part II in a series that explores inclusive design at Betterment. This post focuses on a ...Case Study: Preferred name Part II in a series that explores inclusive design at Betterment. This post focuses on a case study on non-binary and transgender considerations in Fintech. In the financial world, asking a customer for their legal name in order to sign up or continue with a service is about as standard and default as it comes. But what about people whose legal name doesn’t fit with who they are? To take it a step further, what about folks who experience a form of trauma when they hear their legal names? For transgender and non-binary folk, there is nothing standard or default about the name given to them at birth. To address this, we’ve created space for a Preferred name, an off-the-side-of-our-desks project that gives customers the ability to input another name besides their legal name. The problem How can we navigate the legal complexities of finance, and create an experience that stops deadnaming our trans and non-binary customers? For this project, I worked with engineer Jesse Harrelson. Jesse and I decided the best place to start this project was to give customers the ability to enter their name in-app from the settings page. We knew the long-term goal was to capture this information during the sign-up process, but navigating the stakeholder complexities for such a contested funnel was too big a chunk to bite off for a proof of concept. Our solution For our proof of concept, we added UI to the settings page that would allow people to set their preferred name. Fairly straightforward, we knew we needed a button to launch a flow that would capture the customer's preferred name. We’d save that name, provide some education around when and why we had to use their legal name, and begin addressing them correctly in the app as well as in emails. Customer feedback showed us that we had made the wrong choice in using the word 'preferred' to describe the name by which a user would like to be addressed. That approach normalized the concept of a legal name and minimized the significance of the names users would enter into this feature. So we updated the copy to refer not to the user's 'preferred' name, but simply to their name. We chose a tone in our copy that was conversational and human, but maintained the respect and authority a finance app needs. The last problem to solve in the release of this feature was to decide how to display the legal name. We put our trans and non-binary customers first by choosing UI that gave the user an option of viewing their legal name—or not. A toggle was a natural choice to empower the customer. Learnings A trans or non-binary person’s name isn’t preferred; it’s their name. Period. This project is a quintessential example of what Project Inkblot calls “Targeted Universalism.” Jesse wrote a great blog post expanding on this, but essentially it is the idea that if you design your solution around your most adversely impacted persona, all of your users will reap the benefits. Think #blacklivesmatter. The sentiment behind this is also foundational in Microsoft’s Inclusive Design fundamentals. “Solve for one, extend to many. ” — Kat Holmes We were able to apply this principle directly by prioritizing the needs of our trans and non-binary customers. This mission helped us overcome fears that we would confuse cisgendered customers or that our legal team would oppose the feature (in fact, they were quite supportive). This core tenet expressed itself in our copy choices, product development process, and interface element choices. With the internal and external launches, we were delightfully surprised with how excited all of our customers were. The success of the project propelled the addition of preferred name into our signup flow, making Betterment’s product a little more inclusive. “By using design to make our customers feel seen, we create deep emotional engagement. When people feel a sense of belonging, they’ll give you repeat business and they’ll tell others.” — Aaron Walter, Designing for Emotion
Trans Inclusive Design: Gender UI
Part I in a series that explores inclusive design at Betterment. This post focuses on ...Trans Inclusive Design: Gender UI Part I in a series that explores inclusive design at Betterment. This post focuses on making the case to remove the ‘gender question’ as well as some takeaways for building inclusive products. At Betterment, we’re embarking on a journey to discover what designing products that are truly for everyone might look like. We’re learning lessons: some we knew, some we didn’t. We learned how complicated asking a customer’s name can be. How to display data in a way for folks with different visual abilities, and what questions we should be asking in our product development processes. My name is Crys, I’m a product design manager on Betterment for Advisors. I’m also a non-binary person with a penchant for the radical and unconventional. Here’s a walk through of one of my first ‘inclusive design’ successes and my learnings along the way. TL;DR - Gender: Never, ever, ever, a radio button. It will create friction in your flows and it's exclusionary. But if you’re interested in getting into the weeds with me of how fraught asking this question is, read on! First, a thought experiment. When you put this in your experience, what are you really asking? The answer is probably more complicated than you think. Gender is not binary, nor is it limited to male and female. Male and Female are social constructions of masculinity and femininity and can vary across cultures. So when you ask whether or not your customer is male or female, are you asking about whether or not they are masculine or feminine? Is there an implied meaning for how that individual performs that role and is that important to your organization? What might that look like if our radios had that context? That’s maybe not what you are looking for in your original question. You probably are thinking in terms of their biological sex. Male and female makes sense in that context right? Nope. Sex is not binary nor is it limited to male and female. Biological sex has to do with genetics and chromosomes. I won’t get into the specifics, as I am not a geneticist, but sex can vary from what we typically think of as XX and XY, into other options such as X (Turner’s syndrome), XXY (Klinefelter), XYY, and XXXY. There are even more chromosomal variations beyond these six. So should our question look something more like: This would definitely create friction in our flows. Ok, so hyperbole and facetiousness aside, how do we move forward? How do we begin to challenge what’s likely common practice for most businesses? Ask questions. Ask yourself, your stakeholders, their stakeholders, and a few more people why you need to ask a customer their gender. Eventually, you will find the answer. Once you know the answer, you can solve the problem. Early in my career, I was told to ask a ton of questions as part of my design process. My last design mentor told me to ask five questions in response to a point or feature. Up to this point, I’d tried that out, but found it really uncomfortable. I didn’t want to seem like a trouble maker or hard to get along with. And also, they were way more knowledgeable than me, so I’d better trust them. Right? At Betterment, we asked that frought gender question to anyone signing up for an account. I work on the Betterment for Advisors business line, the platform that gives financial advisors the ability to manage their clients’ money using Betterment. Here, we allow advisors to set up accounts for their clients, to streamline the sign up process for their clients. Our intent here was to reduce friction for our clients, but the actual impact meant that our advisors were put in the awkward position of identifying someone’s gender—possibly misgendering them. So I started asking around about why we ask this question. I asked product folk, other designers, engineers, my General Manager and my VP. I became what felt like a squeaky wheel, because I was passionate about it. I’m a nonbinary person myself and had seen the feedback from our trans and nonbinary customers who couldn’t advance past this part of the flow. This question created so much friction for them, they dropped out and went to another business. After digging, we did have a reason for wanting to know this information. Our human advice team has intentions of using demographic data to personalize the algorithms that give financial advice, but we weren’t there yet. This meant we were alienating potential customers without even having a business benefit for it. Ultimately, we removed the gender question and tabled it until we knew what exactly we wanted to do with it. Seeing the PR that removed that 11 lines of code might have been the highlight of my career as a product designer. But what if you really really need to ask a customer’s gender or sex? This question has already been answered several times over. My favorite response is from the “UX Collective” blog. This small feature was my first exploration into inclusive design. It has been an Aha! moment for me, unifying my passions for craft and social justice. I’ve learned from this, and subsequent projects that there are repeatable moments or questions you can ask yourself as a designer in order to build inclusive products. I’ve read a lot about inclusive design, but it's only in retrospect where I can see those principles put into place. Here’s how you can be more intentional about inclusive design from the start: Think critically. Regardless of the intent, what’s the actual impact and on whom? To take it a step further, what’s the worst case scenario? (Credit: Project Inkblot) Ask questions. I belaboured this point above, but asking questions is the sign of a healthy culture and be skeptical of quick or vague answers. Get specific. Making your questions specific will help with the first two suggestions. It will also move you toward articulating the problem with clarity and persuasiveness. Humans have a tendency to take mental shortcuts. It's been an enormous survival strategy but it can very often lead to bias. Slow down. As a startup, we move quickly to bring value and viability to the business. Take a pause, make some space for questions, and be open to what you may uncover. Solve for one, extend to many. (Credit: Microsoft Inclusive Design) By considering the experience of your most adversely impacted customer, all of your users will reap the benefits. By taking out gender radios to allow non-binary folks to sign up for our product, we reduced friction for the rest of our customers. These are just a few things that I’ve started to incorporate into my design practice. I hope that you find them helpful or a place for you to start thinking about your own work through this lens. If you are on this journey with us, keep trudging friends! We’d love to hear from you. If you are new in inclusive and equitable design, then a warm welcome and a word of encouragement: Be kind to yourself and others. Do your best and start somewhere. Just make sure you start!