How Capital One designs for customers first

4 min read
Will Fanguy
  •  Jul 19, 2018
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Capital One stands out among financial services companies when it comes to design. They are dedicated to innovation and good design, and it shows in their products. As a company, their focus is on creating products that meet or exceed the needs of their customers.

Capital One even has dedicated research labs (called Capital One Labs) that operate like a start-up accelerator within the company, allowing for growth and transformation without all the red tape. The company’s research, testing, and emphasis on user feedback helps them bring to market best-in-class products that set the bar high not only for fintech companies, but for all companies in general.

“Capital One’s high designer/developer ratio allows teams to synthesize and incorporate feedback into their prototypes quickly.”

Related: The secret to connecting designers and developers

Research, research, research

When your focus is on research and feedback, it’s essential to create and nurture an environment that incorporates those learnings into the product design process quickly and efficiently. One way Capital One does this is by using not only trained UX researchers, but by also backing them up with Design Strategists (who facilitate interactions with non-designers) and research support (who recruit users).

After the initial research phase, sketches and rough prototypes come next, followed by a Lab study. This gives the teams a chance to get ideas in front of users and design iteratively. The number of rounds before going into production depends on how much time there is before release, and it’s almost never more than 3 rounds before something is shipped.

This holistic process is made most effective by utilizing a high designer/developer ratio on the Labs teams. This allows the teams to synthesize and incorporate feedback into their prototypes quickly. This dedication to design thinking, alongside the design component in every new employee’s onboarding, has helped to make design a central component in the Capital One mindset.

How to design like Capital One

Get buy-in from the top. Capital One has a VP Head of Design who reports to the C-level, so design teams in the company have a seat at the table for executive-level decisions.

Related: Getting executive buy-in for your design system

Plan early. After a project kicks off, the teams at Capital One jump into sprint planning and story feature definition. This round of research and knowledge gathering sets the stage for more open-ended feedback down the road. It also lays a solid foundation upon which a project can grow and prosper.

Rely on the best tools for YOU. There’s no mandate on a designer’s tool stack at Capital One. As long as the tools you choose to use allow you to do your best work, it’s all fair game.

The Design Genome Project, which explores the DNA of the world’s best design teams, gives you concrete examples of what drives the success of the companies you admire and helps you build a body of evidence for investing in design. Check it out!

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