top of page


I worked on revamping USAA's banking app, and specifically, creating a fresh new look for their visual interactive voice response (IVR) system.

Asset 66.png

The story

When I worked as a UX/UI and writing contractor, I spent a Summer working with The Social Client on various of their projects in Miami, Florida. The Social Client is a smaller company inside of Sitel, a contact center corporation that manages customer service centers for clients around the world. They are in charge of training and deploying many of the customer service agents people interact with on a daily basis. 

One of their clients at the time was USAA, one of the largest banks in the United States that serves members and family members of active and retired military personnel of the United States Army Force. Widely considered a bank with the best customer service for members, that year they were looking into implementing new technology to better serve their customers.


Their goal was to implement a technology that would 1) simplify the process for customers to fulfil the needs they would call in for and 2) reduce customer service costs for the company. 

The problem

USAA offers a suite of services to its customers, including home and auto insurance. Auto claims are one of the most robust services they offer– because of this, it's also one of the main reasons customers call in for help. A typical use case for this would be if a USAA customer finds themselves in a car accident and needs to call in to find out what to do next.

Customers would often complain of having to repeat information as they were passed from customer service agent to agent, trying to fulfil the service they need. The bank wanted to find a way to streamline these types of calls– which they already had a robust protocol for– and help customers get the help they need more quickly and conveniently. That's where the Visual IVR comes in.

Visual IVR technology acts as an aid to customer service agents– it's an interface that offers customers the same services they would when calling into customer service in a visual way. Because this technology was so new, as UX/UI designers, we had to consider the audience that would likely be interacting with it, and come up with clever ways to design an interface that would easily guide users to their desired result. 

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 11.25.51.png

The audience

To limit and define the scope, USAA identified that the use case that resulted in most calls to customer service, while also leading to most misroutes, were customers calling in to report an auto claim that required no medical attention. 

We designed this experience with users who may find themselves in this type or scenario, and with the help of USAA, crafted several user personas. USAA is a bank that caters primarily to families and to older retired service members– both types of users that could potentially find themselves needing to file an auto claim. To start, we designed for only Android users, with plans to eventually expand this product to iOS users.

Persona #2.jpg

The team & role

I came into the project about halfway through as the primary UI designer, working with Melany, the main UX designer. We worked alongside several digital strategists and technical staff to define goals and parameters. At the end of the project, The Social Client presented our work to USAA to move towards phase 2 of the project. 

Activities included: Helping to define and expand on use cases alongside the UX designer on the team; Develop various design approaches based on USAA's existing styleguide; Define design parameters based on accessibility metrics and defined use cases; Work with the rest of the team to present design rationale and approach. 

Tools: Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, UXPin

The design process

After joining the team, I started working with the UX designer to identify the various use cases the client wanted us to design for. The challenge for this project was that we had to design an interface that was intuitive enough to various types of users. These included 1) users who were fairly comfortable with technology and 2) users who struggled with and felt anxiety towards technology.

We also had to design for various user journeys and touchpoints. In some cases, the system would interact with customers that it had very little to no information on. In other cases, the system had a substantial amount of information, including the customer's identity and their potential intent based on previous interactions. 

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 13.36.33.png

In this journey, users were starting from scratch– the system had no information from them. This was the longest journey we had to design for.

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 13.36.40.png

In this journey, the system has identified the member, which allows for some degree of personalisation. Additionally, the journey is faster for users.

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 13.36.48.png

This journey maps a use case in which the system has identified the user and their potential intent, leading to a quicker resolution.

Based on these use cases and user personas, I developed three potential design approaches towards which were guided by three main principles, as well as usability and accessibility principles

  • Novelty of technology - The demographic of customers that would be interacting with the USAA Visual IVR will be interacting with this technology for the first time

  • Swiftness of resolutionCustomers want to get to what they want done as quickly as possible 

  • Learning curve - The demographic of customers that will be interacting with the USAA Visual IVR may not be tech-savvy/comfortable utilizing tech tools

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 13.53.08.png

Concept A focused on a visually striking design, with the aim to highlight key information the page to help guide users to their intended goal. It features large round buttons, with legible fonts and iconography to aid users in their discovery. It also prominently features a 'chat' feature, that users can refer to on every page if they feel stuck in the process. As they scroll through the menu, they can easily reach 'Ask Eva', USAA's smart virtual assistant. 

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 14.52.58.png

Concept B features a slightly different design approach, resembling the traditional USAA banking app. In this design, we feature large buttons with legible fonts and iconography to guide users. We also introduce clear information architecture for identified members to find their information, including past auto claims, car insurance, and homeowner insurance. 

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 14.53.06.png

Concept C follows the USAA styleguide more faithfully and more closely resembles the existing banking user experience USAA customers would generally be used to. In this concept, the search bar is featured more prominently as a way to guide users to help pages. 

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 14.53.18.png

The result

After presenting all design concepts and justifications to both The Social Client and USAA, they agreed to want to pursue either Concept A or Concept B– both options that diverged from USAA's traditional design patterns but that bring a more updated and refreshed design to their technology. 

We continued iterating on these designs until the end of our contracts and passed on all deliverables to both clients so they could continue on to phase 2 of the project. 

In general, although presenting both concepts A and B felt a bit risky as USAA is quite a traditional bank, the clarity and flow of the designs were appealing to them, and they agreed to continue iterating on these. 

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 10.32.23.png


In retrospect, I would have loved to been involved with phase 2 of this project to see how it all played out– I had several other engagements lined up after the end of this project and couldn't continue on, but feel like I missed out on some of the most crucial parts.


Phase 2 involved conducting user testing with some of the initial wireframe concepts and presenting the designs to USAA customers for user insights. Since this is something I do quite a lot now, it would have been great to gain perspective on what customers thought about such a new technology. It would have been interesting to see whether this is something that resonated with them or whether it would have been too confusing. 

bottom of page