PayPal was established in 1998 and one of the original dot-com sites. It was acquired (2002) by eBay and then spun off (2014) into an independent company. With revenue of $8.01 billion (2014) it is one of, if not the largest, online currency movers in the world. As of 2014, they have over 169 million active users and have made over 1 billion mobile transactions 1.
The public seems to have a love/hate relationship with PayPal. Pretty much every e-commerce site has a Pay With PayPal option. Early on, it was a fantastic product but over time poor service and fraud policies deteriorated consumer confidence and affinity. In the past, taking money out of a PayPal account was comparable to pulling teeth 2. It seemed like they were content with their position. Companies like Square and Stripe exploded with success built around the simplification of payment through great design which lead to a great user experience.
In the last year or so, PayPal has undergone a massive makeover. With their latest rollout of design and experience changes, PayPal seems to have stepped up their game. Having been a user for the last few years, I wanted to test the new version and see if the changes improved the experience.
We will be testing the following list of experiences:
- Account Creation
- Sending & Requesting Money
- View Transactions
There is an entire suite of tools and workflows within PayPal, but I have chosen to test the ones I consider to be widely used by the general public3.
The new design is a sleek update that incorporates a lot of micro experiences through full page animations. Long gone is the grey bubble-like button. In is a new & contemporary take on page elements that vie for your attention with bright greens and blues. It is a welcomed change when you think about the previous design. The bright colors give some personality to a site that sorely lacked one. The photography is top notch and helps give the site some warmth with some earthy tones.
Creating an account is pretty straightforward. Above you can see how they employed some Progressive Messaging in the form of a checkbox. When a user enters a password the site informs the user that the passwords match by showing a check mark, if they do not it shows an exclamation mark.
Our first mistake! The email address exists already, but the site allows users to submit the form before doing a check. Ideally, the site checks for email address availability before allowing the user to submit, much like it did for the passwords. They have a rather large database of users, an educated guess would be that it would take a long time to do a pre-emptive check, so they chose to allow the users to submit before checking. Users expect to wait when submitting a form, so this would line up with expectations once they click submit.
Another thing to take note of is the reCAPTCHA. Personally, I am not a fan of reCAPTCHAs. They put pressure on the user to type the combination of random characters correctly. This is as inhumane a user experience can get, particularly if they are being timed to finish a transaction (looking at you Ticketmaster). That being said, the version PayPal implemented is quite nice. The blue text on white makes it readable and the font size is a decent size. If I had a choice I would prefer to use Google's new reCAPTCHA system. Google's system makes reCAPTCHA an enjoyable experience by having the user pick from a random, but similar set of photos. This is a pleasant and humane experience when compared to reCAPTCHAs that require user inputs to be perfect.
Once an account is created users are taken to their dashboard. This is where the new PayPal sets itself apart from the previous version. The colors, large graphics, and page animations are a complete departure from the previous iteration.
Sending & Requesting Money
Sending & requesting money is a breeze in the new experience. The animations and micro-interactions really make it an engaging experience. One could argue that it is a bit over the top, but it makes the experience fun.
The following is a great example of a micro experience. If the user enters any value that is not a number, the UI shakes a bit, making it clear a mistake was made.
After playing around with a lot of the bells and whistles, I stumbled upon a relic from the previous version if a user cancels a request. Users can cancel money requests at any time. If they do, they will be directed to the old UI:
If you click around within the view, the old site design will be used. Seems like they are framing the experiences as they roll out the new design. Clearly, some pages have not been updated which is understandable. It is a large site, with lots of moving parts. Their user research may show that users don’t cancel payment requests that often, so this page would be an edge case with little usage.
After playing around with the new PayPal, I must say that I am impressed. The new version feels like a completely new piece of software. It is nice to see a large financial company take user experience seriously for once. Far too often, these companies focus on showing you data without understanding or caring about how the experience works.
The design is phenomenal and goes outside of what a user would expect for a financial application. Animations can be a bit overwhelming and contextually they feel odd. Some animations come from the right, some the top and some from the left. I like the interactions, they just feel a bit heavy handed. They are trying to create a design system where particular actions such as adding or selecting a bank account are done within a sidebar that animates in from the right. I understand what they are trying to do, but it seems like they are trying too hard. My eyes dart from the center of the screen to right far more than I'd like. I do like that each animation makes it feel like I am doing something important. It gives the experience a bit more gravitas.
Overall the flows are well executed. PayPal uses stepped forms for a lot of the major transactions, which helps propel the user forward by requiring small pieces of data to move from step to step. Through Progressive Disclosure the UI gives the users what they when they need it which eliminates distractions. These forms help users get their tasks done quickly by having a stripped down experience in some instances (sending money). It is a really simple and effective way of getting users through an experience.
The new experience is fairly proactive where you expect it to be. It alerts the user when they are about to remove bank accounts or credit cards, which are notoriously annoying to type in.
The new PayPal website is great step forward for a company that once struggled to meet consumer expectations. They make sending and receiving money incredibly easy, something Taco Bell failed at. There are some missteps along the way, but they come out from a company that is trying to push forward. Overall the new experience raises the bar for what a consumer expects from a financial app.
Thank you for reading.
Walter Colindres, is an experienced and opinionated UX designer and developer. If you have comments or questions, you can reach him by email.