THREE BIG THINGS
1. Solve the problem first, think about consistency later
2. Don’t design for the average
3. Use brand as guardrail
Bringing up CRED usually leads to impassioned discussions about their business model. There isn’t enough focus on CRED’s product design experience – which even naysayers will agree – is something of a benchmark amongst Indian apps. (Memes about slow-loading animations notwithstanding).
As the platform adds new verticals like Travel, as well as new features like UPI payments, we spoke to Harish Sivaramakrishnan and Abhay Pruthi from CRED, to understand their approach.
Solve a Problem in the Most Deserving and Elegant Way
Too many teams start with the baggage of the existing product, ignoring the fact that all domains are different with diverse needs. “Of course we adhere to our Neopop design system, but we always start with the problem space of the domain,” says Harish, “and only once we feel we have done it justice, do we work backwards to achieve consistency.”
He points to the recently launched Travel vertical as an example.
Called CRED Escapes, the vertical allows members to discover and book domestic and international destinations, classified into segments from luxury to adventure; private villas to houseboats.
Says Abhay, “At CRED, we saw an uptick in travel bookings and demand for more properties and destinations. Insights from member interactions helped us understand the gaps in the holiday planning. These included zeroing in on the destination, multiple sites to visit to find the best deal/property and a tedious decision making process. All of this took away the joy of travel even before the vacation began.”
The team has addressed this need gap by creating a highly visual, experiential travel offering, with lush images, videos and detailed descriptions of each property. The IP to the content rests with the property, but it is presented using strict editorial and design guidelines, put in place by CRED.
Apply the Pareto Principle
Your product must work really well for most people and in that process it will end up working reasonably well for (nearly) all people. Don’t compromise on the experience for your key user segment.
Just like CRED itself, the travel product targets a premium subsection of the market and is meant for discerning travellers who typically do a lot of research before they book. Abhay points out that according to their data in 2022, CRED members’ top destinations were Goa, Coorg, Maldives, Europe, and Turkey.
“At CRED, we never design for an average, where something works reasonably well for everyone,” says Harish. “We are not designing for the click and buy customer. We are using content to create as close to a first-hand experience of the property as possible, for members who like to know what they are getting.”
Use Brand as a Guardrail
When multiple lines of business need to be surfaced, the interface can err on the side of being too cluttered, or risk that users miss something important. The ‘How much is too much?’ and ‘How much is too little?,’ conundrum is real.
Harish admits this is something that keeps him up at night and is still “work in progress.” It was a challenge the team had to grapple with recently, when they launched a new home-page to address CRED’s expanding product offering.
“There is no right or wrong answer,” says Harish. “If a busy interface serves a brand or business, then it is the right choice for them. CRED, on the other hand, is positioned to serve the premium end of the market and the brand’s personality and principles always serve as a guardrail. We simply cannot look like a marketplace.”
There are also other ways to make judicious choices around the real estate of the interface. CRED’s new home page, for instance, clusters frequent use-cases like scan and pay into the bottom navigation.
Other parts of the home page are personalised and features are surfaced according to the member’s usage patterns and dominant use cases.
The THC Take
In this interview with Shane Parrish of The Knowledge Project, Kunal Shah, Founder, CRED says, “The world is seeing a very interesting pattern. All businesses that provide utility are losing gross margins to the point of becoming zero. Companies that provide social status are making those businesses almost free, because you get a chance to cross sell high gross margin services.“
For CRED clearly, carefully maintaining the experience that underpins its premium positioning is key.
Which other app successfully communicates a differentiated, premium image through their experience? Tell us in the comments.