Skip Allums Publishes Book on Best Practices for Mobile Payment Design

One morning last December, Skip Allums tapped his phone to a payment reader at Peet’s to purchase a cup of coffee. Another customer tried it too, but it didn’t go as smoothly and he ended up reaching for his wallet. Americans are starting to wrap their heads around the idea of using their phones to buy things, and with new technology making mobile payments a viable option, Allums wants to make sure it’s being implemented properly. His book, Designing Mobile Payment Experiences (O’Reilly Media, 2014) is a step toward getting developers on the same page.



Skip Allums. Photo by Sarah Deragon, Portraits To The People.

In 2011, while working on his master’s degree in web design and new media at Academy of Art University, Allums started designing apps for Monitise, a company that develops solutions for mobile banking. He soon noticed a lack of written guidelines for designing mobile experiences for finance. “The conversations I was having with users were presenting some unique design challenges,” Allums explained, “and I couldn’t just go to a colleague at PayPal or Google who might be working on the same thing and ask them ‘hey how would you handle this situation?’ There’s no community for it really.”

So Allums, who has a background in library science, did some research. He put together a list of good ideas and experiences he saw on the market and combined it with things he learned by solving design problems at work, creating his own makeshift guide. “It kind of became my playbook,” said Allums, who started a new job at Capital One in November. “It offers solutions for how I might approach every type of design problem. Some of it was just the UX basics—the core heuristics you would learn about in your first UX class and also some good old fashioned common sense. But then there’s the hospitality, just being respectful of your user and what their goals might be.”



Allums’ book combines his experiences in the workplace with what he has seen on the market. Courtesy of Skip Allums.

Allums’ 242-page “playbook” went to press last summer, and though some might see it as a “how-to” guide for developers, it has the potential to reach a wider audience. There’s information about the history of commerce, including the evolution of money and the first mainstream credit card, the Diner’s Club Card, which premiered in 1950—an event that threw a learning curve at the general public not unlike the one we’re experiencing today with mobile payments. “Credit cards took half a decade or so to really gain favor with the merchants and people using this plastic thing as a proxy for money. Widespread use didn’t happen until decades later,” he said.

For mobile payments to become fully integrated into society, Allums said that users need to understand its value. He explained that communicating information about how mobile payments can make life easier, and how the security level far exceeds traditional credit card payment processes are some of the biggest challenges for a designer. Places like South Korea and Singapore are seeing faster integration because commuters use their phones to tap through the turnstile in the metro. Making purchases with their phones at stores in metro stations was a natural progression. “It becomes a learned behavior, and that takes a few years,” he added. “We’re just in the early stages of that happening here.”


Skip Allums' book, Designing Mobile Payment Experiences, is available now on Amazon