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Payroll Apps Should Deliver More Than a Stub

by Will Scott
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A review of the the Paychex Flex iOS app shows areas where employee benefits and payroll companies can make great improvements in mobile experience design.

Getting your first paycheck at a new job is exciting. However, it quickly becomes a routine event. As ordinary as getting one becomes, paycheck stubs contain vital information that employees need to be able to read and access each pay period. They need to be able to make sure all of their tax and withholding information is accurate. They need to check that their hours are correct (especially important for hourly workers who frequently encounter labor law violations). They want to see paid time off accrued, as well as other reimbursements and information.

Along with most business processes, accessing pay stubs and benefits has not only gone digital, it’s also gone mobile. Most payroll and business service companies like ADP, Adecco, Paychex, and Manpower Group have digital pay stubs, but only the latter two appear to have apps for employees to chart time and access information.

Right now I’d like to take a closer look at an app we have personal experience with at Lextech: the Paychex Flex iOS app. I’d like to talk about what it does well, what it needs to improve, and overall user considerations mobile payments and benefits companies should heed.

The Users

Before commenting on an app’s UX, it’s important to identify the users. According to Paychex’s own interviews about their apps (they also have a time clock app), their users are recruiters and recruits, HR and payroll stakeholders, benefits administrators, employees, contractors, and financial advisor and accounting partners. A full critique isn’t complete without detailed information on the user and the development process. As a user and development professional, however, I have some insights to share.

What It Does Well

The fact that Paychex has an app is very good. This puts them in phase 2 or 3 of our mobile maturity model (where phase 1 = little or no mobile presence and phase 5 = a fully developed mobile strategy that includes consumer facing as well as internal process apps).

Paychex iOS app login

The visual design is clear and on-brand, and the typeface is consistent. In the demo, there seem to be options for all of their services along with a number of potential financial points to reference (401K, pay stubs, benefits, information, time off, etc.). Additionally, secondary pages seem to follow the same pattern from section to section, which is a good practice. Users will get used to looking for the same types of information in the same format. Also, when the app throws an error, there is a hyperlinked option that leads to a contact form, making it easier to reach out to support.

Areas for Improvement

When apps are merely usable—but not excellent, helpful, and pleasurable—adoption rates are likely to be low. When adoption rates are low, return on app (ROA) is low.

When apps are merely usable—not excellent, helpful, and pleasurable—adoption rates are likely low

Right now the Paychex Flex iOS app has 1.5 out of 5 stars in the App Store, which is right on par with the anecdotal feedback around Lextech, which is largely indifferent or negative. With that in mind, here are things that could vastly improve the Paychex Flex app:

  • TouchID should be integrated after initial sign in. This makes the app incredibly easy to use while retaining security. Although there is a “remember me” check box to ease the clunky login, it doesn’t seem to work.
  • The hamburger menu next to the back (<) button is against industry standard. It’s very easy for someone with larger fingers to press the back button when they want to peek at the menu and vice versa.
  • The Support Contact/Feedback Form should have a confirmation that includes information about who receives the email and when/if the customer should expect a response.
  • If there are no regulations against it, there should be a share/save to camera option on the iPhone. Check stubs are frequently needed to verify employment and pay information and if their app is a user’s primary access point, this function is needed.
  • Overall, the app overall be more aesthetically pleasing to draw the user in and keep their interest. This is about more than surface aesthetics; it’s about usability. This could be accomplished in various ways: integrating animations (the effect of animations on increasing usability is well documented), treating the information architecture differently (as opposed to using the visually fatiguing list style), and incorporating more personable copy (“My Details” instead of “My Profile,” “My Money” instead of “Check Stub,” etc.).

The Paychex App is a good start, but since when is a good start a great business or mobile strategy? Our advice to employee benefits and payroll companies thinking about an app or working on their next app: don’t just develop an app. Design and develop an app that people want to use. Bring emotional engagement to the app. Invest in taking it to the peak. Apps can make a big difference in driving usage and revenue while at the same time being beautiful and usable. That’s something every company and employee can use.

Image of handyman using mobile device courtesty Shutterstock.

post authorWill Scott

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