The Direct Express® program caters to federal benefit recipients, offering them accessibility and spending capabilities without the need for a bank account. When MasterCard ceased support for the Direct Express app, Comerica, among other participating financial institutions, faced the challenge of swiftly creating its own version of the app.

A significant portion of the customer base, dealing with digital accessibility challenges, heavily relies on this monthly deposit reaching their accounts. A common use case involves customers purchasing their monthly groceries at midnight from Walmart, anxiously refreshing the app while waiting in line to check for the deposit. Given the critical nature of the app for users, emphasizing high reliability and usability was paramount.


To ensure a robust solution, our team drew on a year’s worth of user testing insights from our Comerica retail banking mobile app. By creating new personas specifically tailored to the Direct Express® audience, we aimed to align the app design closely with the unique needs and preferences of federal benefit recipients.

Conducting a thorough evaluation of the existing Direct Express app became a cornerstone of our process. This evaluation included a meticulous comparison with App Store review feedback, allowing us to identify pain points, gauge user satisfaction, and pinpoint areas of improvement. This in-depth analysis served as the foundation for refining the app’s design, enhancing usability, and addressing critical issues highlighted by the user community.

Recognizing that the lack of a design system would inherently slow the work down, my team generated a thorough design system alongside the creation of our designs. While that’s not generally the best way to go about it, one benefit of this approach was that we only created the atomic elements that were necessary to deliver the product, and also meant that we didn’t waste time on elements that would go unused.


The culmination of our efforts resulted in a transformed Direct Express app. Post-launch, the app’s rating surged from a lackluster 2.5 stars to nearly 5 stars in both iOS and Android app stores. This remarkable turnaround was accompanied by a substantial decrease in customer complaints, allowing our team to shift focus towards future enhancements rather than addressing post-relaunch issues. By leveraging user testing insights, creating tailored personas, and conducting a thorough evaluation, we successfully elevated the reliability and usability of the Direct Express app, providing federal benefit recipients with a more seamless and user-friendly experience.