A new way to share our data has emerged. This new method promises a better data-sharing and management experience. Let's discuss the old ways of sharing data, issues with them, and the features of this new UX paradigm.
How did we share our data in the past?
Sharing our information is essential in accessing services provided by companies and organizations. There are plenty of ways to share this data. Conventionally, we have shared data by manually filling up physical forms or sharing physical copies of documents. The digital alternatives to these are online information forms and photocopies of physical documents. Images and screenshots of data were the latest ways added to the list. There is another controversial mode of data sharing where certain companies collect our information and sell it without us knowing about it. A Netflix documentary called 'Social Dilemma' digs deeper into it. Technically, this counts as a way of data sharing as well.
Downsides of these data-sharing methods
The end-to-end experience of data sharing with the previously mentioned ways is tedious. I don't know about you, but filling out long forms makes me cry. Providing accurate information while filling out these forms is another challenge. Photocopies of the documents and screenshots of the data are easier to share, given they are less in number. But it is easy to tamper with them. It also means that the data we share is unverified for the companies to trust. Thus, companies put in extra effort and resources to verify the data. Many times, these companies & services require data regularly over multiple periods. It adds to the problems as screenshots, photocopies, and forms are static one-time data sources. Also, the data directly shared by companies with others is non-consented and undisclosed. What info these companies share and to whom they share it is beyond our control and knowledge. All these issues needed fixing.
Enter a new way of providing information. It promises a better overall experience in data-sharing and management.
Link products as the new way of data-sharing
The data we want to share resides at specific sources. For example, our revenue-related data stays with the banks. Employment data resides in the payroll systems or with the employers. Similarly, for creators and freelancers, social stats and content-specific information live with the social and creator platforms. A way to access the information is through our accounts with these platforms. The new way of sharing data is by linking your account with the company's application requesting the data. There are third-party products that help with the account linking process. These products are known as 'Link' products. Yeah, very creative. :)
The Link product is a flow of steps used to link your account. It handles information disclosure, consent to share data, and login requirements. After your account gets connected with the requesting company's application, the Link product acts as a gateway to your account data. Companies get access to your data and provide services and benefits to you. There are several Link products in the market which help in accessing domain-specific information. Let us take a look at a few of them.
Examples of the Link Products
Argyle Link is a product by Argyle. It allows users to manage the sharing of their employment data. Customers of Argyle use this employment and payroll data to provide services like lending, insurance, and more to the sharers of this data. Argyle Link can be sent by email or embedded in their website or app. The users connect their accounts in two steps -> 1. Select the employer or payroll provider from the list. 2. Login by entering the credentials. 3. The account connection is successful. Argyle immediately shares the data from the payroll provider to the requesting application. A user can edit her employment data-sharing setting and remove the connection.
Plaid Link by Plaid is a similar product. It allows users to manage the sharing of their bank data. Customers of Plaid use this bank data to provide services like personal finance management, payments, and more. The connection process for Plaid looks like this -> 1. Search and select your financial institution. 2. Login by entering the credentials. 3. The account connection is successful. Plaid instantly shares the data from the bank to the requesting application. Plaid Link works across all modern browsers and platforms. Check out Plaid’s Link in action.
Phyllo Connect is a link product by Phyllo. It allows users to manage the transmission of their data lying in creator platforms. This data contains attributes related to the creator identity, engagement metrics for the content, and others (Link to attributes table). Phyllo provides access to data from social and creator platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Substack, to name but a few. Customers of Phyllo use this creator data to offer services like brand collaborations, creator tools, lending, profile showcase, and more. Users go through an account connection process similar to other link products. 1. Select the social or creator platform from the list. 2. Login by entering the credentials or signing in to the account. 3. The account connection is successful. Phyllo now shares the data from the creator or social platform to the requesting application. Phyllo strives to offer control over the data and account.
Advantages and features of the Link based data sharing
Data-sharing by linking an account is convenient. Moreover, there are clear advantages to using this method. The account connection process is straightforward and quick. It enables sharing of information across multiple time ranges. Thus, the companies can have access to on-demand dynamic data. The information is directly accessed from the source and doesn't require extra verification efforts. The Link product asks for consent to share the data. There is full disclosure of information collected from the data source. It helps the user to make an informed decision about sharing the data. In addition, the user has control over the data and connected account. They can disconnect the account whenever they feel appropriate.
The companies embed the Link products in their apps and websites. These products thus provide a white-labeled experience desired by the companies. It ensures that the user experience is consistent and seamless. Also, link products handle login over multiple platforms, thus acting as a hub for logins and data sharing.
This shows that the Link product has advantages over the conventional data-sharing methods. The inherent features of this method help in building trust amongst the users.
We call Link Products a new UX paradigm. It is because conventional knowledge & best practices on data sharing doesn't apply here. Also, there are plenty of things to consider when designing the account connection and data sharing experience. Firstly, the users need to trust the Link product (a third-party service) with their accounts and data. The information shared through these Link products is sensitive and valuable. Thus, it is crucial for users to be at the center of the design process. The users should feel in control and should be able to make informed choices. Also, the link products should handle user consent for data-sharing. These products act as a hub for multiple platform logins. They should manage the unique login requirements for each platform. These are a few challenges of the many that the Link products need to face. Every domain-specific Link product tries to solve them in various possible ways. But how they do it is a discussion for another day.
We would love your thoughts on the new UX paradigm for data-sharing and ways to improve the experience. Please feel free to get in touch. Cheers!