Link: improving the user experience by bridging the gap between brand and product

Link is Stripe’s first consumer-facing product: a one-click checkout solution that securely stores your payment info so you can checkout faster (think ShopPay, ApplePay, etc.).

When I joined Stripe, I was in a unique position, sitting on the Link brand team while liaising with the Link product team. Being in this role exposed fractures in how our brand was being applied within the Link checkout flows: many users reported confusion, perceptions of fraud, and an overall lack of clarity.

I set out to explore opportunities where we could create a stronger brand presence within the checkout flows. By leveraging the brand, my goal was to improve the user experience, build trust, and drive brand awareness.

Link was designed to sit quietly in the background of the merchant’s checkout flow

It was important that Link didn’t disrupt the merchant’s existing branding or UI. However, this approach was working against us: minimal Link brand presence meant low brand awareness and a confusing user experience.

~61% of users were unaware of what Link was, or unsure of its role.

How could we leverage the Link brand assets in these flows to help address user concerns, while meeting design requirements for our merchants?

Brand design should consider the entire experience, so I examined every touchpoint in the user journey—product flows, emails, SMS—to gain a holistic understanding of the current experience.

Inputs and activities included:
  • Design audits
  • SME interviews
  • User feedback
  • Data science reports

Below are some pieces of the design audits I conducted, with annotations to illustrate how I was thinking about the experience through the eyes of the user:

Design Audit

“Current UX doesn’t require active choice by users...feels like a dark pattern”

  1. There’s no clear entry point into using Link (ex: a Link button)

  2. It’s not clear what info is being saved, or with whom (Link vs. the merchant)

  3. Alludes that the merchant will share payment info with “thousands of merchants”

  4. Typing out “Link” doesn’t read as a the name of a brand and could be mistaken for a typo

  5. “Learn more” text styling doesn’t immediately read as a clickable link

“We’re not introducing ourselves or doing enough to educate”

The “learn more” modal is the one surface area within the entire checkout flow that’s completely dedicated to Link, and yet:

  1. This touchpoint is completely unbranded

  2. Missed opportunity to speak to the convenient benefits of Link

  3. Language is heavy on the technical terms, making it feel unapproachable (do most consumers know what PCI standards are?)

“40% of users don’t remember signing up for Link”

The first time a user interacts with any Link branding occurs outside of the checkout flow; this is the first and only email a user will receive

  1. Brand elements are minimal and quiet

  2. Not addressing the recipient by name feels impersonal

  3. Lack of type hierarchy makes it difficult to know what to pay attention to

  4. Missed opportunity to foster brand love and speak to the functional benefits of Link

  5. Info for how to manage your account or contact support is buried in the fine print

Link customer service agents reported consumer perceptions of fraud and lack of security

This is the second Link interaction that happens after initial sign-up:

  1. The SMS language doesn’t do much to help the user remember they signed up for Link, and doesn’t offer any way to get additional information or report an error

  2. “Use your saved information” can be alarming if the user doesn’t remember signing up for Link

  3. Link branding is so subtle that it may be difficult to differentiate between Link and merchant, or missed entirely


Minimal branding is causing major issues:
  • Users are signing up for Link without realizing it, leading to security concerns and perceptions of fraud
  • We aren’t able to effectively establish brand awareness or foster active choice

Lack of clarity around Link vs. merchant:
  • We aren’t explaining ourselves, or giving shoppers access to more information—this is creating frustration for both the shoppers and the merchants

No brand recognition:
  • Users don’t remember us because they have minimal brand interactions with Link after sign-up

Leveraging the Link brand assets

The Link brand identity was nascent at the time, and assets were somewhat limited. However, we had a solid toolkit to work with as a starting point.

Based on the research and design audits, I established basic design principles to serve as a north star for my design explorations:

Think holistically
Think about the entire user journey and consider every touchpoint along the way

Be consistent
Link should show up the same way—visually and verbally—across every interaction

Be clear
Language is just as important as visuals; we shouldn’t solely rely on visual brand elements to do the heavy lifting

Design recommendations

Introduce Link in the beginning of the flow, and make information easily accessible

Simple language tweaks would go a long way to provide clarity and introduce Link more effectively. What that could look like:

  • Specify what info is being saved

  • Differentiate Link from the merchant—make it clear that the user is signing up for Link

  • Speak to the benefits of using Link (and don’t mention “thousands of merchants”—it’s alarming and misleading)

  • Give the user the opportunity to easily get more information: include “Learn more” in the footer, and underline it to signal that it’s a clickable link

Make it obvious that the user has signed up with Link

It’s important that the user is aware that they’re actively choosing to enroll in Link. Introducing Link branding at this step works in our favor because:

  • It gives the shopper feedback in real time
  • It creates association with Link early on
  • It differentiates from the merchant without disrupting the merchant’s UI

Find in-product moments to be loud and proud with the branding

The “learn more” modal is a huge opportunity to introduce Link in a visually impactful and memorable way—and differentiate Link from the merchant—without disrupting the merchant’s ui.

We can make this touchpoint work a lot harder for us by:

  • Introducing Link branding directly in the checkout flow can help create stronger brand awareness and recognition.

  • Educating users on how Link works, and providing clarity between the role of Link vs. the merchant

  • Highlighting the convenience and functional benefits of Link—give users a reason to care

Note: copy shown here is for illustrative purposes

Create brand awareness outside of the checkout flow

Currently, email is the first instance where the user interacts with Link outside of a payment flow, so we should use this moment to be bold with our brand; it’s important that the user remembers they signed up for Link.

Make it simple: speak in more human terms and highlight the benefits of Link

Make it digestible: introduce type hierarchy to make important info easy to find

Make it personal: addressing the receiver by name makes the brand feel warm and builds trust

Consider building out a welcome email flow to give Link more opportunities to show up in inboxes and gain more brand recognition


Signal recognition when existing Link users make a second purchase

The repeat/second checkout with Link is where users are experiencing the most confusion. Subtle but impactful tweaks to language and design elements can go a long way to help the shopper make an association with their initial Link signup experience.


Make it clear that the user’s payment info is stored with Link, and that they have an existing account; and make it easy for them to get help if they have questions

OTP Capture

Reminding the user that they have an account with Link sounds more credible and trustworthy than a vague reference to their “saved information”

Infusing Link branding here may also help the user draw associations with their initial Link signup experience

Results and Outcomes

Unfortunately, it wasn’t uncommon for projects to be deprioritized or killed during my time at Stripe. The resulting design explorations from this project were never put into testing, and as far as I can tell, the Link checkout experience remains largely unchanged. 

BRAND DESIGN: Malissa Smith, Jonny Naismith
PRODUCT DESIGN: Sam Kay, Ryan McLaughlin

PM: Gabe Bender
PMM: Rani Yadav

Additional Link Team shoutouts: Olivia Chernoff, Devin Jacoviello 🙏
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