5 Ways for Banks to Build a Killer User Experience

Jill Hewitt  |  Customer Experience Designer

August 8, 2014

How long have I hated my bank’s website? As long as I’ve had an account with them. As a matter of fact, my bank just changed their online banking application and it is even worse than it was before. How long did I hate my previous bank’s website? Even longer.

But some forward-thinking banks are focusing on creating a better user experience. They’re making it easier for customers to open accounts and transfer money from one bank to another — upping the ante for all banks.

Why should banks care about user experience? Because users form an impression when they first land on your site. Does your website talk to your customers in a language they understand, or does it just provide a laundry list of links? Are the steps necessary for opening an account driven by your back-end systems, or by how customers actually think and behave?

How do you find out what makes a good digital banking experience?

Let’s start with things that won’t tell you.

You can study data gathered from your website and mobile applications to discover what your customers want — but that won’t tell you the whole story. Basic analytics can tell you what pages are viewed most often — but not why your users visited them. Search logs can tell you what people can’t find on your site — but not why they wanted to find those things in the first place.

So how do you find out what your customers really need and want from your bank?

1. Have them show you

Conduct one-on-one interviews with your customers and prospects. During these interviews, don’t just ask people what they want … have them show you what they do when they are looking for a new credit card, loan or bank account.

2. Watch and listen

Listen and watch carefully as they show you how they use your website: what steps they take, in what order; what they like or dislike; and when, where and how they interact with your bank. Don’t forget to include mobile devices and tablets. For example, you might learn that the Web is the preferred channel for researching financial products, but people tend to transfer funds or send a payment from their phone or iPad at a coffee shop.

3. Create personas

You’ll soon find common characteristics and traits among groups of people. Create a set of personas to represent common goals, activities and behaviors. Give the personas names, such as “Helen the First-Time Home Buyer,” and ask yourself what Helen wants when she visits your site. It’s likely to differ from what “Sam the Soon to Retire” wants.

4. Design what your customers want, not what you want

With personas in hand, start to map out the features and functionality that are most important to your customers. Avoid the trap many banks fall into — relying on facts, such as interest rates, fees and opening deposits, to promote products. Instead, try organizing your products based on personas and life events that you uncover during your customer interviews.

5. Group products based on how your customers think, not how you think

Conduct a card sort activity with user groups to help you more effectively organize information and services on your site. Ask people to cluster bank products and information into logical groups and then name the groups. Several years ago, while working with a leading bank, I found that people grouped Certificates of Deposit (CDs) with investment products, such as IRAs, and called the group “Investments.” The bank, however, viewed CDs as “savings accounts.” This provided valuable insight for the website design — cross-selling and promoting CDs with other investment products, not just savings accounts.

User experience matters. If your customers can’t find what they want, if your products and services aren’t grouped in a way that’s intuitive to them, if your website doesn’t mirror the way they shop or clearly communicate your brand value … you might be leaving dollars on the table — or worse, driving customers to your competitor. As for me, it’s time to make the switch to a bank that offers a great user experience.

Jill Hewitt
Jill designs, reviews and evaluates interfaces for the Web, touchscreen kiosks, mobile devices, software applications and hardware devices. She has improved customer experiences for major Fortune 1000 brands, including Paychex, UPS, NCR, and taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

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