A Few User Experiences in Banking

Last December, I visited a financial planner.  It was well worth the time and hassle of tracking down recommendations from folks whom I trust.  It was enlightening but also daunting -- I had a lot of work ahead of me to get prepared for retirement at 30.  (Tsk, and some call me an idealist).

Anyway, among the many great recommendations was to explore investment opportunities available in any of a number of companies.  So, I started doing some research and now have intimately experienced the user flow and options available to me behind three major financial institutions, which I refuse to name because I don't want anyone to steal from me.

Here are some observations I've found in my micro-research:

Decision paralysis on the home page is alive and well. One of the companies had no visual or content hierarchy -- it was literally line item after line item of everything I could use them for.  This is OK if I'm just scanning for a certain keyword, but it's also anxiety-inducing.  Another company had much better visual hierarchy -- for example, there was a question on the home page that asked "New to Investing?" -- but then led me to a landing page with enough choices for a seasoned investor.  The conversion funnel could be more effective if I felt a guided experience rather than a free-for-all.

Two of three companies structured their user experiences around their own internal organization. This is amazingly annoying when I want to move money from point A to point B and have to sign into two different interfaces and have confirmations from both.  Why on Earth would you require your users to jump through these hoops just because your internal territories are so deep?  However, one company did invest obvious love and care into audience research and ease of use, which then made the other two seem even more bureaucratic.

Pop-up explanations are everywhere, but never seem to help.  Maybe this is just me, but I don't really need a glossary when trying to manage my banking online.  Instead, I need answers to questions that seem nowhere to be found (like, when setting up bill pay for an individual, does the date I choose dictate when the check is cut or when it's delivered?).  Or the answers are off on some page beyond my current view, which makes keeping things in context very difficult.  But, to remedy this, see the next point:

Live chat works.  I feel weird typing this, but it's true.  On each of the three companies I was researching, I used the live chat option and found stellar results -- one of which was so pleasurable thanks to friendly customer support that they earned my business.  (A follow-up call afterwards gave me the warm fuzzies, too.)

Overall, I was amazed that two of three financial institutions I surveyed are capable of managing millions (billions?) of dollars for people but aren't better equipped to manage their users' experiences intuitively.  Maybe I'm expecting too much?

Stephanie Hay

Posted in Article Category: #Design & Content