We’ve delivered award-winning and highly successful projects for a host of international financial institutions here at Box UK, including TBC Bank, Investec Asset Management and RBCZ. As a result, we have a pretty good idea of the key activities needed to create a great banking experience. Below are just some of them.

Do your homework

Crucial to any new project is research and plenty of it. Who are the competitors? What do they do well? What do they do not so well? What do current customers think? Who are they? How can we improve what is there already? What new technology is available?

For TBC Bank we studied over 20 banking and other industry websites and apps, read hundreds of customer survey results, studied the Georgian digital culture, reviewed their web  analytics and lots more before we even picked up a pencil.

If you jump straight into design you are likely to miss something or focus on promoting content that's wrong for your audience and their needs. And remember to keep this research going throughout the project and beyond. The best user experiences are from continual refinement.

Optimise your information architecture

Information Architecture (IA) is like a signposted road network; motorways connect popular places while smaller roads connect everywhere else.

Your first consideration should be where you construct the ‘motorways’; i.e. what content is most important to your users and business? Your primary navigation should channel users to key content areas directly so they can complete their goal quickly - and of course meet those business sales targets.

With internet banking sites, for example, there are typically two approaches to IA; namely ‘task-based’ and’ ‘product-based’. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but I’ve found ‘task based’ produces a better user experience and delivers great cross-selling opportunities (which I’ll touch on later).

If you decide to follow a ‘task-based’ approach, go back and study your research findings. What are the key user tasks? Mould your navigation around them, e.g ‘home’, ‘view accounts’, ‘transfer money’, ‘my money’ and ‘my offers’. Ideally, the majority of your customers should be utilising all areas, making it important to ensure the IA is not too deep in places. So be smart with your IA!

Get to know your customer

A common mistake is flooding the homepage with product ads in the hope that more product applications will be submitted. What works better is understanding your user well enough to know when and, most importantly, what product to promote. For example, do they have a monthly surplus and would suit an ISA or savings account? Are they in debt and should consolidate with a credit card?  Similarly, rather than displaying a generic banner such as “New savings rate of 6%” add context, i.e. “Gary, turn your £500 average monthly surplus into £250 annual interest”.

So listen to your customers; what do they really need? Watch their behaviour; where do they spend their time? Once you know these answers write your strategy.

Enrich the user’s life

We are in an ‘information age’ where people expect technology to enhance their daily lives through time savings and access to insightful, contextual information whenever they need it.

So whenever you design a product it's very important to remember ‘everything has to be both necessary and useful’ to succeed. Leave out unused features, flashing ads, long paragraphs of text... anything that is not ‘necessary’. At the same time create products, such as ‘digital wallets’, ‘mobile banking apps’, ‘smartphone banking’ and ‘money management’, that fit neatly into the daily lives of your customers.

Similarly, consider introducing gamification to make banking fun! Make it engaging enough that customers enjoy the whole banking experience, not just logging in to make a payment or check a balance. You’ve worked hard to attract them online so work smart to keep them coming back.

Make digital banking beautiful

By ‘beautiful’ I don’t mean an Aston Martin, I mean websites like the British Government’s www.gov.uk (OK it’s not a banking site but it’s too good not to reference :-)). It doesn’t have generic stock imagery, it doesn’t have fancy GIFs, it doesn’t even have a content carousel. What it does have though is excellent IA and accessibility, informative labelling, short copy, and consistent, appropriate calls to action. It’s been designed around solid user experience with consistent design styling so users only have to learn one navigational approach.

Remember that users are more forgiving and confident if the website has a ‘good’ trustworthy design. Not that you can afford to make mistakes but this confidence is very important so treasure it.

Embrace continual refinement

Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Soichiro Honda could not get it right the first time. Indeed, the best user experiences are achieved through continuous refinement. Regular quantitative and qualitative usability testing doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to involve dozens of testers. It may not require a ‘test plan’ document. We regularly run guerrilla testing and unmoderated remote testing as well as lab-based testing to deliver insightful results. Banks with successful digital platforms run usability testing projects every month so what are you waiting for? Go and get your hands dirty.

Want to find out more about the ingredients of an exceptional digital banking strategy? Download our free guide for financial institutions, or get in touch with a member of our UX team if you’re ready to discuss specifics.

About the author

Gavin Harris

Gavin Harris

Gavin Harris is an experienced Principal User Experience Consultant specialising in user testing, Information Architecture, HTML prototyping and web accessibility. Over the years he has worked with the likes of the Virgin Group, Land Rover, Kia, Orange and Unilever, and many other enterprise organisations.

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