It could be argued, not unreasonably, that Facebook and banking websites have something in common in that they can feel bloated. What I mean by this is that, over time, features have been added to Facebook to attract new users, usurp competitors and maintain its position as the social media goliath that it is. In 2004, it boasted a million monthly users and in 2013 this had risen to an enormous 1,230m users.1
Bank websites, on the other hand, have arrived at their often shapeless situation by another road. Yes, they have also had to add things over time, rendering the process of navigating a site something like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, when that maze just plain beat him. Yet, banks offer a variety of services in order to attract customers, so everything (probably) has to be there. Some banks have tried their best to offer their products and services in an attractive manner, designing drop-down menus and anchoring the page with a giant illustration. However, it’s not all about having a pretty design.
Navigating a banking website can be a frustrating process, with so many link options to choose from that sound just like another, encouraging you to click and click until you arrive right back where you started (and with a half-dozen new browser windows open). Menu options are often buried so deep, it takes many clicks to find that what you wanted isn’t available to you because ‘your session has timed out’.
How bank websites can slim down
In a recent blog post by Christopher Ratcliff, HSBC and Lloyds came out well in an assessment of overall design choices, though they were still cluttered with too much information. Menus are heavy with options, and some pages look just like a printed document, devoid of imagination or creativity. Some things, such as regulatory wording, need to be there, but does it have to look so dull and work so ineffectively?
‘Both of these sites could do with simplifying their on-page offerings, there’s a surfeit of information, messages and navigation options which could be streamlined to make for a more user friendly experience’, said Ratcliff, and it’s hard to disagree.
Barclays, on the other hand, is applauded for its simplified approach to website design. Complicated products and services are broken down into their most digestible form, rendering the user experience pleasant and less distracting. It’s also a responsive design, which means it degrades gracefully to smaller devices such as a tablet or phone.
I would like to think that this relatively small ripple in the pond of banking website design cascades to other banks, and possibly right back to Facebook. By making navigation and design as simple and attractive as possible, while still leading to the right products and services, you put the customer first. When you put the customer first, you can say you’re implementing a true outside-in strategy.
1 Facebook: 10 years of social networking, in numbers (The Guardian)
Modified illustration designed by Freepik.com