Banking Fintech Mobile & Online UX

Why many bank websites feel like Facebook

Facebook and dollar sign symbols for bank websites story. Illustration designed by Freepik (and modified for the article).
Written by Shaun Weston

Why do so many bank websites suffer from bloat? Shaun Weston discusses the changes that could be made to simplify design and navigation.

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

Facebook has become so huge in terms of users that it has had to work very hard to keep this up. This has meant user interface (UI) changes to accommodate new ‘plugins’ and software acquisitions, new advertising opportunities and ways to make us cross-reference or divulge even more personal information. Recently, Facebook announced a payments function for its Messenger app, further bloating its already complicated offering (but a good business move all the same).

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.

Facebook: 10 years of social networking, in numbers (The Guardian)
Modified illustration designed by Freepik.com

About the author

Shaun Weston

Shaun Weston is Senior Editor of BankNXT and Backbase, and a creative content provider specialising in digital projects, marketing and social media. He has worked with businesses that focus on editorial strategy for online or print, consumer or B2B, and his work includes The Economist, SAS, Oracle, Future Publishing, FoodBev.com and Backbase.

2 Comments

  • In the beginning Facebook was changing it’s UI about 1-2 times a year as they were focusing on what worked best and fit there business model. You notice after they went IPO, there haven’t really been many major updates to the UI, only integrations that add value.

    I think if a bank can find a UI that works for 90% of it’s power users then that would be a success, and the rest of the time focus on integrations and value, they would capture more market share.

  • Hi Shaun, thank you for sharing this insightful article. I cannot more agree with you especially with the rapidly growing number of products and services, websites and customers are lost in all the clusters before hitting to the right information. Simplicity and customer-frendly websites could help so much.

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