Rx for Online ROI: Usability

Learn how to build a successful online banking system.




As people continue to adopt online banking as a means of managing their bank or credit union relationship (5 million more online bankers are expected by 2007, making the total population of online bankers an astonishing 45 million people) 1 , the quality of a user's online experience is a core competitive differentiator for every financial institution. Now more than ever, it is vital for credit unions to deliver an experience that strengthens their ability to attract, retain and serve members via the online channel.

Critical to ensuring the quality of the user's online banking experience is the Web site's “usability” – the overall ease with which the user interfaces with your credit union online. According to a recent report from Forrester Research, “usability has now gone mainstream, driven by economic benefits including improved user performance, increased conversion rates, and lower customer service costs.” 2

If your Web site doesn't allow users to engage online with absolute self-sufficiency, these benefits will elude you , jeopardizing your credit union's ability to achieve a return on its investment. Are your online users constantly calling customer service for help? Are you noticing a high percentage of incomplete online tasks or ‘empty shopping carts' from your users? You may need an R x for improved usability – which will foster a healthy Web site ROI!

Know Thy User

Online users demand that online banking be at least as intuitive as an ATM, as trustworthy as walking into a branch, and more useful than both.

To create a user-friendly site, be aware of the following:

  • It's all about the user -- and that user is NOT you! Keep perspective.
  • Users tap into both their physical (moving the mouse) and the cognitive (thinking) sides. Program and design accordingly.
  • Users bank online from several venues including home, mobile, office and others. Again, program and design accordingly.

12 Steps to a User-Friendly Web site 

In order for an online banking to be successful, it must be effective , efficient and satisfying to the user. Developers and designers must take the fundamental principles of human behavior and performance into consideration to achieve this outcome.

The following 12 steps will take your Web site down the path of usability wellness (we'll address the critical design elements that help drive usability in part two of this series) 3 :

  • Be Compatible : Users form a mental model of expectations culled from prior experiences. Don't try to break new ground: follow what has proven to work elsewhere and repeat.
  • Make the Interface Transparent : A good user interface requires little conscious thought from the user. Each page's function should be immediately apparent.
  • Be Concise: Any information displayed at a given step should have direct relevance to the task at hand. If they are transferring funds, for example, don't try to sell them on online bill pay. Stay the course.
  • Provide Constraints : Make it impossible for the user to make a wrong choice by constraining alternatives. In addition, offer only valid options.
  • Speak the User ' s Language : Do not present unnecessary information. Ensure what you do present is in a natural and logical order.
  • Be Obvious : If missing data is detected, prompt the user for the data, like highlighting the missing information in red for example. Better yet, offer them a default value.
  • Keep the User in Control : “Are you sure you want to transfer these funds?” Users need to feel that they are the ones always in control, not the computer. Ask them to authorize each step they take.
  • Provide Feedback: “Thank you. The transfer has been made.” Let users know where they are, what they have done, and the success rate of each task.
  • Accommodate Different Skill Levels: Meet the needs of primary users, both novice and expert:
      • For Novices : provide “more info” and other visual cues to help make it easy or to learn more
      • For Experts : provide hidden shortcuts that are redundant with visible cues. Provide tours and orientation models for users that want to go beyond the basics.
  • Minimize the User's Memory Load: Don't assume the user knows what you feel should be obvious, like clicking on the company name to get to the home page, for example. Make visual cues clear, but keep them balanced on the page. Don't visually overload.
  • Be Consistent: Use principles of good design and industry style guidelines. Users expect familiar conventions that have been tested and are typically proven to work.
  • Assume Murphy's Law: Most errors are design errors, not user errors. Provide help at key decision points and allow for easy error recovery by making actions reversible.

The user isn't you!

Step outside of your own experience and into the user's experience. Take advantage of u sability testing, which validates the strengths and uncovers the weaknesses of the end user experience during online banking. And strive for best practice design and writing, which will be addressed in part two of this series. Follow these guidelines and your online banking service will provide a healthy ROI.

1 eMarketer Inc, September, 2004

2 World Usability Day 2005 — Usability Gone Mainstream, Forrester Research, Inc., November 4, 2005.

3 Derived from various sources, including: Ten Usability Heuristics, www.useit.com

About Digital Insight - Digital Insight ® Corporation ( www.digitalinsight.com ) is the leading online banking provider for financial institutions. Through its comprehensive portfolio of Internet-based financial products and services built upon the company's unique architecture, Digital Insight enables banks and credi t unions to become the trusted transaction hub for their retail and commercial customers. Digital Insight offers consumer and business Internet banking, online lending, electronic bill payment and presentment, check imaging, account-to-account transfers, Web site development and hosting and marketing programs designed to help increase online banking end user growth and more. Each Digital Insight product and service reinforces the strength of its financial institution clients.




Aug. 14, 2006



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