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Device independence — the effect of the iPhone on the evolution of the internet bank
2008. szept. 17.

Principle: we don't obstruct the user in getting access to our service

The buzz around the iPhone attracts the attention on the users not exclusively accessing the services of the internet bank from their home / work computer. The most attractive call of the smartphone is: "I can take the Internet with me" — and with it, my bank as well.

Please make note, that in this game the iPhone does not play an outstanding role — numerous factors block the spread of the phone, which won't be discussed here in detail — but the mobile manufacturers who pour the market with cheaper and cheaper phones, equipped with large screens, user friendly UIs, and of course: browsers — giving a personal computer into the hands of the customers. Knowing the gap between the Hungarian mobile, computer usage and internet penetration, these devices can make the demand for the alternative access way for the internet banks visible.

These devices have alternative input methods, smaller / different size user interfaces and services (for example: lack of mouse, lack of mouse-over events, limited JavaScript, limited or non-existent Java support. Don't think in just mobile phone terms, as the internet is available on PDA-s, game consoles, TV set-top-boxes, or even on a fridge.

Upon the planning and implementation of an internet bank, the non-standard way of accessing the application should be taken into serious consideration, like the devices mentioned above: it should implement the principle of graceful degradation.

  • It should depend on the least amount of installed software / hardware on the user side — if possible, avoid the exclusive use of applet based design, installed card-readers or hardware keys, etc.
  • JavaScript should only play a supporting role — should be able to execute a transaction without it
  • The user interface should be meaningful even if the downloading of pictures or flash-content is turned off.

Again: the main goal is not to have everybody to optimize tho the (currently) marginally used devices, but to let the core of services work in these circumstances as well. For further information, I suggest to read the following article: Doransky: Mobile-internet strategy - it's in Hungarian, though.

Of course, it is hard to explain in front of a decision-maker to optimize services that are used on devices, what's use is bellow the margin of statistical error. The users will only use these alternative devices, when there isn't a PC around, and something must be taken care of, or, at least some information is needed. Once in a year. But then, it is life-saving.

How much does it worth, that an oblivious customer can transfer a required amount of money to the credit-card account?

Let's see some quick statistics on the browser usages (data provided by rankings.hu, and adverticum.com ), that how much does it hurt the customers to restrict their accessibility. The computer / device has:

  • no Java — the mobile users, alternative devices are excluded, only PC (Win, Mac, unix) user are allowed (for example: CIB)
  • no ActiveX, or installed hardware device is needed — accessible only from Windows / IE, so we exclude at least 1.2-1.3% of the users (non Windows users), and press 41.4% of the users (non-IE users) to use a solution that makes them uncomfortable (for example: K&H chipcard reader — the balance between security and usability will be an other topic soon)
  • no flash — we make 1.7% of the users uncomfortable (for example: BudapestBank's internet bank version 3.0 uses it at some point in query functions)
  • smaller user interface than the resolution the solution optimized for — uncomfortable, and disturbing feeling for the 5,4% of the users (800x600 resolution), and the mobile users (almost none of the banks developed ways to optimize for small-screen)

If a customer finds him/herself in a troublesome situation, he/she will find a workaround (even if it will cause some "pain" — giving out the passwords, if necessary), but if we can provide a simple and elegant solution, it increases the loyalty and confidence in the bank. Nowadays, this confidence is the most important thing: hard to earn, easy to loose.

Next time we will discuss who are the users of the internet banks and from whom before should be the obstacles cleared away.

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