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The users of the internet bank
2009. aug. 24.

"To whom do we design an internet bank?"

Upon planning a new service, we should (we must) ask the question about who the target group of the new funciton / function set will be. The usual answer ("everybody") is wrong - we know it from the marketing guys. On the contrary, the typical banking segmentation (for example, in case of private customers: VIP, affluent, mass) does not work, because they mark too large segments with dimensions nothing to do with the actual design of the services.

I happened to examine lots of complaints, feedbacks (CallCenter reports, forum and blog entries) in the last years. Certainly, there are cases of programming / design problems, but the mass of the feedbacks are related to two major types of problems:

  • the customer is not able to interpret the product presented - most of the user interfaces are stuffed with the banking-jargon. Mostly, this practice originates from the Legal and / or Accounting Division(s), since they can only operate within those terms. The problem is, the customers are usually not lawyers / accountants - why should they learn the difference between "booked balance", "available balance", "opening balance", "closing balance", "queued amont", "blocked amount", with their relationship, when he only wants to know how much money does he/she have?
  • the user can't use the computer, or the internet - the ones who has to start from the basics - how to start a browser, what is an URL, how the mouse should be used to position, the buttons / links should be used as "one-click", instead of "double-click", what is a menu, etc - will have problems with using the internet bank.

Based on these problems, we introduce a matrix to be the foundation of our segmentation:

The above mentioned four stereotypes will help to understand why it is important to deal with differences of the customers. To present a standard foreign fund transfer function (currently every bank has a user interface with at least 40 required and optional fields) to a retired granny, is worth a crime. On the other hand, the bank looses the interest of customers having deeper understanding of the parametrization of the services.

Finding the golden mean is not an easy task, but it is not impossible. Here are some ideas that worked over the years:

  • Using familiar controls on the user interface - users tend to gain their experience from using news-portals, forums, and blogs. They expect the usage-rules of the internet to be working on the internet bank too. It is not a coincidence, that nearly every bank implemented the "I click on the logo - I go to the main page" navigation element. But we shouldn't stop here: the on-the-fly (instant) error-checking, dynamic controls, more explanatory error messages are making their way into the applications. To keep it simple: making the user interface smarter is a good thing.
  • "Progressive Enhancement" in the functions - we present the business function in the most simplistic way, and the extra parametrization features are placed to other tabs or pages. This way, the not-so qualified user can easily handle the function - they don't get lost - and the pros can also handle the extra features.
  • Pre-calculation - it is very seldom implemented, but useful feature: upon changing the parameters, the user can be notified of the changing interest / fee / commission - thus explaining some of the products hidden features. A simple example: it is much easier to select a deposit term when the pre-calculated interest is presented according the selection of the user - before the transaction actually happens.

It is very hard to design a functionality that fits all the typified users' needs. We shouldn't just blame the internet bank, but the financial products as well. The good news is, the functions of the internet bank can help to make these products more user friendly.

Back to our question: "to whom do we design the internet bank"? The internet bank doesn't have a target group. The internet bank's functions have target groups: each one has different, but aligned with the underlying financial product.

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