Report Studies User Experience of Financial Websites

Web-based usability testing tool Usabilla recently conducted a study on the user experience, as well as usability similarities and differences among some of the largest retail banking websites in countries around the world, including the U.S., Germany and the U.K. Though it is focused on sites in the financial sector, many of the takeaways from the study provide insights that can be used to help websites in any industry.

Among the banks included in the report are Bank of America, Barclays, Chase, Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Wells Fargo.

In the study, 400 participants were asked to perform simple, everyday tasks on these various websites and then provide feedback about their experiences. They were asked various questions, such as which aspects of the sites made them trust the banks, where they had to click to get information about credit cards, where they had to click to find information about how to meet with someone from their nearest branch of the bank, where to click if they have had a card stolen and what they would change or improve about each site.

Usabilla took the data from this report and gave each site a mean score based on accuracy and the time it took users to locate important information on the site. From there, each site was ranked from best to worst based on its overall performance.

Some of the most important findings from the study include the following:

- Often, many of these sites have a divide between a user's priorities and the priorities of the banks. Most of the "information is often based not on the most frequent actions a user takes . . . but on the services the bank wants to sell."

- A user's trust in a website is based largely on visual factors. Pages that display a padlock icon by their login and sign-in sections are often much more trusted than those who don't. Also, if they have clear banners and links that make reference to their security measures or programs, they appear more trustworthy; on the other hand, sites with many ads and/or offers appear less trustworthy.

- Most banks performed poorly when it came to offering a "Lost Credit Card" button by failing to place one somewhere that was easy for users to access. Many of the participants in the study said that "the experience of losing a credit card could be much less stressful" if banks were to make this button simpler to find on their websites.

- The sites with the cleanest designs on their credit card pages performed the best in the survey, with all participants agreeing that too much information made it difficult to find desired content.

"The retail banking sector occupies a critical corner on the Internet, and consumers place their financial livelihood in these companies every day," says Paul Veugen, Usabilla Founder and CEO. "We decided to test and highlight these leading retail banking websites due to the level of trust that consumers place in them combined with the intrinsic customer-centric nature of the banking sector."

Of course, it should go without saying that much of the information gleaned from this study can be worthwhile for any website. For instance, a common issue on many webpages is that businesses often don't adapt fast enough to meet user needs or wants, and recent trends on many sites are swinging towards customization for users. Likewise, it has long been known that the more cluttered a page is, the less usable it will be for people visiting the site.

Thus, it is good for website owners and designers to pay attention to these kinds of reports because, if nothing else, they show that even major companies can still make mistakes on the Web. The major findings of the study, when broken down to their essentials, are all about having a clean and easy-to-follow design and providing relevant content to users. I think that those concerns should be contemplated by any website.