Mobile Monday: Communicating Critical App Updates via Email

 

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       Email from US Bank to mobile banking customers (12 Nov 2015)

Last week I wrote about how much I liked US Bank’s new native app. So I understand why the bank is anxious to get users ported over to the new version. Customers are going to like it. Guaranteed.

Yet I was a little surprised, just a week into the new version, to receive an email warning that the previous app was about to stop working (see message above). This urgency makes customers question whether there is something seriously wrong with the previous version. The message is also annoying in that it doesn’t really give the customer any clue as to whether their version is the current one or not. It provides only the version number (2.1.76) which is the cut-off between good and bad apps.

This message has so many weak points opportunities to improve, I put together a top-10 list (plus 2 bonus nitpicks). Here are my gripes more or less in priority order:

  1. I had already updated to the new version, so this message was completely unnecessary. And if the bank doesn’t know which version I’m using, it should say so.
  2. There is no explanation of why all of sudden it was so urgent to upgrade. Skeptical users were left to use their imaginations…not something you want in these days of widely publicized security breaches.
  3. usbank_appversionnumberInstead of talking about version numbers, why not just describe the new app? It looks completely different and a quick description and screenshot would have been understood by 90% of the readers allowing the to move on with their day rather than proceeding through a tedious “find the version number hunt.”
  4. If you must use a version number, then at least explain how to find it. The email didn’t address that key point in the body, fine print, or any of links provided within the message. It’s not that simple to find the version number. You must login, find the hidden primary navigation, choose “About the App” and notice the version number in the lower right corner (see inset). 
  5. If you are going to make such a big change, use a whole number for the new version. In this case, it would be easier to say, “use v3.0 or later.” 
  6. The links provided to update the app did not go to the iTunes update page, but instead went to a marketing page at USBank.com. And the marketing pages, while well done, also did NOT link to the app store update pages. In fact, to confuse things further, the marketing page said the new version “was coming soon.”
  7. The only way to get help was by making a phone call to the general 800 number. No FAQ, email address, chat, or digital way to get help. It wasn’t even a direct line to tech support.
  8. The email message was not optimized for mobile. It was hard to read on my iPhone 6.
  9. It does not specifically address what happens if you don’t update within the next few days; “discontinuing support” has a number of meanings from simply not getting tech support to completely not working.
  10. The bank ended by thanking me for being a mobile banking customer….good. But they could have also thanked me for taking time out of my day to deal with this “upgrade emergency.”
  11. <Nitpick #1> The first sentence of the second paragraph uses “new” three times.
  12. <Nitpick #2> The closing sentence repeats the “enhanced convenience” copy point. This is a generic benefit at best and shouldn’t be invoked twice in a 150-word message.

Bottom line: Customer communications are not easy, especially with newer technology. So make sure to test them with some less-savvy users before hitting publish.

UI: US Bank Tackles New Mobile Navigation Conventions

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As I was taking a tour of US Bank’s gorgeous new mobile app (above), I was reminded of an ongoing problem in mobile UI, lack of navigational consistency. For anyone over 30, you’ve seen this play out before. It took nearly a decade (1995 to early 2000’s) for websites, especially in financial services, to conform to pretty straightforward navigation conventions (tabs on top, login in upper right, etc).

usbank_previousWhile responsive design (one website for desktop and mobile) has made things a little less standardized, desktop browser navigation is still pretty easy to figure out. And there’s always the back button to get you out of a jam.

Not so on smartphones. First-generation mobile banking UIs generally used the bottom of the screen to showcase 3 or 4 navigational choices, often with a More button to expand the choices. This worked OK since early apps usually had limited functions.

But as banks redesign their apps to a more modern esthetic, the bottom nav bar is disappearing. That looks great, but how do users find key functions?

That brings me back to US Bank’s new app. When I finished admiring its new, sleek design, I was momentarily thrown for a loop on how to get out of the main page. The familiar buttons at the bottom were gone (see older screenshot right). And initially I didn’t see the “hamburger menu” in the upper corner, which has recently become a fairly common design convention.

usbank_nav_closeupusbank_mobile_nav_optionsIt turns out that US Bank has located navigation options in two spots, neither particularly easy to see on a phone.

(1) The hamburger menu is there in the upper left, but it’s small and looks like it’s part of the logo (see screenshot at left and closeup at right)
(2) Even smaller context-sensitive menus directly to the right of each account. Deposit accounts have three navigation choices (Pay/Send, Transfer Money, Deposit)

Bottom line: U.S. Bank has delivered what may well be the best looking big-bank mobile app yet, at least in the United States.  It is also packed with new features such as no-login balance inquiry and customizations. So kudos to the team at US Bank, which also led the pack on desktop UI more than a decade ago!

That said, the almost-hidden primary navigation is a case of the design getting slightly ahead of its users. While users will soon get used to the new nav links, in the meantime I recommend a few adjustments:

  1. Add navigation instructions to the “feature tour” when users open the app for the first time.
  2. Make the hamburger menu stand on its own by increasing its size and placing it away from the US Bank logo (below the logo, or in the upper right which is wide open).
  3. Consider adding the word “menu” below it for a few months, at least until users get the hang of it.

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Update 16 Nov 2015: Digital design guru Jakob Nielsen just published an overview of mobile navigation echoing our concerns with the hamburger menus. 

US Bank Adds “Thank a Banker” to Homepage

usbank_thankabanker_boxUS Bank has been on a roll lately, appearing in our blog more times this summer than the 3 years prior. Its latest novelty? A unique “thank a banker” function, complete with smiley face emoji, prominently located at the bottom-middle of homepage (below the fold on my 13-inch laptop). It’s shown to both customers and non-customers.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it. While I don’t see the harm, it would seem to be pretty low-usage feature to warrant homepage real estate. But the more I thought about the more I liked it. It’s great brand positioning, essentially saying, “Hey, look. we aren’t one of those impersonal banks. Our customers love us so much we have to put a box on our homepage to collect all the compliments.”

And then if anyone actually does use it, the bank gets a stream of attaboy/girls to send out to staff. Clever. Hopefully, the bank sends the customer a nice thank-you email (I hadn’t received one 30 minutes after submitting form).

The website function is outsourced to an employee-recognition specialist, OC Tanner an which displays an ewardcenter.com URL to US Bank customers as they fill out the 13-field form, with a hefty 9 required fields (see second screenshot below).

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More importantly, I like the Labor Day loan sale at the top of the US Bank homepage (see below). It’s traditionally a big car buying weekend, so it’s a great time to promote vehicle lending, especially with the still ridiculously low APRs available here.

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US Bank homepage (3 Sep 2015, 10 AM Pacific):

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US Bank “thank-a-banker” form (link):

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Design: Creating Online Awareness of Digital Banking

design_iconThere is only one reason I visit a bank’s website: to learn about its online and/or mobile banking features. Granted, understanding digital banking is my livelihood. But normal people looking for a new checking account, credit card or loan, also need to understand digital capabilities. Even for those that need the comfort of knowing there’s a branch nearby, online/mobile is still a key attribute for the vast majority of consumers (and businesses) shopping banks.

So I don’t understand why digital features are often relegated to a sub-menu buried in the Personal Banking section. Of the 10 largest U.S. retail banks, only two, US Bank and BB&T, feature online banking in high-level navigation. This is little changed from our mid-2013 overview.

My favorite among the mega-banks (again) is US Bank, which highlights digital on the upper left and uses both “online” and “mobile” in the navigation tab:

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BB&T’s
placement also works with “Online Services” on the far right of the top line. While that naming is okay, it would be better to see “mobile” mentioned. So, I’d recommend changing it to “Online & Mobile,” which is the same number of characters.

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There are already plenty of smaller banks and credit unions that are showcasing their digital features. For example, San Diego County Credit Union uses “Online & Mobile Banking” along its top navigation.

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Image licensed from 123rf.com