Website Design: 10 Reasons to Love the Homepage of City National Bank of West Virginia

city_national_WV_home

Sometime serendipity leads you to great places. Looking for inspiration this morning I did a random search on Google for “banks in West Virginia.” The top organic result was City National Bank, an 82-branch bank headquartered in Charleston, WV. If they were a fintech company, we’d be talking about how close they are to becoming a unicorn (current market value is just under $750 million).

And more importantly for our blog, City National has an awesome website. The overall look and feel is great, the polished graphics grab your attention, and it’s limited it to about 60 words of copy. Here’s 10 more reasons why it clicks with us:

  1. Site search is easy to find: Placed in the upper right with an purple magnifing glass to give it a little extra polish.
  2. The main navigation limited to four key items: Personal | Business | Mortgage | Wealth Management
  3. The Personal drop-down menu (not shown) includes: “Online & Mobile Banking” and “Online Account Opening” two important functions that are often difficult to find. It also lists “Avoiding overdrafts” first (see #10)
  4. Promo area well designed: The four rotating promos are beautiful, with great visuals and dramatic color.
  5. Visible call to action: The promo includes a specific call to action, “Add your card”
  6. Login area include help for new users: I really like how they split the button into thirds with Login | Demo | Enroll
  7. Account opening choices: It’s important to showcase the ability to open online since that’s still not widely understood. But extra points for City National for also not forgetting that many (most?) still like the support of opening in branch
  8. $5 e-statement credit: Great to see the bank sharing the cost savings from ridding the system from paper
  9. Overdraft avoidance:  Not only does the bank use the O-word (on the homepage no less), it even helps customers avoid them (see also #3 above) (see note 1).
  10. Suggestion box: After #9, I’m not surprised, but it’s also rare to see this level of encouragement to provide feedback to the bank.

Grade: A

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Note:
1. If you go deeper into the overdraft avoidance advice, it’s not as consumer friendly as I expected. The bank could do more to promote overdraft protection options.

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):

usbank_home_0915

US Bank “thank-a-banker” form (link):

usbank_thankabanker

 

 

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:

usbank_home


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.

bbt_home
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

Mobile Monday: Engaging Prospective New Customers

mobile_phone_lineupHow important are mobile users to your sales efforts? 76% of Facebook’s ad revenue is from mobile (and it was considered by many to be a mobile laggard a few years ago).

Prospective customers are already visiting your website from their smartphones in massive numbers. Are you making a good first impression? Does the UI work across key devices? And more importantly, is there an easy-to-find path to mobile purchase?

This afternoon I visited 20 leading banking and personal finance sites (as a proxy for popularity, I used the 20 most downloaded free finance apps in the US Apple App Store, see list in footnote). And it was like a trip back in time before (desktop) websites had adopted browser design standards. By the numbers:

  • Excellent: 19 of the 20 had mobile optimized sites (Laggard = Navy Federal Credit Union)
  • Satisfactory: 14 of 18 had visible link for login (2 required a native app to login)
  • Needs work: 11 of 20 had a visible link to download the native app (including the 3 below)
  • Needs work: Only 3 of 20 used an initial “popup” screen that prompted to download the app, then the user needed to find a link to the non-app site
  • Needs work: 12 of 20 made a visible attempt to sell something
  • Fail: 6 of the 20 made a pretty marginal first impression including several of the biggest financial institutions in USA/World (American Express, Chase, Citibank, Mint, PNC, Wells Fargo)

My favorites (from this sample of 20, see footnote):

Bank: US Bank
Nice, engaging layout with clear path to more info; but missing link to download app

usbank_msite

Runner-up: TD Bank
Easy to find customer service, login, location; but missing link to app

tdbank_msite

Favorite non-bank: Credit Karma
Good branding, clear get started button; but no link to native app

credit_karma_msite

Least favorite FI: American Express (lots of competition for this one)
Too much emphasis on logging in, easy to miss card finder at bottom

amex_msite

Least favorite non-FI: Mint
Straightforward app link, but needs to better engage new user before offering the two choices; not very graphically interesting

mint_msite

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Top 20 apps (in order at US App Store, 5PM Pacific 31 Aug 2015): Chase, BofA, Wells Fargo, PayPal, Capital One, Venmo, Credit Karma, Square, Mint, Acorns, GEICO, Citibank, Discover, American Express, USAA, Progressive, US Bank, Navy Federal, TD Bank, PNC Bank

#RockChalk (for Karl, Joe & Mary)

Design: Mixed Verdict as Chase Bank Mimics Mobile Look on New Desktop UI

chase_new_v_old_homepage

Sunday, Chase unveiled a new homepage (on right above), the second in the past 3 years. While the first (on left above), unveiled in Oct 2012, was a massive rebuild, the latest is a more of a large remodel. I was not a huge fan of the 2012 version, so I’m glad to see the improvement, especially downsizing the page-dominating login area.

The first impression is good and the overall look & feel supports the Chase brand. But I think other homepages (e.g. Umpqua Bank, Verity Credit Union or even Capital One) do a better job showcasing banking products as opposed to “lifestyle” content that Chase seems enamored with (see #5 below). However, website design is much more than the homepage and Chase’s previous design is a top performer in Change Sciences overall 2014 website usability and conversion ratings. So clearly Chase knows how to convert their massive website traffic. I’m sure they will be closely following the metrics after the change and will tweak any area that’s underperforming.

Chase’s press release provides a handy outline to lay out a few thoughts on its website. (And I apologize in advance to the Chase team for a bit of snark sneaking through; press releases have a way of doing that to a person.)

So here are the five points taken verbatim from the press release along with our comments:

1. Feel at home: Localized images personalize the site for returning visitors

My take: This is a great feature brought over from Chase’s mobile app. Customized images are a nice and a relatively easy way to localize; still important in a country with 10,000 banks and credit unions, 99% of which are local oriented. However, Chase’s implementation is a bit jarring. The eight images zoom right-to-left every 7 seconds and never stop. It is making me dizzy as I write this. Luckily, they don’t begin until after you’ve been on page for 20+ seconds, so you can login before the show begins.

2. Take a scroll: Customers can scroll – like any newsfeed – down the home page and have access to relevant content

My take: Take a scroll is a clever bit of wordsmithing, but it’s a bit unusual to claim it as a benefit. That said, I do like the comparison to a newsfeed, a more modern concept generally not associated with banks.

3. Navigate with ease: The easy-access menu stays clearly in sight as customers scroll down the home page

My take: Chase’s fixed navigation is a UI feature that’s important on longer pages. But is it smart to mimic the mobile UI so closely? A universal complaint about mobile websites is their inconsistent navigation compared to desktop websites where nav has become well standardized. Yes, the design looks cooler, like a ginormous iPhone screen, but does the esthetic win come at the expense of usability? With those jumbo images flashing by every 7 secons, you do not want to linger. (There is also inconsistent navigation, the homepage uses the mobile approach while the inner pages have the older navigation. I assume that’s temporary.)

4. See the choices: Customers can find which checking accounts, credit cards or mortgages best fit their lifestyle

My take: Chase claims that, “Customers can find which checking accounts, credit cards or mortgages best fit their lifestyle.”  I’m pretty sure real people don’t think about their bank accounts that way, but what I believe the bank is saying here is that exposing readers to products within the “news & stories” section (see below) will lead to more sales. I have my doubts, but Chase can alter this quickly if the metrics aren’t supporting the tactic.

5. Learn from both experts and customers: News & Stories’ timely advice and insights move to a more prominent place

My take: Big brands have been toying with “content marketing” off and on for 20 years. I understand the bank’s desire to market this way, but there are so many credible sources of personal finance info, you just end up looking amateurish compared with the NY Times, CNN Money, not too mention the hundreds of personal finance blogs. And even if you pay Pulitzer prize winning journalists to write original content, you cannot avoid the fact that the article is POSTED TO A BANK SITE. My advice, stick to facts, tutorials, and links to third-party resources.