An industry in peril
Traditional financial institutions are facing a whale of a problem: their newest and future customers aren’t buying in.
The financial sector has often been criticized for their obfuscation of industry-specific terminology and information. One study recently found the Flesch-Kincaid readability score of tested banking sites to be lower (which means more difficult to read) than protomodernist Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick; or, the Whale.
For perspective, Moby-Dick (in)famously deep dives into non-fictive essays about 19th century whaling, has a lexicon of over 20k unique words (many invented), and contains heavily symbolic scenes packed with dense wordplay and literary allusions.
Is your finance website considered a “Great American Novel” that anticipated literary modernism by 50+ years? I doubt it. So read on.
How customers are different & how to adapt
The readability study doesn’t reflect an ignorance of the users’ financial literacy; rather, it illustrates a fundamental flaw within the design thinking of these websites and apps. Unlike generations before them, Generations Y and Z (or “Millennials” & “Zoomers”) actually ask questions and won’t trust businesses simply because their parents did.
Why the change in behavior?
Gens Y & Z have been raised in an era of economic collapse, unprecedented acts of terrorism, sweeping social change, and accelerated advancements in technology.
Obviously, this sub-40, tech-savvy crowd have certain key expectations when it comes to contemporary business models and, notably, their design.
So, how can financial institutes hope to attract these technologically-engaged, socially aware demographics? The answer, in a helpful mnemonic, is TEST.
There is no hiding in 2019. Your future customers will seek out your business’ history, dealings, and how much information you’re withholding or obscuring. A simple Google search of terms not adequately defined on your website will make you immediately suspicious to this already wary demographic.
Ideas of “loyalty” for Gens Y & Z are defined not by long-standing history or even necessarily by behavior. Instead, being absolutely transparent is as close to guaranteed loyalty as you will get from the these critical thinkers. In fact, 56% of young respondents claim a lifetime allegiance to those companies they believe are honest and forthcoming.
How do finance companies become more transparent?
First, let’s be honest with each other: during the Great Recession, many Millennials saw their childhood homes be taken away, their parents become unemployed, and their main street evaporate. This has led to a deeply jaded and suspicious feeling towards any traditional banking or finance entity.
You will probably never be the good guy or achieve the inexplicable following of Wendy’s.
Luckily, you don’t necessarily need to be a superhero to build trust with Gens Y & Z. Here are some places to start:
- Stop emulating the narrative complexities of Herman Melville and Martin Heidegger on your website. Clearly define your terms, murder your darlings, and take remedial English classes if needed.
- Make sure your social media accounts are more than just advertisements. Tweet, share, and post updates about the company. Be human. Don’t hide behind stock photos and slogans.
- A clear and authentic “meet us” section about the company and its employees goes a surprisingly long way in building trust and transparency.
- Give your users behind-the-scenes glimpses into your company via blogs, video content, or even hosted events.
Remember when Generation X threatened to destroy the soul-deadening consumerist society of the 1990s with such (often misinterpreted) manifestos as Fight Club, American Psycho, and Office Space? Well they didn’t.
Millennials, however, actually are rebelling against those systems, but not via domestic terrorism, murder, or luddite-like beatdowns of malfunctioning printers.
Instead, Gen Y is choosing to place more value in their experiences than in their possessions. Why bother “owning” a house or expensive car when you can do something no bank can ever take from you? Studies show that focusing on experiences have more beneficial long-term effects than fetishized objects of capitalism, and Millennials are all about it.
What does that mean for your business?
Experiences are more than literal vacations, concerts, art exhibits, hikes, etc. In the UX world, experience means interaction design. Is your website or app fun to use? Is your website or app well-branded? Does it feel fluid and unique? Does it leave the user feeling good? Or, at the very least, does it avoid frustrating them?
Having a good, responsive website or app isn’t enough anymore. For a generation raised during a booming video game industry and an endless surge of streaming services, engaging content is constantly available. What that means for finance website and app design is adding gamification elements.
Think about the fireworks Fitbit displays when you’ve reached 10k steps, or the app-specific currency Duolingo rewards you with for completing lessons. They’re simple, materially meaningless rewards, but that’s often all it takes to elevate your design from conventional to exceptional.
More examples of gamification: Gamification in mobile app UX: TryMyUI’s favorites
Issues of global sustainability and climate change have become a unifying concern for Millennials and Zoomers. The US Congress was very recently chastised by a Nobel Prize-nominated 16-year-old girl for not taking climate change seriously, and opinions that climate change is a “major issue” in politics is higher than ever.
Millennials and Zoomers want to know what you are doing for the community, both the local and the world-at-large, and how they themselves are connected to those communities by using your service. To put it bluntly: show them that their dollar isn’t just lining executive wallets.
Impact is a huge concern for younger generations, and many well-established businesses are taking note. For example, Microsoft was not only founded by one of the most charitable people alive, but it also donates nearly $2 million per day towards relieving global poverty and increasing availability of basic healthcare.
What does the finance industry have to offer communities?
TryMyUI recently contributed prizes to a Shark Tank-like CrowdPitch event hosted by Lendio, friends of ours in the business lending industry. In attendance were several local and national finance executives and representatives, offering advice and expertise to benefit the young entrepreneurs pitching their businesses.
Even something as simple as spending an afternoon guiding the future Fortune 500 CEOs for free can build a lasting narrative of community engagement and local concern.
Non-specific community engagement is also an option:
- Think about carbon footprint mitigation.
- Donate to progressive charities (the Red Cross and Salvation Army won’t cut it).
- Partner with local charities and non-profit organizations.
- Symbolic adoption of land or animals makes for great social media and blog content (consider hosting events at your local zoo).
- Improve hospitals, schools, parks, or libraries.
- Get the company involved with trending acts of charity, such as #trashtag.
Really, there are endless ways to do good in the world, especially for wealthy corporate entities.
Younger generations are naturally curious and, due to the perpetual stream of new, newer, and newest technology available to them since a young age, can adapt and gain knowledge at greater rates than their parents or grandparents. This is an opportunity to establish yourself as a trustworthy authority in the industry.
Interactive design, user interface, user experience design, etc. are all tossed around to generally ask “what is a user doing with my design?” Or, perhaps a better way of framing it, “what is my design doing with the user?”
Ask yourself this: “Is my design performing necessary duties in service to my user? How can I make my design necessary?”
Take financial website Coinbase, which deals in cryptocurrency. Coinbase offers $130 in cryptocurrencies in exchange for completing lessons designed to help the user understand how cryptocurrency works, and what makes specific coins unique.
Coinbase monetarily rewards users for learning more about both the platform and the industry with no overt advertisements or persuasion to begin purchasing or continue use of the site. Obviously, that’s the end-goal of the educational giveaways, but done properly, conversions such as these will feel natural and safe to your users. It builds both trust and authority.
I’m not saying you should be giving away money, but at the very least, offer educational material beyond paragraphs and sub paragraphs and fine prints. You can even make a bit of a game out of it, like we discussed in the Experiential section!
The next generation of world leaders are watching you. Financial website design and institutions in general have a lot to think about: gamification, social responsibility, education, communication, cutting-edge technology, and much, much more.
Our best piece of advice for improving your user experience?
Research your new users, because your new users are definitely researching you.
Usability testing and UX research are easier than ever to perform due to remote testing platforms (such as TryMyUI). We use industry standard psychometrics, record a curated pool of remote user testers using your site, and compile it all into actionable, shareable data via intuitive graphs and collaboratively annotated videos.
For a full list of our features and plans, visit our plans page.
Specifically relevant to financial website design is our SUPR-Q psychometric model, which includes the NPS. This questionnaire measures more abstract qualities of users instead of focusing primarily on usability.
Qualities such as the user’s thoughts on trust/credibility, loyalty, and appearance of the website reflect what financial institutions need to know: do customers trust us, will they come back, and what are they saying to their friends and colleagues about us?
No design is without its flaws, and as generations Y and Z continue to populate the disposable income demographic, flawed financial website design will continue to cost the finance industry more and more.