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Mobile banking to take off - if the user experience is right

Sebastien Slim points out in his blog post (Generating loyal customers through mobile banking, 14 March 2011) that analyst research shows that banks are starting to take notice of mobile banking, stating that they can no longer afford to put off the adoption of this hugely important channel. But he also notes that banks still have a great deal of work to do if they are to make their mobile banking proposition more appealing.  

So what is the solution? Like Slim says, it lies in the provision of innovative, interactive services to help engage the customer on a new level and drive up customer loyalty, and I believe this is best achieved by putting the customers’ user experience at the heart of service design. Without this consideration, banking on-the-move could easily fail to reach mainstream adoption. After all, how can a consumer on the street connect with a service that does not have the kind of fluid design to integrate easily into their daily lives? Innovations of this type must put the user first and marry utility with desire hold the key to success.

Design is key, but if the design of current mobile banking applications is anything to go by, then banks still have work to do.  By and large, the high expectations of iPad and iPhone app users in terms of look and feel and intuitiveness have not been met by mobile banking applications. Consumers want beauty and ease of use, platforms that ignore these core concepts face an uphill struggle. So, there is something of a balancing act to get it right which is no mean feat, after all, how do you create complex data representations and design within the restrictions of a bank’s IT infrastructure whilst delivering on time, on budget, and with a great user experience? Where does the app fit within the banking ecosystem of branch, ATM and mobile, and how can these all be kept up to date in real time? These are the kind of challenges user design professionals are employed to face – and overcome.

How? To achieve the right experience and design, it is necessary to obtain a complete picture of the landscape in which the service will be available. Due diligence must include a detailed map including key insight into brand principles, target users, the current state of the industry and a feel for what direction it’s heading in, along with technology enablers and position in the market. When all these pieces come together the user experience can be brought to life using lateral thinking and rapid visualisation techniques, such as storyboarding and sketching, to ensure that the solution is simple and easy to use, and has the right look and feel for its specific platform.

While in Europe there are several progressive and innovative banks that show an interest in digital and have a belief in new solutions, in the UK, the situation is quite different. Very few banks make use of the existing tools available and roll out apps with limited functionality. With consumer adoption of mobile devices growing at a phenomenal pace and their understanding and expectations of what the technology can achieve, this will be an increasing point of contention for consumers in the UK. The rewards for “getting it right” are substantial. Services need to be designed that follow the movements in the market by understanding how consumers behave, interact and share and then incorporate this into the business design process. The banking industry must move with the times and embrace new technologies – while there is still time.


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