Source: National Savings and Investments
National Savings and Investments (NS&I), the government-backed personal savings and investments provider, has relaunched its retail website with a completely new design, a variety of extra features and new technology to improve its speed.
Developed by Wheel in partnership with NS&I's design and branding agency Lloyd Northover, the website aims to appeal to customers' savings needs - like saving for children or seeking tax-free savings - rather than focusing on the types of products available from NS&I.
It provides customers with a simple-to-use savings selector - Help me to decide - which asks customers a series of questions about their savings and investments needs and then suggests the NS&I products which may suit them best.
Another brand new feature is an online sales process for Premium Bonds, NS&I's flagship savings product. Although NS&I's previous website, originally launched in July 2002, offered online sales for other products, this is the first time Premium Bonds have been available online.
Another new service - Request updates - allows customers to register with NS&I to receive regular updates by e-mail. More update services will be available in the future.
New technology and site security
Website download times have improved by making much greater use of cascading style sheets which provide simpler, cleaner HTML. This has vastly improved the operational speed of the website, even for those customers using a 56k dial-up connection.
Additional care has been taken to provide customers who prefer to enlarge text, change the colour or use audio browsers. The site aims to satisfy the W3C accessibility guidelines and, in the near future, NS&I will acquire formal qualification.
Application processes have been streamlined by the development of an address lookup system based on a customer's postcode and reduced data entry for repeat purchases.
The secure sales process is protected by a 128-bit SSL encryption system. The security certificates used on the NS&I website have been issued by Verisign, a recognised security certificate vendor and, in order to receive these, several key company credentials have to be met.
And, for more security, personal information is not stored on NS&I's web servers - it is held on separate, protected servers that have no direct public access and very sensitive debit card information is not only encrypted but also deleted after the application is complete.
The site is managed using the latest content management technology - Serena's Collage - which means timely updates of content by NS&I. This technology also allows simultaneous update of the Welsh language version of the website.
As well as implementing the content management system, Wheel developed the complex functionality using Java 2 Enterprise edition technologies - Oracle 9iAS - together with its own suite of tools to manage the secure application processes.
Savings made easy
NS&I head of e-Business, Joe Dall, said: "We designed the new website from a customer point of view and tested the new design with customers to ensure it was as easy and intuitive as possible to use.
"The new website is faster to use because of the way it has been designed, and customers will see this in the speed at which new pages upload as they move around the website - even if they don't use broadband.
"The Premium Bond prize checker has also been made more robust to ensure it provides customers with a quality service every month.
"Later this year we will introduce more features to make the experience of using our website and saving and investing online with NS&I even better."
NS&I sales director, John Prout, added: "People with money to save or invest are often pressed for time to sort out their finances. An online resource makes it much easier for customers to save when it suits them, in their lunch break or in a few minutes at the weekend.
"Our online Premium Bonds facility is straightforward and simple to use and is as easy as going online to buy a book or CD, or order some flowers.
"Overall, our new website will make it easier for customers to understand which of our savings and investments is right for them and provide them with a greater opportunity to choose NS&I as the safest home for their money."