Banking apps failing user experience test

Banking apps failing user experience test

The functionality of mobile banking apps developed by five of the UK's top banks has been criticised after they racked up so-so scores in user experience testing conducted by Adaptive Lab.

The research looked at both the functionality and the user experience of mobile apps produced by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Santander.

James Haycock, managing director at Adaptive Lab, comments: “Extensive research and work has been undertaken at Adaptive Lab to achieve this study. It is a combination of primary and secondary research; with that of qualitative and quantitative research from a survey of over 400 nationally representative UK consumers, an expert heuristic review, user interviews and observations, and analysis of thousands of app store reviews from the iOS app store and Google Play.”

The report found that none of the banking apps on display scored more than 75% on either functionality (how many banking tasks people can do with the apps) or usability (how fast, easy and pleasant the app is to use and to understand). The lowest scoring app rated just 32% overall, breaking down into 43% for functionality and 25% usability.

The consumer survey indicated that bank customers are more inclined to use their mobile phones to manage their daily banking rather than switching on their PCs or laptops. Yet, the apps rated by Adaptive Lab were considered merely an adjunct to online banking, offering only a subset of the functionality available via the banks' websites.

"Although there are aspects of the apps that were reviewed that are visually attractive and user-friendly, most of these banking apps are to a certain extent limited in feature-sets and in providing a positive user experience.,” says Adaptive Lab service design and product manager Kat Matfield. "If consumers are going to be able to manage and monitor their finances entirely from their smartphones, banks will have to make more functionality available on their apps and focus on improving the user experience."

Comments: (11)

Dave Sanderson
Dave Sanderson - YBS Group - Bradford/Leeds - UK 28 January, 2015, 11:04Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I've not used the others but personally I find the Lloyds app to be really good.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 28 January, 2015, 12:221 like 1 like

I find that African banks are generally ignored when it comes to innovation on the mobile and find that I get a better experience from using tools by my Nigerian banks than I do from my US banks for example (I don't have a Neo Bank account). 

I'd like to know what Adaptive Labs think about:


Africa and Africans have always been "mobile first". 


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 28 January, 2015, 14:56Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Dave: Lloyds is my main bank too, and I certainly appreciate the extra features they have that aren't offered by the other banking apps in our research.


@Mosh: Great point! It makes perfect sense that Africa would have an advantage when it comes to mobile UX. The apps you linked to look great – I especially like the trends feature in Diamond and Zenith. One of our recommendations in the complete report is for banks to start offering this kind of money analytics to customers.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 28 January, 2015, 18:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Is the full report open to the public?
A Finextra member
A Finextra member 29 January, 2015, 09:44Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Craig Haslam, the full report is available here:  

Nandu Kulkarni
Nandu Kulkarni - Antarnaad Creative Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd. - Pune 29 January, 2015, 13:44Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I wonder if banks really design user interfaces keeping the user in mind, whether it is for their mobile apps or browser based front ends. Some banks seem to think that users want to see more pictures of the "bold and beautiful" and more graphics on their websites. They often ignore the user's "end use case" while designing reporting formats. For example, when a user downloads a bank statement in an Excel format, she is not interested in the visual appeal of the downloaded statement, as much as the data itself, and the ease with which it can be uploaded into some other application like a Personal Financial Management system.

A case in point is ICICI Bank in India, which took an excellent internet banking front-end, and one fine morning turned internet banking into one of the most tedious chores you can dream of. It now takes 3-4 clicks to log in where it took one, and the simple Excel statement now takes a great deal of effort to massage before it can be used for any practical purposes. Granted, the pictures and graphics are more pleasing to the eye, but then most users would switch on their TVs when they want to see nice pictures, not visit their bank's website!

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 30 January, 2015, 08:16Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

This report seems to be assigning a lower rating for a mobile app that has fewer features. This runs counter to the current best practice of developing mobile apps as lightweight apps with fewer, purpose-built features instead of matching their web counterparts feature-to-feature. It'd also be interesting to know if Adaptive Lab rated these mobile apps for features (e.g. Mobile RDC, Account opening by scanning a Drivers License) that leverage camera, GPS and other standard smartphone specs that are absent on a desktop / laptop and hence can’t be supported by NetBanking.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 02 February, 2015, 09:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Banks are still in a transition phase from traditional online banking to mobile banking. The platform independent online banking experience is wanted because of cost and simplicity - and the result is most often a mediocre mobile user experience at the best. A mobile first stategy is necesseary to create great mobile banking user experience - thinking of mobile as '"just another screen" is not product development for the future.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 02 February, 2015, 10:50Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Ketharaman We actually tackle the question of unbundling in the complete version of this report.

While there's certainly a strong trend towards single-purpose 'unbundled' apps, this isn't necessarily the right choice for banks. There's a real consumer movement towards relying on apps for more and more banking activity, and you can't support that use case without offering a full feature set. The users we observed found Barclays' unbundling of Pingit to be really frustrating, as they regarded this as 'core' functionality for a banking app.

As we see it, the challenges for banks are using unbundled apps appropriately, and rounding out the app featureset without compromising the ease of use.

We approached our research from a UX point of view, so we focused on users' tasks and included the kind of native technology you mention only when it had an impact on user experience.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 03 February, 2015, 13:32Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


TY for your reply.

Re. feature set:

Personally, I'm biased towards the omnichannel approach whereas you seem to favor the multichannel approach. I've written about my view of the difference between the two in From Multichannel To Omnichannel And Beyond. At the time, I said multichannel was "neither necessary nor feasible". Now, according to this McKinsey article, multichannel has reportedly been a bad use of IT budgets!

Given the current state of the art in security technology, I tend to believe that it's impossible for a bank to overcome the challenge of "rounding out the app featureset without compromising the ease of use".

Re. granularity:

I tend to agree that repeating the download-install-enroll process for each unbundled mobile app can be frustrating. That said, similar frustrations can happen even on the desktop web. For example, the bank stock trading portal I recently wrote about in Banks Have Nothing To Fear From Neobanks supports trading in Equity, F&O, Funds, Bonds, Foreign Markets, and so on. While all these products are available inside a single portal, each one of them requires separate enrollment including branch visit in some cases. Hardly an example of good UX but I'm willing to give the benefit of doubt to the bank for choosing to go that way despite the obvious compromise in UX - after all, the bank's portal otherwise trumps the UX of all nonbank stock trading portals hollow. Maybe the same logic applies for unbundled mobile apps as well. 

That said, the Swiss Army Knife Android app that I recently came across provides a great example of how to strike the right balance between “too many fine-grained apps with superior UX” on the one hand and “one single coarse-grained monolithic app with inferior UX” on the other. Like how the Swiss Army Knife physical product showed the optimum way of combining multiple tools into one easy-to-use toolkit, I think its app is going to serve as a lighthouse for how to combine multiple apps into one easy-to-use "app bundle".

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 11 February, 2015, 12:09Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Even Celent advises limiting feature sets in different channels including mobile: 

"...we don’t think that all channels must offer the same functionality""