The Aesthetics of Mobile - What Do Banking App Users Really Want

By : Dan Weis

May 08, 2018 12:00 PM

Mobile apps have become a top priority for any bank that wants to be successful in the digital age. In a world where consumers are able to organize every other aspect of their life, from booking flights to tracking their fitness, through just a few taps of a touchscreen, it's entirely reasonable for them to expect to manage their finances on the same platform.


Yet when it comes to the tools available to them, the quality of mobile apps can vary dramatically. Even though banks have now had several years to determine what their users want and develop platforms to meet these needs, some financial institutions are clearly performing much better than others.


So what can banks do in order to improve their offerings and attract and retain consumers in a mobile-first world?



The importance of aesthetic appeal



One recent study conducted by Bain and UserTesting focused on five key factors that it identified as key customer experience attributes - ease of use, speed, credibility, aesthetics, and delight. It then asked 300 customers to evaluate the main mobile apps offered by three of the US' largest banks on each of these categories.


It found aesthetics was the area in which the apps - from Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo - performed best. Participants in the study frequently used adjectives such as 'clean', 'clear' and 'consistent' to describe the way the apps looked. All the solutions evaluated were praised for their "modern, attractive and professional-looking" visuals and branding.


This should therefore highlight the importance of an app's appearance if banks are to compete with more established providers. While ensuring the right functionality is included and is easy to use should always be the number one priority, if users find the interface's visuals outdated or uninteresting to look at they are unlikely to want to continue using it.


Interestingly, the category that the apps performed worst in was 'delight'. This may reflect the fact this is perhaps the most elusive and vaguely-defined factor, but it could suggest that there is a missing 'X factor' that consumers are looking for from their banking apps that financial institutions have thus far been unable to find.


It could also be because managing finances is still viewed as a chore. Therefore, working to make the experience more fun and lighthearted - perhaps through greater use of animations and gamification - could help create a more positive impression of a brand.



Creating a comprehensive experience



While focusing on individual areas such as improving ease of use and aesthetics are top priorities, banks should also think about the overall impact their efforts have on an app's usability.


For instance, in the worst-performing app, customers expressed frustration with the "extreme difficulty" of viewing online statements, while overall, setting up fraud alerts was the most difficult task for customers. Users complained about a lack of clarity about where to find alerts, while some were unable to get the feature to work at all.


These problems highlight how user experience must be viewed holistically - to make an impact on customers, a good app must not simply offer consumers the tools they need, but also ensure that they are easy and enjoyable to use. The study noted that since 2012, there has been a gradual decline in growth of active mobile banking customers, so working to address this will be essential in ensuring mobile continues to be a profitable area for financial institutions.


"Retail banks are in a unique position to dramatically improve their mobile app CX by zeroing in on the insights their customers provide," said Janelle Estes, vice-president of strategic research services at UserTesting. "As our study revealed, even a minor change to an app's navigation or functionality can change a customer's entire perception of the brand - and benefit the bottom line."

Dan Weis

Mobile Product Leader

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Dan works at NCR leading the retail banking mobile app team. The mobile apps are used by nearly 4.8 million consumers.