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Advanced LEGO is easier than opening a bank account

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

During the pandemic, I splurged on the 7,541 piece LEGO Millennium Falcon. I've been chipping away at it for over a year - it's therapeutic. It's an advanced set, so the instructions are more challenging than most. Last week I completed a review of a community bank's account opening experience, and I also completed 80 pages of instructions on the Millennium Falcon. During my LEGO build, I didn't make any mistakes. During the account opening, I made 4. HOW can we design account opening experiences that are more complex than advanced LEGO?

LEGO Millennium Falcon - some context

About two years ago, my 9-year-old son dropped a LEGO set on the floor - it was the Hogwarts Great Hall from Harry Potter. I sat with him and we put it back together and I found it strangely relaxing. I could literally feel my heart rate slowing down :)

During the COVID pandemic, I felt the need for something therapeutic. So I decided to get myself some "grown up" LEGO and bought the James Bond Aston Martin DB5. I thoroughly enjoyed putting it together over a few days.

I was ready for my next challenge! So I purchased the LEGO Millennium Falcon. There have been several Millennium Falcons from LEGO over the years - but this one is a monster. It has 7,541 pieces, 496 pages of instructions and it weighs 37lbs!!! It's about the same size as a 40" TV.

And the instructions are purposefully 'vague' to make it a little more challenging to build. So it requires attention.

Last weekend I spent a couple of hours working on it - got through about 80 pages of instructions and didn't make a single mistake, remembering that LEGO has made the instructions a little more challenging. That says nothing about my LEGO skills - but it does speak volumes for the design work to simplify something that is truly complicated.

For the steps where things are a little more complex, LEGO has great instructions to make sure you get it right. As you can see in the image, the red arrows show how pieces need to be attached.

Its challenging, fun, relaxing - everything you'd expect it to be.

Opening a bank account is harder!

I've worked with a lot of banks and credit unions designing their account opening or loan application experiences over the last decade. That work has taught me a lot of dos and donts.

So a community financial institution recently asked me to review their account opening experience - one they purchased from a large technology provider (I know who it is, but won't name & shame them here). The same experience is used by hundreds of community and regional financial institutions across the US.

To perform the assessment, I go through the account opening, right up to the point of submitting the application, taking screenshots, and making notes. The first page of the application assured me it would take less than 5 minutes and be "easy". IT WASN'T!

During the application process, I managed to make 4 mistakes that threw error messages. I wasn't trying to make mistakes. I was confused when the error occurred. I was confused quite a few times during the process. I completed 80 pages of a complex LEGO build without making a mistake - but opening a bank account in (apparently) 5 minutes results in 4 errors. How can that be???

It's quite obvious that this experience was designed by an engineer. Don't get me wrong - engineers are AWESOME! But they're also, by definition, technical. They should not be designing experiences for us mere mortals.

Examples of where the Account Opening could be easier

Let's look at some specific examples of where the mistakes were made and how the design of the customer experience could set the applicant up for success, not errors.

  1. Don't make me search! I had to look around the website for the option to "Open an Account". There were links, but they were not obvious and they were not obviously clickable. This shouldn't be a treasure hunt. People come to a bank or credit union website for two reasons (1) to log in to online banking and (2) to get a new product. The second opportunity is the sales opportunity - don't make it hard to find. Go buy something on Amazon and see how easy the purchase process is - you never have to look for the "Add to cart" follows you around.

  2. Don't ask me to do things if I have no choice - do it for me This particular product required me to make a particular selection. It was mandatory and there was only one choice. DO IT FOR ME! Instead, I clicked Continue (which was enabled, even though the mandatory selection of the one and only option hadn't been made) and it threw an error message causing me to go "huh?"

  3. Don't use password fields for anything other than a password! As expected, the application form required me to enter my social security number. But the field to collect the SSN was a password field. So I couldn't see my input. Meaning I did it twice just to make sure I got it right because I couldn't see if I'd made a type-o. I entered it at my normal rate of typing - realized I couldn't see the input. Deleted it. And retyped it. S-L-O-W-L-Y.

  4. Make questions EASY to answer The very first page of the application said the application process would be quick and "EASY". But then they asked for "Occupation Duration" - seriously, "duration". Not "How long have you lived at this address". But that wasn't the problem, the fields were "Years" and "Months". I've lived at my current address for 7 years and the form asks me what month I moved in. But is it when we moved in? Because we moved in around February or March. Or possibly early April. But we bought the place in October or Nov and then had quite a bit of work to do on it over Winter before we moved in. So is it when we bought the home or when we moved in? You get my point - it's a hard question to answer for most. Now I know what the bank/credit union really needs to know - "Have you lived at this address for more than 2 years". And they ask this because a lot of data verification services may still have your old address. So if the answer is YES - I moved in the last 2 years, we'll probably want your previous address to help verify your identity. But when a bank or credit union asks a question like "Occupation Duration" in months and years - people feel like they need to get that question right! It's like a test. And if they're not sure, they will abandon and CUSTOMER LOST!

There are a bunch of additional tips for designing great account opening experiences here. and in this conference presentation at Fintech Devcon

So please - when you're designing an experience like an Account Opening, don't make it harder than an expert LEGO set!

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