top of page

Best practices for CX design in banking and insurance (Part 2)

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Significant effort and money are spent on the 'visual design' of experiences in industries such as banking and insurance. But these are tasks customers want to 'get in, get done, get out'. If you work in these industries, I would strongly advise that you make your customer experience design clean and intuitive. Don't make people think. Don't try to 'engage' customers - make yourself the easiest (fastest) to do business with in your industry and you will win.

In the blog ‘Stop over thinking CX Design – there are just two types’ I introduced the idea of dividing customer experiences into things we WANT to do (going on vacation) and things we MUST do (banking). And in Part 1 of this blog, we talked about best practices for designing experiences for those things we MUST do.

In this post, I want to share some best practices for the visual design of those MUST-do experiences. Simply put - the design should be simple. I like the principle that the user experience should be invisible - people shouldn't even notice it. That's a lofty goal! But here are some simple 'best practices' from my experience in banking and insurance:

  • Put the “purchase” button on your home page

  • Steer customers to the ‘path of least resistance

  • Get customers invested in the purchase – ask tough questions last

  • Details like headings and fonts can be important

  • Design for mobile and then scale up

  • Focus on design simplicity, not fancy UX

  • Monitor completion rates religiously: Up = Celebrate. Down = Investigate

Put the “purchase” button on your home page

If you work in banking or insurance – people visit your website for one of two reasons

  1. To login to their existing account

  2. To get a product/service (ok, maybe there’s a third)

  3. To get information about the products you offer – but that’s in service of #2 really

And, if the individual is already a customer – they’ll either already know or quickly figure-out how to log in to their existing account. So WHY do so many businesses make it hard to find out how to get a new product and actually apply? It should be prominently positioned on your home page. Take a look at the following fintechs as examples. Each one has the Call To Action (CTA) immediately visible on the home page.

OK – so if you’re a retail bank, then you average around 31 consumer products. Different flavors of checking account, savings account, credit card, mortgage, etc. So which one or ones do you surface on the home page? Easy – the most popular one(s). If you’ve just run a campaign offering a Savings Account a full percentage point above the competition – people will want to apply. If you’ve launched and advertised a new credit card – changes are people will want to apply.

Regardless – make the call to action for your product super easy to find. If it’s not on the home page, and I navigate to Mortgages – ‘Apply Now’ should be right there at the top of the page. It’s surprising how many businesses still get this wrong.

Remember – people come to your website to Login or Get a Product…don’t make the second task hard to find or they will leave.

Steer customers to the ‘path of least resistance’

Have you ever visited a website that offered sign-up with Google, Facebook or Apple ID’s? And then had a less obvious link below to sign-up with your email by typing in all your details (name, email, phone etc). There’s a good reason they promote the social sign-up ahead of manually filing in the form – completion rates are higher. Less abandonment!

I worked with a bank that invested in building a capability for account opening that allowed the customer to take a photo of their driving license to prefill 11 fields on the application form with a single click. It was a brilliant innovation at the time.

Can you see it in the screenshot (the bank name wasn’t Vault 😉)?

It’s that little grey icon of a camera. Almost invisible isn’t it. Guess what – very few customers used the service. They expected to type their name, address, email, etc. That’s what you do when you’re applying for a bank account. So they skipped the little grey inconspicuous icon and started typing.

Compare that to this screenshot from Wells Fargo. Exactly the same idea – snap a photo of your driving license to prefill the application (and improve identity verification and reduce fraud!). And the option to take the photo is half the size of the screen! You must skip past it to see that you can manually “fill it in yourself” if you really want to. It's that little bit of text at the bottom of the screen.

Wells Fargo is steering the customer towards the path of least resistance. They’ve encouraged the customer to ‘hit the easy button’ and in doing so have increased the chances of the application being completed and the bank acquiring a new customer.

So if you build cool innovations that make the customer’s life easier – encourage them to use them through appropriate design.

Get customers invested in the purchase – ask tough questions last

All questions on an application form are not created equal. Radio buttons are easier to complete than dropdowns. Dropdowns are easier to complete than typing, etc. However, there’s another dimension I like to call ‘recallability’ – or how easily can the customer ‘recall’ that piece of information.

I classify information into 3 types:

  1. ‘Know it’ – this is things like your name, phone number, email and date of birth. You just know it. And it’s the easiest to complete when you’re filling in a form. ‘Know it’ information involves zero investment of time.

  2. ‘Get it’ – this is information you have to get from a document or your phone, but you know exactly where to find it. For example, your driving license number. You know where it is, but probably haven’t memorized it (at least I haven’t!). ‘Get it’ requires a little investment of time – for example, getting up and grabbing your wallet or purse.

  3. ‘Find it’ – that’s the information that makes you ask ‘where is that?’ It could be the outstanding balance on your mortgage, your birth certificate or details of last year’s tax return. ‘Find it’ information requires the maximum and undetermined investment of time – who knows how long it’ll take to find your birth certificate.

When designing a digital experience, ask tough questions last (‘Get it’ and ‘Find it’). Get the customer invested in completing the application by asking easy ‘Know it’ questions first. If they’re 70% through an application before you ask for their driving license details, they’re more likely to comply because they don’t want to waste the time they’ve invested, and they’re nearly finished. If you ask for driving license details too early – it can result in them thinking ‘too hard, I’ll do it later’ before they even get started.

Details like headings, fonts and disclosures can be important

This is a tactical, but important recommendation and specifically focused on digital experiences. I can’t offer guidance on everything you should consider, but hopefully by providing a couple of examples I can help you become more ‘critical’ of the designs you have in market.

On a side note – if you’re going to engage a CX Design consultant, I would strongly recommend doing so before you’ve done any work on wireframes etc. Don’t ask them to review designs you’ve created – at that point you’ve invested in those design. Leverage the consultant’s insight and vision – give them a clean slate to work from and your customers will be happier with the result.

OK, back to the examples. Let’s start with ‘headings’. If you’re going to design an experience that uses headings, recognize that people will skim over your web page for account opening or the insurance claim experience to see what’s involved. So the headings should be clear, concise and helpful. They will get used. Ask yourself “can I skim this page and know what’s involved?”

Next – I’m not a big fan of ALL CAPS in text. Take a look at the following and ask yourself, which one is easier to read.


  2. I’m Really Enjoying Reading This Blog Post

  3. I’m really enjoying reading this blog post

I’d be surprised if it’s not #3. This is how you learned to read – sentence case. The capitalization indicates the start of the sentence. The words like ‘really’ are written the way you recognize them as opposed to ‘REALLY’. Some design folks will tell you ALL CAPS is awesome because it’s balanced and aligned. But that’s irrelevant if it’s harder to read. Take a look at this example for Apple’s legal web page…which one do you think is going to be easier to read? I personally find the ALL CAPS visually intimidating!

And finally, Disclosures. If you work in Financial Services, you know all about disclosures. The vast majority are length documents that people never read…but some do. However, sometimes there are summaries of disclosures that are included in the customer experience flow. Be careful with these – they may result in unintended consequences as the following example shows

This was taken from a credit card account opening experience. Upon specifying a mobile number, the applicant was presented with a mobile phone disclosure as shown below. I’ll summarize – you are giving the bank and its affiliates, permission to contact you with ‘autodialed and prerecorded/artificial calls or texts.’ Sounds like agreeing to receive spam calls to me. A massive problem for cell phone owners in the US at the time of writing. This resulted in significant abandonment. In a single year, over 12,000 people abandoned the credit card application at this point. If the average annual revenue per card is $400 – that represents $4.8 million in lost annual revenue.

When I asked the bank what this meant they said ‘if we suspect fraud or you’re late paying your credit card bill, the best way to get in touch is a prerecorded call or text’ … Say that! That sounds like the bank is trying to help, not spam, customers.

Design for mobile and then scale up

People do everything on their mobile. From ordering take out to opening a bank account to filing an insurance claim. Everything must be mobile-friendly. As a result, the recommendation of most designers is to design for mobile-first, and then scale up to desktop with your responsive design. Desktop to mobile is much more difficult. On desktop, you design with a larger canvas in mind – so going to a smaller one is significantly more difficult.

Hopefully, you don’t need to be convinced of this – but here’s an example. I worked with a bank that had a mobile checking account opening experience back in 2018. Even then – our analytics showed that mobile had just eclipsed desktop + mobile and the average completion rate was 54.5% (which is excellent in banking).

But when we filtered the data to just show mobile, we saw that the completion rate was almost 65%.

So not only were customers preferring mobile, they were more likely to complete the application on their phone as opposed to those on desktop.

Focus on design simplicity, not fancy UX

Significant time and money are spent creating flashy experiences with animations and graphics. But ask yourself – ‘is this juice really worth the squeeze?’ Is this investment worth the effort?

In 2014, Chase rolled out a new version of their mobile banking app that included location-based background images on the login screen. So if you’re in San Francisco – you’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re in NY, the city skyline. That kind of thing. Seriously – did anyone care? Personally, if offered this feature or having the application open 2 seconds faster…I’d take the speed all day every day.

That doesn’t mean your experience should be boring – but simplicity trumps slick (at least in my opinion 😊)

Monitor completion rates religiously: Up = Celebrate. Down = Investigate

You should know what the historical average completion rate for your digital experience is. As highlighted above – I worked with a bank that was tracking at about a 54% completion rate for Digital Account Opening.

And, you should monitor this daily.

There are factors outside of your control that will influence your completion rates. But you may be able to respond if you know something has changed. If the completion rate goes up – celebrate! If the completion rate goes down – investigate!

Let me explain with an example. I worked with a bank using a digital experience for a Personal Loan Application. The completion rate for the loan was tracking steadily, until one day it wasn’t. Completion rates dropped by over 30% in one day – and we’d changed nothing.

When we investigated, we noticed that the drop in completion rates was isolated to iOS users. So we tested the loan application on iOS and realized that Apple had pushed an update to the Safari browser that had broken the date-picker used in the online loan application – meaning nobody could successfully enter their Date Of Birth…a mandatory field on the application. Did they contact the institution to let them know? Of course not…they simply took their business elsewhere.

Thankfully, monitoring completion rates meant the problem persisted for less than a day before being resolved.

Thanks for reading.


bottom of page