Category: E-Business, Technology

What Makes a Great Financial Services Website? (Hint – it isn’t bells and whistles)


A website, like many consumer products and services, is often built to impress rather than be functional. Having a lot of bells and whistles in your website may appear to make it more exciting. It can also arm the sales force with marketable information.

However, features won’t necessarily deliver more value to your customers who are looking for solutions to their challenges. Your customers want to know how your website will a) solve problems, and b) help them achieve their goals.

Car Side Shopping and Commerce Colorful Button Pattern

Consider the car buying experience. You do your research, you find your car. You’re typically focused on the core features you want, but the salespeople push extras and add-ons. You may leave the dealership with more than you planned, and spent more than you intended. And that’s when buyer’s remorse hits.

With digital product development, there’s a similar principal at play. Too many products are cluttered with features that look cool, but are rarely or never used.

Where to Start? Focus on Goals

Consider the car buying example again. No consumer would ask for parachute-like air cushions so powerful that they can break bones to be installed in their steering columns, dashboard, and side panels just for the heck of it. But, everyone wants airbags because their goal is to keep themselves and their passengers safe in the event of a collision. The goal of safety drove the development of airbags.

Web development budgets and tasks lists are typically focused on building features, regardless of whether they meet a consumer demand. It is time for digital solutions in financial services to focus on features that meet client and user goals.

This starts with understanding the behavior of your digital users, and then using this understanding to focus on what has to be done to meet those goals.

The Steps in Goal-Oriented Design: A Strategy for Understanding Your Users

What are your user’s goals? What are they trying to find out or do? This is where the three steps in Goal-Oriented Design can be useful.


Step 1: Define User Personas – This is a way to model research about people who have been observed in some way. These are not real people, but summarizations based on observations.

Step 2: Define the Persona’s Goals – What are the objectives that these personas are looking to fulfill by using this product?

Step 3: Mock Up Persona User Scenarios – These are journeys which lead to a persona’s interactions with the product to achieve their goals.

RELATED: Want to learn more about using personas as part of your goal-oriented design process?

Goal-Oriented Design can help you understand the experiences that will get your users furthest along in their goals. From there, you can identify what digital features your business needs to serve your customers, and which features might be unnecessary.

A simple example can be found in a financial services website. One of the primary persona goals of shareholders is to review their latest account activity. It leads to a journey to the transaction history feature. However, companies frequently create a separate feature to allow shareholders to view their last dividend payout.

Following the Goal-Oriented Design model will reveal a more concentrated approach with less time and money being spent on features that will be used infrequently, if at all. And by understanding customer problems, the sales conversation can be about promoting how well those problems are understood and how the product provides the best solution. That is a more powerful conversation than any list of features.


Doug Billings

Doug Billings

Doug and his team are responsible for working with clients on strategy, usability and custom web solutions. Doug has over 16 years of project management, development, and usability experience as well as six years teaching experience at the college level. He has been with Boston Financial for 10 years. Doug’s previous experience includes roles at Fidelity Investments, IBM Global Services, and various Web startups. Doug holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and a Master of Science degree in computer information systems, both from Bentley University.

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