Everything on ‘Experience’

Banks focus more on user experience

In the last 5 years the banking sector has changed significantly. We’ve previously needed banks for mortgages, to receive our salaries, pay our bills or get cash to do the groceries, etc.. The financial crisis made it clear that even the largest and most trustworthy banks could not guarantee to be here for good. At the same time, alternatives grew strongly in both numbers and maturity. Newcomers like PayPal, AliPay, ApplePay, Google Wallet, BitCoin and even Octopus provide new disruptive technologies that could in time overturn the whole banking landscape.

Traditional banks also face competition from so called neobanks. These banks without branches provide a (small) range of traditional banking services and distinguish themselves with transparent cost structures, low or no monthly fees, large ATM networks and easy to use and always up to date mobile apps. With their limited product portfolio they focus on service above product.  

From selling products to managing user experience

How do banks respond to these trends? The way forward for the traditional banks is to focus more on service and improving their user experience, thereby reducing the need for consumers to seek alternatives. Some banks employ design talents to ‘pimp’ their online platforms. The design is indeed an important aspect of user experience. However, other aspects of functionality (how many banking tasks people can do with the platform) or usability (how fast, easy and pleasant the platform is to use and to understand) are equally or even more important.

Recent research in the UK found that mobile banking apps of five major UK banks, including HSBC, failed their user experience test. Even though some of the user-interfaces were visually attractive and user-friendly, they only provided functionality for a limited number of banking tasks. Consumers expect more. Traditional banks have the organization and infrastructure to provide a much wider range of services than neobanks or the new technologies. The opportunity banks have, is to provide access to all these services on their website and mobile platform in a user-friendly way that (re-)imbues trust.

One of the challenges being faced is security. Banks traditionally focus on security and compliance. And security measures, when overdone, are annoying to users. New payment technologies either provide inherent security or security issues are of limited consequence, for example because of limited transaction amounts. On the other hand, fingerprint scanners and front camera face recognition now enable banks to provide a great user experience while guaranteeing their customers a minimum required degree of security. This requires a drastic change of focus, though: away from proven technology like security devices.

Cultural aspects of user experience

Cultural and legal differences are also relevant. In Common Law countries agreeing with detailed terms and conditions is often required. In Western Europe consumer protection and the reasonableness and fairness principle are dominant (including the reasonableness that endless terms and conditions or fine print may not always be assumed read or agreed upon). This reflects in the way that apps may deal with transaction confirmations and it directly impacts the user experience.

Apart from this, cultural aspects cannot be ignored when optimizing user experience: a red colored user interface that seems cluttered to some will (on average) not be appreciated in the same way in Europe as it would in China. Basing new apps or websites on generic usability guidelines is therefore not a guarantee for the best user experience for the target group. Every good development process is iterative and includes incremental improvements based on testing with real users. The Rabobank for example has a dedicated user experience lab in The Netherlands where existing functionality and improvements are extensively tested. 

User experience beyond the online platform

Managing the user experience does not only involve websites and mobile apps. A customer experiences the products of a company via all available channels. The travel distance, waiting line, employee expertise and tone of voice suddenly become relevant when customers wants to visit a branch office instead of use the app. Cost transparency, simplicity of terms and conditions and an option to circumvent the automated telephone answering system all contribute to a better user experience. Although banks face fierce competition from new technologies and neobanks, there are enough opportunities to out-compete them and leverage existing strengths, but it does require a paradigm shift.

(This article first appeared in the Dutch Chamber Magazine, publication of the Dutch Chamber in Hong Kong)

When not telling the truth is allowed

Kingston DataTraveler G3 - Get more than you were promissed

Kingston DataTraveler G3 - Get more than you were promised

I recently bought a 32 GB USB drive. Not for small files of course (it would be a bit big for small files), but for carrying with me some large Virtual Machine images. (For an explanation on what virtual machines are, see wikipedia, but it’s not important for the story.) I did not want to spend too much money, but I did want a reasonably fast one, since I would be copying huge files (around 10 GB each) onto it. The shop had really fast ones (with speeds specified to be 20 MB/s), that were also really expensive. In the end I decided to go for the cheaper, mid range, Kingston DataTraveler G3. As you can see on the picture of the packaging, it should be able to write with 5 MB/s, and read with 10 MB/s. Not that fast, but fast enough for what I wanted to spend. I took into account that “they all lie” about this kind of specs. Those speeds are the ones you only achieve under the most optimal circumstances, etc.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the speeds reported by Windows when I was copying my large files » More: When not telling the truth is allowed

Why Apple is on its way to become the new Palm

The Apple does not fall far from the Palm

They are not that different

I recently read an article, which stated that RIM was becoming the new Palm. That might be a fairly good observation: RIM (the maker of BlackBerry phones) isn’t doing well at all after all. However, there are more and perhaps more likely candidates for this title.

Palm was once a high tech company with revolutionary and business changing products. It’s handheld computers, ‘palmtops’ or ‘personal assistants’ seamlessly (this is an evolving term) integrated with business tools like Outlook for email, tasks and calendar. Palm launched the first successful app shop, where you could buy thousands of apps to extend your Palm’s functionality with both productivity tools and games. Although the Palm platform was strong » More: Why Apple is on its way to become the new Palm

BrandZ: Apple overtakes Google as most valuable brand

In the brand value ranking maintained by BrandZ, Apple has now succeeded Google as the most valuable brand with a value estimated at $153 billion. That’s a 859% increase since 2006, the year before Apple introduced one of it’s biggest hits until now, the Iphone (announced in January 2007). In the BrandZ ranking IBM remains third.

Comparing Apples with ‘peers’

It’s interesting to remark that in another ranking by InterBrand, Apple scored only 17th in last year September’s assessment with a value of only $21.143 billion. That’s almost 8 times less. This should all have to do with the methodology differences in measuring the brand value. » More: BrandZ: Apple overtakes Google as most valuable brand

The value of a first experience

A first experience should WOW!

A first experience should WOW you!

In the last few days I had my first experiences with Tiger Airways, a low budget airline operating from Singapore. And the experience was good. The ticket to Singapore was quite cheap, considering that we bought it one day before. The process of buying a ticket was not that excellent, but still OK. Like other cheap airlines they add extra cost for about everything that is optional: for bringing (any) luggage, for choosing a seat in advance and for an option to do online checking later. In the plane all catering is optional and therefore has a price. However, if there is anything annoying about buying cheap tickets, it’s the disappointment at the end of the process when they add the fuel and airport tax » More: The value of a first experience

Choice as a detractor

Don't make jam of your portfolio

Don't make jam of your portfolio

A friend once told me a story of an experiment conducted in a supermarket. In two different time periods the supermarket offered two kinds of portfolios of jam. In the first setup the shop offered a number of shelves  with numerous kinds of jam. Different fruits, different pot sizes and different brands. Many choices. In the second setup the supermarket  offered a single large shelf of strawberry jam of brand x in one standard pot size. One choice. What was the result? Contrary to expectations, more jam was sold in the single strawberry jam setup.

Why? Because people hate complicated choices. » More: Choice as a detractor

Civilization V: an example of breaking the learning curve

Civilization V

Gimme Five!

I’m a huge fan of Civilization, the computer game series created by Sid Meier. And I have spent many hundreds of hours in the last two decades playing CIV I, II, III and IV. So buying the most recent part in the increasingly less accurate trilogy of five was a logical step, and based on the professional reviews, I expected a lot: better graphics, better battles, better development system, etc. Everything better. So my expectations were high. Well, after playing it, I’m a bit disappointed. Here is why.

It started with installing the game. I had to accept an almost infinite number of license agreements and terms of use, one after the other warning me to return the game to the shop if I did not agree with them stealing my privacy information. After clicking a lot of “Yes I Accept” and then waiting a long time without a clear progress bar, I finally got started, at least I thought. » More: Civilization V: an example of breaking the learning curve

The upwards spiral of the ongoing battle between Apps and Web

Apps and Web, the upwards spiral

Apps and Web, the upwards spiral

Everything moves in waves or big circles or spirals. Left and right wing politics, growing and shrinking economies, technological progress, relationships, you name it. And generally an upward spiral is preferred. The same applies to centralized and decentralized computing and “Web vs App”. Regarding the latter: Some say that the Web has had it’s time and the App will take over. The opposite used to be said 15 years ago.

» More: The upwards spiral of the ongoing battle between Apps and Web

To touch or not to touch the iPad?

Be careful touching the iPad

Jacob Nielsen (of Nielsen Norman Group) published research about the usability of the Apple ipad with early iPad Apps and some websites. Surprisingly it is signaled that some issues encountered with websites in the early 90’s are reoccurring now with this state of the art piece of technology.

Remarkably the touch pad functionality, which would be one of the fundamental features of the device, causes the main issues. Many of the different App user interfaces seem inconsistent, causing repeated and longer learning curves for users new to specific apps and possibly the whole device » More: To touch or not to touch the iPad?

Would you buy her apples?

Evil witch offering apples at Albert Heijn

Evil witch offering apples at Albert Heijn

Like most kids, when I was young, I learned not to buy apples from evil witches. I normally buy my apples at the Albert Heijn supermarket, but today I decided not to. See the picture at the right.

This supermarket has a temporary Snow White promotion, during which you can collect miniatures of all 7 dwarfs and other characters of Snow White’s fairy tale. It’s kind of weird to associate the apples you want to sell with an evil witch and the poisoned apple that caused Snow White to suffocate.