Our case study explores whether the Business Loans page belongs under the Business menu, the Loans menu or in both locations.
3 tough choices in bank website design
Every bank website redesign requires a series of decisions — some big, some small.
Here are a few situations that might seem insignificant on the surface but could make a big impact on both the aesthetics and usability of your site.
Homepage slider or static image?
When homepage sliders, also called slideshows or carousels, first started appearing on homepages, they seemed like a no-brainer. The prevailing thought was why have a still image or solitary marketing message as my website’s first impression when I can create the opportunity for more content as well as motion.
Of course, the scrolling marquees of the late ’90s did much the same thing.
As a trend, homepage sliders are starting to wane. Consider the following:
- Sliders can present usability issues on mobile devices, such as text that shrinks to unreadable sizes.
- Accessibility issues can arise, too, especially if sliders lack to the ability to slow, pause or rewind content.
- Average users don’t remain on your homepage long enough to see more than one or two slides anyway.
- A single image and message gives marketers the chance to be strategic with their content.
For example, the homepage can be a brilliant remarketing opportunity. A random image/message appears upon first visit. If a visitor looks into, say, auto loans, then the next time he or she comes to the homepage, a marketing message about auto loans could appear. By remarketing, the prime homepage real estate becomes more about quality than quantity.
Large static images that elicit emotions — sometimes called hero shots — have started to make a comeback, replacing homepage sliders. For those reluctant to lose the feeling of movement on the homepage, however, consider these dynamic alternatives:
- Hover-over events
- Zooming effects (on the hero shot)
But not all homepage sliders are created equal. When they function like a photo gallery — comprised of multiple images complementing a single marketing message — or a solitary message connected across a series of slides, carousels can prove effective.
Bottom line: Think long and hard before adding a slider to your homepage. There might be a better way to display marketing messages and/or introduce motion.
Mega dropdown or streamlined navigation?
Dropdown navigation in the header of a website has become something of a standard. But there are variations in how top navigation looks and functions from one site to the next.
Is it better to display the subpages for all sections in one mega dropdown or limit links to a single column of direct children pages?
The short answer: it depends.
Very complex websites, such as those with a many-tiered sitemap, can benefit from a mega dropdown, which gives the visitor a chance to get the lay of the land before venturing deeper into the site. Or if subpages lack side navigation, a mega dropdown might serve as the prime way for visitors to access other pages. However, showing them so many links at once can also overwhelm and discourage visitors.
While large e-commerce websites can justify the mega dropdown, a bank website may be better served sticking to streamlined navigation. It can be as simple as showing only the secondary level of navigation when hovering over the top categories. Then, when one of these subpages are selected, the pages that fall under the subcategory are shown in a left or right column.
Websites displayed on mobile devices simplify navigation by necessity. The standard hamburger menu with expanding/collapsing lists of links make tapping one’s way through a website intuitive and incredibly easy.
Navigation should feel natural. Hand-in-hand with that mentality is how you name your links. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Even if every employee knows that an “ABC Account” is a checking account, consider naming the link “ABC Checking Account.” If a visitor doesn’t know what the link means, they aren’t likely to click on it.
Whether you choose a mega dropdown or streamlined navigation, try to avoid “flyout menus” that first drop down and then expand to the right or left. It’s far too easy for the cursor to slip away from these menus, resulting in a misfired click on empty space or, worse, a different link.
Bottom line: Unless there’s a compelling reason to reveal more, keep bank website navigation simple. Lead visitors from page to page rather than force them to pick from a surplus of hyperlinks.
PDF or HTML?
There’s no denying it: the PDF is one mighty useful file format. Just about any document or image can be converted into a PDF, and most computers come preloaded with the software to read them. In fact, many web browsers will open PDFs, treating them like a webpage.
But PDFs are not webpages.
If a PDF replaces your website, visitors must click the back button to return to the true site. Even if the PDF opens in a new tab, you’re asking the user to digest two dissimilar types of content — transitioning from a website with consistent styles and information architecture to a PDF with a completely different look and feel can be very disorienting.
Converting the content in your PDFs to website text not only helps your human visitors, but also your nonhuman traffic. When the robots from search engines like Google crawl through your websites, it scores content on a variety of factors. Simply put, the words on your HTML webpage are worth more than those buried in a PDF link.
If for no other reason than search engine optimization (SEO), default to HTML over PDF whenever possible.
Of course, there are instances where a PDF is appropriate or even preferred:
- Any form that is not a webform, including forms that are mailed, emailed or faxed in
- Documents that must adhere to specific, web-unfriendly styles
- External content, such as information from third-party product providers or partners
- Brochures or other marketing pieces that a customer might be interested in printing out and/or reviewing when offline (though, arguably, this content should appear elsewhere on the website too)
Bottom line: Whenever possible, convert your PDFs into true webpages to appease human visitors and search-engine bots alike.
Need some help with the tough choices for your next bank website? We’d love to help you make strategic decisions!