Creating a Financial Institution Website Design

Online banking is a widely spread model of funds management, with banks all over the globe putting increased emphasis on the website and mobile app development to give their customers an option of performing financial operations remotely. However, financial institution website design requires an approach considerately different from usual since even the smallest nuances have a huge role to play.

In today’s article, our web design agency in Chicago shares tips and must-have features of financial institution website design. Throughout this post, we’ll cover the best banking website design principles relying on current trends to help you engage your visitors with custom user experience and diversity.

financial institutions website design

The importance of financial institution website design

First, let’s explore some of the reasons why financial institutions need to aim to provide clients with the best-in-class banking website.

Branding

Though you may notice businesses from all lines of industries stressing the importance of branding regarding their websites, it is far from a word forged in the digital era. Branding existed long before the internet, and we can confidently claim that it will continue to live alongside whatever type of media technology has in store for us in the future.

When most people think of branding, logos and color pallets are usually the first thing that comes to mind. While those are extremely important elements, it is probably better to consider them as tools than features since branding is much more than that. Branding is the message you aim to convey, the opinion you aim to form. All of those major and tiny things define who your bank is on the world stage and what people think of when they hear its name.

A website is a unique branding tool that you can mold into your image to reflect your brand and release it into the world. All of the contextual and visual markers you establish there continue to spread throughout your social accounts and directory listing, thus composing a unified brand message and your calling card to the world.

Cornerstone for SEO

SEO is one of the most powerful marketing tools ever since it rests upon one of the most powerful sources of information – the online search. Search engine optimization takes the top spot on every web design QA checklist. It is the process of optimizing a website in an attempt to push it toward the highest-ranking spots on search engine results pages (SERP) for queries relevant to the website’s topic, genre, or content.

Content marketing is another essential feature of financial institution websites that leverages the power of search engine optimization. By placing your blog pages high on SERP for many of your potential client’s questions, you are building authority and solidifying your brand as a trustworthy source of services and information.

Assets such as social media and third-party publishing platforms are also fertile grounds for content marketing and SEO. But the most substantial impact is still achieved with the branded website calibrated for the task at hand.

Building customer relationships

Things like online payments and credit card applications, electronic fund transfers, or image-capture check deposits are something that each customer expects from their bank of choice. These functionalities are not novelties, and most people are reluctant to engage with a financial institution website that fails to deliver on form and function.

If your website is confusing to use and lacks features and visual appeal, your engagement metrics are likely to drop exponentially. In contrast, if you design a beautiful, engaging, user-friendly website rich with features, your customers will enjoy their time and come back often, all the while strengthening their relationship with your brand.

Standing tall among the competition

When creating a financial institution website design, one of the most important things to highlight is how you differ from your competition. This area encompasses the three points we discussed above. 

Your branding is the first thing that sets you apart from your competitors. If your website is properly SEO optimized, it will appear higher in search results, and your future customers will click on it first. Once they are there, you need to keep them by providing a great user experience through design, functionality, and access to information. If you fail to do so, your prospective customers are likely to leave you in favor of your competitors no matter the fact that they came across your bank first. On the other hand, if your website offers all that your customers need and more, they might leave your competitors for you.

People view professional-looking websites as a sign of corporate strength. Showing that you care about your customers and dedicate your resources to providing a superb user experience will evoke a feeling of trust. That is extremely important for financial institution website design since users trust you with their money, so you should expect them to be extra careful.

What makes a successful financial institution website?

Moving on, let’s determine what makes a successful financial institution website by listing aspects from a user perspective:

  • Availability: Availability occupies the first spot on our list since modern generations probably won’t even consider a financial institution that doesn’t have a website and a mobile app.
  • Mobile-friendliness: Mobile devices generate over 50% of global internet traffic. This percentage could quickly rise in years to come, so financial institution websites must be mobile-friendly to provide customer interaction on the go.
  • No landing pages: Instead of creating a website that resembles a brochure, create separate web pages with a prominent call to action for each of the services you offer.
  • The above-the-fold principle doesn’t work: It is a well-known fact that a large number of internet users don’t scroll the page down, so website owners do their best to put as much valuable info above the fold. However, financial institution websites contain (at least they should) only valuable info, so your customers are aware that the above-the-fold principle doesn’t apply.
  • Social media integration: Being present on social media, keeping your users up to date with all the latest news, creating videos, and sharing educational content will help you increase customers’ trust and loyalty.

Financial institution website features

A professional financial institution website needs to include multiple features such as:

  • Navigation bar: It should be placed in a visible spot at the top of the page and include links so your users can find the services they require.
  • Search: The search bar should rest near the navigation bar to help customers rapidly find the necessary info.
  • Contact Us page: Place a link to the Contact Us page to give your website visitors the option to quickly contact your support team if they have any questions.
  • Pricing page: The pricing page should contain pricing terms and conditions, supported types of cards, loyalty programs, fees, commissions, etc.
  • Signup: If a customer wishes to access their online account, they should be able to register in order for you to identify their identity. This goes without saying, but you mustn’t allow login via social platform accounts. Include two-factor authentication to provide an extra layer of security.
  • User personal account: A user personal account is an account that stores all the financial information of a particular customer. Your customers should be able to track their financial statistics, incomes, and outcomes, as well as check and manage their cards, among other options.
  • Registration form: Registration forms should be accessed via a CTA button and allow your potential customers to create an account and become clients.
  • Blog pages: Your blog pages should contain articles that cover news about changes or the latest trends in the world of finance.
  • Privacy info: This is the section of your website where you inform your customers about the privacy policy and how your financial institution protects them from cyber fraud.
  • Geolocation: It is a good idea to include a map with the locations of ATMs, banking terminals, and different branches of your institution on one of your web pages.
  • Social sharing: You can expand your reach and put your institution in front of other potential customers by allowing social sharing of news regarding your services.
  • Exchange rates: This section of your website includes up-to-date information about exchange rates that your institution provides.
  • Financial calculators: While creating a financial institution website design, consider including financial calculators so your customers may calculate personal loans, home affordability, retirement, savings, or tuition.
  • Live customer support: Ensure that your support team is in touch with your customers at all times and ready to help them in case of an issue or if they have any questions. Apart from a live chat, your customers would appreciate it if you would include a phone number so they could contact the support team personnel directly.

Creating a financial institution website design: Understand your brand

Despite the common opinion, designing a website doesn’t start with conceptualizing your website. It actually starts with conceptualizing your financial institution as a brand. As an agency offering web design services, we helped numerous brands establish their online presence. So, before we dive deeper into the details of creating a financial institution website design, let’s check which elements you need to consider to help your future customers better understand what your brand stands for:

Branding

A brand is an identity with very identifiable components. So, let’s list them out before we start exploring ways to implement them into your website:

  • Values: Your brand values are the things your financial institution stands for. People value stuff like integrity or putting the customer first, so most brands stress the importance of these values. We suggest you start broadly outlining your brand values and then narrowing them down to things that are specific to your institution.
  • Purpose: Think about your financial institution in terms of the impact you aim to make on your customers, community, and even globally.
  • Future: What goals do you plan to achieve in the next five or ten years? Besides simply thinking about your institution in the present tense, elaborate on the direction the brand is heading.

User personas

No business is equally oriented toward everyone. There is always a group of people that will see more benefits from your services, and identifying that group of people will help you tailor your website around satisfying their needs. That’s where a user persona steps in.

A user persona is an avatar of your ideal customer. There are two ways to design your ideal customer. You can either do it manually or use various apps that consider data collected from surveys, social media, or pixel audiences.

Choosing a name for your ideal customer can help further humanize the avatar. While the name itself is not a must, most of the following details are critical:

  • Sex/gender
  • Age
  • Marital and family status
  • Education level
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Net worth
  • Credit profile
  • Life goals
  • Hobbies/interests

Once you have your ideal customer personified, the website design process becomes much more specific. You are no longer wondering what your would customers like or need. Instead, you have a specific (sort of) person to consider.

Design elements

A mind-blowing fact: It takes around 50 milliseconds for your website to make a first impression.

Think about all the stuff you can do in 0.05 seconds. Not much, right? You certainly can not read any of the content. This means that your website needs to seize users’ attention in that tiny amount of time with its visual appeal and hierarchy. That’s where logos, layouts, images, color palette, and typography in UX design come into play since these elements can to communicate your message in a split second.

Internal alignment

When creating a financial institution website design, the chances are that one of the biggest challenges proves to be communicating with the internal stakeholders of the institution itself.

Your ownership, management, or IT sector are likely to have different opinions about the website design and functionality. So, before the development begins, make sure to go over the stuff we’ve mentioned above with your stakeholders in an effort to get all of them on the same page. Once everyone agrees on the main website elements, the development process may begin.

Creating a financial institution website design: Put the users’ needs first

Before the user-centric web design took hold, websites were all about technical prowess, artistic flair, and creativity. Luckily, those days are behind us. And rightfully so. A financial institution, just like any other business, depends on generating revenue. Putting the target audience’s needs first goes a long way in building a satisfied customer base that ultimately brings revenue.

In order to achieve this, make sure to dedicate special attention to the following areas:

Prototyping

A website is undoubtedly a type of product. So, just like any other product, it needs to undergo a prototyping phase.

Create a mockup version of your website with limited functionalities. That may contain logos, color palettes, and a couple of links, but don’t shy away from including simple filler images and lorem ipsum content as well. Remember, you’re not trying to deliver a finished version just yet. Instead, you are trying to create a roadmap for the development team to follow and help them better understand which assets to include in the final version.

Design systems

In the section about branding, we have mentioned various visual elements. Now, let’s see how to put them all together. Design systems are codified instructions that tell developers how to implement the visual design elements of your brand. This way, they can expand your brand’s visual experience across other assets apart from your website, such as social media, reputation management websites, directory listings, etc.

Design systems also allow you to split design and maintenance tasks between multiple developers. Each of them should be able to maintain a uniform visual experience of your brand across different channels.

User experience

Back in the time, there were only a few tested principles that designers could refer to when creating a good user experience. However, this is not the case anymore. Today, user experience is thoroughly studied and clearly represented through the following elements:

  • Simplicity: This is achieved by not overwhelming your customers with too much information on the initial web page. It is best to offer only one choice per section instead of cluttering pages with numerous links and calls to action.
  • Intuitive design: Intuitive design means that your website visitors can seamlessly make the next step in the user journey without being stuck or lost.
  • Internal consistency: Each action your customers make on your website should lead to a predictable result.
  • External consistency: Functions within your website shouldn’t deviate from the way other sites function. For example, when your users see a blue underlined text, they should know it is a hyperlink, while the magnifying glass represents a search bar icon.

Animation, video & visuals

We have already mentioned the time it takes for your website visitors to create a first impression. Videos, animation, and other visual mediums have the power to shape that first impression in a blink of an eye. However, there are things to consider when deciding on the visuals, such as quality, unity, consistency, as well as the role they play in contributing to your brand purpose and adding value to user interaction.

Creating a financial institution website design: Content

Written content plays a huge role in creating a financial institution website design as it can give your users a sneak peek into what it would be like to be your client. Through the power of words, you also have a chance to express your values, purpose, and goals for the future.

Content also has another role to play. Content marketing is an extremely powerful component of SEO. While it usually revolves around blog pages, these can be composed in the form of newsletters or resource centers. Whichever form you choose, your website content should answer the most common user questions about the world of finance.

Multiple tools can help you find out what your target audience is typing into search engines. That can give you an idea about the topics of your content. You can then implement relevant keywords to ensure that your blog pages rank high on SERP for those queries.

Here are some of the aspects to look into when planning your content strategy:

Content audit

A content audit considers all of the content assets you already have. Whether it’s content from your old blog pages, your previous website, or published white papers, a content audit will help you better understand where you currently stand with your content and what needs to be improved.

Content gap analysis

Gap analysis is a process of estimating your current position instead of where you aim to be. In terms of content, gap analysis considers content audit results and determines which boxes your content checks and which are yet to be checked. That means you need to have a to-do list of content assets. Various question-finder tools can help you assemble this list. By entering keywords like mortgage interest rates, you’ll see which questions users have typed into search engines. From there, you can create a list of assets that you’ll use to answer these FAQs. This way, there is a chance that a user entering this question comes across your content and forms a relationship with your brand rather than your competitors’.

Style guide

We have mentioned design systems that act as instructions on how to implement visual design elements. The style guide does the same with written content as it sets rules for different writers to follow (for example, always use bold font for emphasis, not italic) when creating content for your website. That provides brand voice consistency across all of your content assets.

Here are some of the content elements you may choose to set rules for:

  • Past, present, and future tense use
  • Punctuation and the spelling of numerals
  • When to use bullet points and when to use numbered lists
  • Which font to use for emphasis, bold or italic
  • Formal or informal voice
  • Rules for using first-, second-, and third-person pronouns
  • How to approach introductions and conclusions for different content pieces
  • Sentence length
  • Paragraph length

Calls to action

CTA strategy should take an important place in your content strategy since it paves the way for users to make the next step. Actually, it paves two ways toward the following destinations:

  • Conversion: A conversion call to action encourages a financial institution website visitor to become a client. This means anything from applying for a new account to filling out a loan application. These calls to action are precious in cases when a user can convert from end to end within a website without interaction from the other party.
  • Lead generation: This type of CTA prompts a website visitor to become a lead, and it is mainly used in cases when the action requires a reaction from the other party. For example, a lead generation call to action may require a visitor to fill out a contact form, take a survey, or complete any other action that implies leaving their contact info and receiving a follow-up call.

Creating a financial institution website design: Development & testing

So far, we have talked about all the concepts you need to consider when creating a financial institution website design. Now, it is time to put it all together and finally assemble your website. Here are all the significant aspects you should pay close attention to when developing your financial institution website:

Technical SEO

Though search engine optimization largely depends on content and backlinks, the way your website is coded can make or break your SEO efforts. Search engines use crawler bots to crawl your website and assess its state, which ultimately results in higher or lower SERP rankings. 

These are the elements of good technical SEO:

  • Using SSL: Websites whose URL starts with HTTPS instead of HTTP use this secure language and tend to rank higher on SERP.
  • Website speed and load time: Having a slow loading speed usually results in frustrated customers, higher bounce rates, and ultimately lower rankings. We suggest using the Sage WordPress theme and its clean and semantically structured code for increased site speed and better overall functionality and responsiveness.
  • Ease of navigation: Interlinking, XML sitemap, and including robots.txt file in the metadata plays a huge part in providing seamless website navigation.
  • Structured data: Structured data is a type of metadata that is written in a specific language and tells crawler bots what your website is about.

Mobile-friendliness

We have already mentioned how important it is to employ mobile-first web design, so let’s not repeat ourselves. The bottom line is that desktop websites load slowly on mobile platforms and are a mess to use. Apart from being a ranking factor, by making your website mobile-friendly, you’ll experience better user engagement which usually leads to higher conversion rates.

Security

Security is the top priority for financial institution websites. Costs of cybercrimes are measured in trillions of dollars per year, and most companies never recover from expenses and tarnished reputations. Your customers trust you with their money and personal data, so it is of utmost importance to implement the following security measures:

  • SSL encryption
  • Firewalls
  • Antivirus and malware protection
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Automatic logout at session timeout
  • Browser cookies
  • Credential encryption and hashing
  • Integration with biometric authenticators (fingerprints, facial recognition, retina scans, etc.)

User acceptance testing

This is one of the final steps in website design. During user acceptance testing (UAT), you gather data on the way people are interacting with your website. That gives you the opportunity to identify any possible bugs or problem areas as well as features that can be enhanced before the website actually goes live. If your website is appropriately designed and developed, your users should be able to navigate it without the need for support.

Final thoughts

Advances in digital technology have changed the way we interact with the world. People’s perspectives on actions such as depositing and withdrawing currency or applying for loans have also shifted. With premium websites, financial institutions can harvest the benefits of online banking and transform the customers’ sense of convenience into a powerful asset that streamlines operations, enhances brand reputation, and nurtures mutually beneficial customer relationships.

Brian Djordjevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

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