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This is a case study of a project in which research played a major part in the design and development of a new website.
Our client was an Irish bank who wanted to create a new version of their public-facing website. That is to say, the website which details their product and services. The business objectives for the site were to increase the number of inbound enquiries, specifically, call back requests and also to increase the number of new product applications coming through the website.
Our research work began with some quantitative data sources in the form of analytics. These illustrated: users who are currently making use of the website; what the most important content was; where users, typically, left the site, as well as the level of engagement; how long users spent on the site; and what the main user journeys were. We were looking for patterns of use and what that might tell us about what the new site would need to provide.
We were given access to the bank’s customer support center. Here, we were able to listen to customers articulating issues and queries they had in their own words and what the context of the issue was. We were also able to hear how the skilled call handlers dealt with these issues, the type of information that helped to solve customer problems, and any secondary queries customers had once their primary concerns had been dealt with. From the data gathered here, we were able to build personas that reflected the needs of the customers we had heard. The authenticity so vital to effective personas was derived from these listening sessions and ensured that many of the characteristics in our personas were reflective of real issues.
We also had access to customers in a number of the bank’s branches. This was useful in that we could talk to customers directly rather than just listening to them as in the call center. We had authored a questionnaire asking about the nature of the customer’s visit to the bank. Whether the customer had sought advice for their query online and what their impression of the current website was.
Some of the quotes from these interviews were translated directly into features on the persona set, and a number of phrases we recorded became navigation labels and sections in the new site structure.
We conducted secondary research into the trends of banking websites globally. These reports reflected changing expectations and habits of banking customers affected by digital banking habits and attitudes to financial institutions in general. Many of the reports we identified were projecting what consumer needs and patterns might be in five or ten years’ time. All of the collated research was helpful in ensuring that what we were creating was in line with wider global trends and would not answer the needs just of the present day, but this new future also.
We benchmarked a large number of banks’ marketing websites. Again, we were looking for patterns and trends in terms of content strategy, navigation patterns, interactions, and mobile provision. Direct local competitors were examined as well as global exemplars.
It is important to broaden the sample internationally in these cases, as while local competitors are important, the exercise could become highly insular if we didn’t pay attention to global trends.
As mentioned, we put a persona set together that embodied the research carried out to this point. All of the information contained in the personas was traceable to one or other aspect of the research that was carried out. We were particularly careful to keep these personas highly focused and geared towards goals that each of the users were trying to achieve, common tasks they will be required to carry out, content requirements in order to answer their particular needs. We also included an aspect about their attitude to finances.
This project was coming at the end of a financial downturn. Banks had a lot to prove in the eyes of consumers. We noted the kinds of negative attitudes that these customers were demonstrating and how the bank might overcome them by providing them with better online services.
When putting together the structure of the website, we undertook card sorts and tree tests to ensure, as far as possible, that the structure matched what customers would expect to find and that they would find the type of content they required, whether that was information on new or unfamiliar products or help in deciding how to proceed in a particular financial situation. This allowed us to confidently produce an information architecture that would resonate with existing customers and any new customers that would arrive at the website. We’ll look at card sorts and tree tests in more detail in module two.
As the design and development of the website proceeded, we turned to other types of research to offer validation on the design decisions that have been made to date. In this instance, draft designs of the website were put to users in a click test where tasks were set for users and they were asked where on the design they would click to initiate their task. These tests produce a form of hit map, showing users’ first clicks, and offer insight into how effective an interface will be in getting users in touch with the content that they have come to the website for. What we provided throughout this process, initially, is what we might term a form of reasonable certainty about the direction the website design should take. And then later in the process, we provided reasonable confidence about how closely the website was matching both the goal set for the website and the expectations that users would have of it.Back to Top
Rick Monro is UX Director at Fathom. He has extensive experience in user research, interaction design, user-centered design, and design strategy with private and public sector organisations throughout the UK and Ireland.
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
The UX Research module module will enable you to develop the knowledge and skills to build highly effective user experiences. You will learn how to think like a user in order to understand their priorities and needs, and you will recognize the role of various research and analytics techniques such as tree-testing, card-sorting, user-testing, user-surveys, Google Analytics and specialized tools such as Click-tale.
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