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Is it any wonder that those in need of a loan (and a fast one) turn to Wonga and not a high street bank? 

One is approachable and colourful and isn’t full of boring text or ambiguous wording, and the other is an institution the public has gradually learned to call the enemy. 

Of course, the two aren’t really comparable. The need to turn to Wonga is often caused by desperation (and being desperate is a reality for lots of people post 2008). And Wonga itself is gradually acquiring a reputation as not exactly a pillar of the community, as many are educated about the realities of interest rates. 

However, despite selling different products, Wonga still has lots to teach the high street banks. More and more customers turn to banking websites before their branches, but the bank websites are often dry and difficult to use (albeit with some very nice mobile app alternatives).

So, to demonstrate how the user experience for some banks compares to Wonga, I’m going to look at the recently re-launched ‘people’s bank’, or TSB. And for a fairer comparison, I’ll look at Lloyds Bank, too.

Chiefly I’ll look at the 'approachability' of the homepage and the copy therein, as totems for the service on offer.

The TSB site is very dated indeed (see below), coyly inhabiting the left hand side of my browser window.

It is pretty much a rebrand of the old Lloyds website, introduced when Lloyds TSB split. The Lloyds arm of the bank had an overhaul, and it looks much better now, while the TSB site was left, like an older, neglected child. It promptly crashed on launch.

The TSB internet banking site is much better in design so it’s surely a matter of time until the TSB site proper is upgraded. 

UI

As you can see above, the TSB site is pretty bad. A list of turn-offs include: 

  • A main image of no relevance (on the face of it) that links to the incredible page pictured below, with one embedded video, an ocean of whitespace and a bit of HTML.
  • A whole mess of linking, including
    • Anchor text, underlined and not.
    • Hyperlinked images that include words (ok, with appropriate alt text but poorly delineated).
  • Poorly designed buttons.
  • Strange mix of font sizes.
  • A site that appears to exist entirely above the fold (not a bad thing) but then has a footer menu ‘hidden’ below the fold.

 

The Lloyds Bank website is of course much better (bad luck if you were moved over, though I believe you can move back again).

It’s a lot clearer, fills the window, and is fun to use, with dynamic menus that pop open on roll-over, all nice and sophisticated. There is still some font size inconsistency though, with tiny font on the centre image.

 

One can change the font size in the website’s top menu, but who will notice this feature?

Below I’ve enlarged it. Much better, but still not the best font choice. 

There are also little misalignments here and there, with imagery and text. 

Also, more importantly, even with the cleverly hidden content in those menus, the page is still three page heights and requires a bit of scrolling around. 

Wonga’s homepage fits nicely into the window, with only company details and awards/trust marks below the fold. The point I’m getting at here is it’s easy to digest, easy to comprehend in almost a glance, and ultimately sparks engagement with the user more than the Lloyds or TSB sites. 

The Lloyds site, despite being bigger than Wonga’s site in the window, is poorer at conveying the brand’s core messaging.

We’ll look at that now.

Copywriting

Wonga is good. Not exemplary, but certainly good. Here are some examples:

Social proof

No extraneous copy

This is honest and to the point, though perhaps the formatting could be improved.

Simple yet effective

Only two words here, but the questions marks are used well, and this button launches an explanatory pop-over video. Compare that to the video experience on TSB, earlier.

Guarantee

Persuasive, and launches a bit of Javascript popping out a longer guarantee and information.

Rhetorical questions, key facts, lists

This is again reassuring and doesn’t use too many words to sell a service.

Well-defined sub pages

TSB website has sub headers such as ‘Money Planner’. I wouldn’t know what this is until clicking through.

These Wonga sub pages, such as ‘Getting your cash’ and ‘repaying’ are clear as crystal.

Lloyds is good, too.

Perhaps just as good as Wonga, considering its market.

Plainly straightforward anchor text

Clearly different sub pages

TSB

Unsurprisingly not up to the same standards, though it’s not bad, just perhaps not as clear and crisp. Here are a couple of examples:

Here’s a garbled bit of text inviting one to register for a personal bank account.

And here’s a header for what should perhaps be called ‘Our heritage’, something better than ‘Why we exist’.

Should banks change radically?

I think they should. The public’s distrust, the public’s complete disregard for investment bank greed, means that any retail bank that did adopt a Wonga-like friendly approach would have some success.

I don’t think this would be at odds with a feeling of safety or security, nor do I think it has to signify the same, easy to gain, difficult to get rid of, loan culture that Wonga stands for.

Simply put, Wonga, because of its more needy audience, has to be sure nothing stands in the way of its customers using the service.

Nor do I think banks have a more complex proposition than Wonga. They have more products, but this means being more ruthless when it comes down to getting that messaging, mission statement and navigation correct on the homepage. From there, the subpages will present the same challenges as the home page should.

Pie in the sky perhaps, but firstdirect has certainly seen some success differentiating it’s brand (as the unexpected bank).

Legacy systems

Of course, sites like Wonga are relatively new. Most banking websites are badly designed and based on old legacy systems, which slows down iteration.

Great degrees of complexity

There is also a difference in scale between Wonga and TSB. Five million that banked with Lloyds became TSB. Only one million use Wonga, and though this is the same order of magnitude, the sums of money involved for TSB are likely not (ie. Much higher).

Many banks are investing

Profitable businesses based largely on tech will recognise the need to invest and innovate in tech. 

Retail banks should be more transparent, they need to change and they are doing so, they’ve just had a lot on their plates recently.

Ben Davis

Published 7 November, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Saleem

I'm not sure what all the fuss about Wonga and its APR is. They provide short term loans and state the interest payment upfront. Relatively, its not an extortionate amount and the APR is an annual calculation so you its not relevant to a loan for a few weeks.

about 3 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Saleem

There are lots of criticisms, from targeting students, to being too flippant when recommending short term loans, to giving high rate credit cards to the elderly. Just take a look at look at the mainstream press and you'll see there's lots they do that is dubious.

BUT! the point I was trying to make is that banks may benefit from a brand overhaul because they aren't particularly approachable on their desktop sites.

about 3 years ago

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Nigel Alexander, Sales Director at Ixonos

Thank you for the article. It underlines that User Experience and how to present and interact with their customers is not a top priority for the traditional banks. Too many of their sites are "designed" by technologists.

about 3 years ago

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Michael Gough

Enjoyed this article Ben.

It recalled to mind the new US based bank account being offered by http://www.simple.com and the efforts being made by them to rebuild trust and innovate in the sector.

What is striking is that the clear desire for transparency is starting to shift how some banks talk about themselves. This example from Simple establishes a straightforward and open pitch to the consumer built around their existing account holder's experiences. And it all starts with being 'invited to join in' - not 'applying'.

We recently looked at challenge of building brand to do battle with Wonga in this article http://goo.gl/vVI2tK I would be interested on your take on our thoughts Ben.

about 3 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Michael

Without wanting to complete the circle of praise, I enjoyed your article very much. Credit unions have a task on their hands.

For those that won't click through, the last paragraph is a nice summation of the marketing side of lending, and how credit unions (advocated by Rowan Williams) need to buck up their ideas:

'In the US, a credit union recently rebranded with professional help but little original thought. The credit union’s research showed that a name change made sense and would help overcome confusion in the eyes of consumers.

But the new name they’ve chosen is a boring amalgamation of two dull words. The values identified were generic – Trust and Integrity. The new logo and visual identity are also easily forgotten. Overall, the rebranding exercise lets the credit union down.

Non–profits in the UK can learn from these mistakes. To compete with Wonga, they need to shun predictable language and imagery to identify an essence that is authentic and bold.

Brands must know their strengths, and celebrate their differences.'

about 3 years ago

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Carolyn

Excellent article and a great demonstration of how basic to-the-point language and website navigation works well. Most banks haven't got a clue about how to market to people and make website navigation and financial language easier to understand.

All banks are there to sting us - it's just that Wonga makes it easier than most to do just that.

about 3 years ago

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