15 ways to boost your mobile banking UX

Illustration: Randall Nelson

Does your mobile banking app attract or deter your customers? Follow these tips to improve your app’s user experience.

By Robert Lerose

According to a 2016 Federal Reserve Board survey, the number of customers with mobile phones and bank accounts who did banking on their handheld devices jumped from 22 to 43 percent in only five years. This figure is projected to rise, so it is incumbent upon community banks to provide a mobile banking user experience (UX) that is easy and engaging to acquire and retain customers. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

1. Choose a mobile-first design. Above all, make sure that your content and design are compatible with a mobile-first strategy. Features on your bank’s website that work well on a desktop with a large screen and a mouse need to be adapted for mobile devices.

2. Be concise and clear. “The text has to be succinct and to the point, but also give [users] clear directions for whatever they’re trying to do,” says Matt Cunard, senior web marketer at VGM Forbin. Language should be in plain English and spell out exactly what they need to do.

3. Self-promote. “If your mobile website doesn’t continuously promote the bank’s brand and its differentiators, then you’re just one of many in a sea of banks that give online or mobile access,” says Ed Moskowitz, executive vice president and solutions architect at Multimedia Solutions. “We create a strong visual experience where the brand colors, brand imagery and brand positioning are eloquently integrated into the user experience on the mobile device. It has an energy and personality to it. You can do that without degrading the desired simplicity or ease of use. The blend of the two is how you optimize the mobile experience.”

4. Make the calls to action prominent and easy to tap, whether you’re talking about buttons for opening an account or to speak to a branch representative. “Every clickable item on that device has got to be large,” Moskowitz says. “On a desktop, you can have very small buttons, but you have to be cognizant that the fingertip is the device [on a smartphone or tablet], so you need large, visible, tappable calls to action.”

Quick stat


U.S. customers with mobile phones and bank accounts who did banking on their handheld devices in 2016

5. Surround your content with strong visual support. On a desktop, you might package personal products (such as savings accounts or personal loans) with images that evoke lifestyle choices, but you don’t have that luxury on a small mobile screen. Those warm, fuzzy images may actually make it less clear what you’re selling. Instead, Moskowitz says, images on a mobile device must be “much more literal, and visually representative of the product or service.”

6. Streamline the amount of content. It’s easy to lose the customer with page after page of content, Moskowitz says. “That volume of content not only has to be very easy to get to—one or two taps, not four or five—but once they get there, it’s got to be easily digestible and scannable without forcing them to read a lot. The information has to be short, concise and visual.”

7. Simplify the mobile onboarding process to make it easy for anyone to become a customer. The experience should be “almost frictionless” for customers, says Lee Wetherington, director of strategic insight at Jack Henry & Associates. “I would aspire to something like the Square Cash App [that has] three steps and boom—you’re ready to send money anywhere to anybody,” he says. “That should be the standard.”

“You need to have a biometric access point into your mobile app, so it’s frictionless to get in once you’re a customer.”
—Lee Wetherington, Jack Henry & Associates

8. Eliminate usernames and passwords. Installing a touch ID can speed up the authentication process. “You need to have a biometric access point into your mobile app, so it’s frictionless to get in once you’re a customer and you’ve downloaded the app and you’re ready to go,” Wetherington says.

9. Nix the persistent login. Often, banks will require customers to log in each time they switch to another screen. Besides being annoying, a persistent login page negates opportunities to present customers with customized content and offers. “Don’t keep logins front and center on every screen. If I want to log in, I’ll either log in upfront or I’ll go back and log in when I’m ready, but I don’t need to see that on every single screen, no matter what action I take,” Moskowitz says.

10. Auto-fill information. “Auto-filling data within applications is a huge piece. Every time I run into a workflow that has entered information and don’t rekey it, it’s one less barrier,” Cunard says.

11. Place information strategically to minimize scrolling. Andrew Zeller, web designer at Pannos Marketing, says that “the goals are a little bit different on mobile. For example, we’ll prioritize contact information and branch and ATM locations on a mobile menu so users can get where they need to go faster. Then, once they’re on a product page, users can tap a link and auto-scroll down to that part of the page and get information quicker, so they’re not stuck scrolling up and down a very long content page.”

12. Make sure your mobile pages load fast. Google now takes page speed into account in its search algorithms, so slower sites may be less likely to show up first, and can appear lower in search results. “Google has a free website called PageSpeed Insights where you can scan your page and it will give you a bunch of tips for how to optimize your website for mobile,” says Matt Larrabee, senior web developer at Pannos.

13. Add personalization to your mobile website. Sometimes called AI or smart content, “personalization uses information about a website visitor to figure out what content they’re looking for,” Larrabee says. “It allows customers to have a custom website experience that cuts down on clicking and browsing and just gives them content that is geared specifically for them.”

14. Update your bank’s app regularly to be compatible with the mobile operating system’s features. “For instance, if Apple comes out with a new phone and it has Face ID, which is a security feature, then certainly consumers expect the app to take advantage of the features that are built into that phone,” says John Waupsh, chief innovation officer at Kasasa. “You’ve got to make sure your app is actually built for the consumer you’re trying to go after.”

15. Enhance your mobile and digital capabilities equally. “If you’re thinking of these things disparately and separately, you are building for yourself not just silos but … bad user experiences when you do it well in one place and not so well in another. That’s going to create abandonment inside of sessions, general dissatisfaction and attrition,” Wetherington says.

Robert Lerose is a writer in New York.