January 23, 2014 | Kathy Totz

Usability Perspective: 5 Financial Services Login Tips for a Better Customer Experience


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Any bank, insurance agency, investment firm, or other financial services institution will tell you that one of the most common task (if not the most common) driving visitors to the site is the ability to log in to their account. Because logging in is such an important key task, it is important that the process be as clear, streamlined, and usable as possible. Here are 5 different ways you can enhance the usability of your login process:

1.) Make login the most prominent thing on homepage by providing the fields directly on the page

Because so many of your customers will be immediately looking for the path to log in upon arriving on the homepage, it should be one of the most prominent and accessible elements. First, the fields for username and password should appear directly on the page, rather than requiring customers to click a link to be taken to them. This ensures customers have immediate access to logging in and do not have to waste time or clicks doing so. In addition, the login fields should be presented in a highly contrasting and attention-grabbing color to ensure they are not overlooked, and the action mechanism should likewise be clearly presented, prominent, and eye-catching, such as in the below examples:

Financial Services Customer Experience Login Tips

Financial Services Customer Experience  Login Tips

2.) Offer “Remember Me” functionality

Your customers will return to your site over and over again to check on the status of their transactions and accounts, so it makes sense to make this process as streamlined and efficient for them as possible. One increasingly conventional way to do this is to offer Remember Me functionality—that is, remember the username of their login info so that there is one less field to fill out in order to log in.  Without this functionality, customers are forced to enter their username every time they visit the site, which is really an unnecessary burden for those who wish to access their accounts on a regular basis.  Remember Me functionality should be presented as a check box  in close conjunction with the account login fields, thus giving customers the option to allow the site to use cookies to recognize them.

There are some security concerns about implementing this functionality—remembering customers’ username gives hackers half of the necessary information to break into an account. This is especially concerning when customers might be accessing their account from a public computer. It’s important that customers know when it is and is not appropriate to use Remember Me functionality, so best practice calls for a link or contextual help feature to give them more information about how the functionality works and warn them not to opt in if they are using a shared or public computer:

Financial Services Customer Experience "Remember Me" functionality

3.) Provide an option for customers to see their password—that is, remove password masking

Occasionally there is a balance that must be struck between security and usability (see tip #2 above), but in this particular case it may surprise you that usability concerns win by a landslide. Research by Jakob Nielsen makes a particularly compelling case, citing how password masking increases typing errors, which results in user frustration. Moreover, it may even reduce security by making customers more likely to use simple passwords (that they know they can type without error) or try to copy-and-paste passwords from a (probably unencrypted) file on their computer.

It’s still worth offering the ability to mask passwords, so that customers can log into their account without worrying about other Starbucks customers glancing over their shoulder, but a checkbox should be provided to remove the masking when customers would rather check their input than remain high-security:

Financial Services Customer Experience Password Masking

4.) Make username and password recovery as painless as possible

Customers have a lot of online accounts and passwords to keep track of, so occasionally they may forget their financial login information. While security is of utmost importance, offering a simple and flexible process will help get forgetful customers back on track.

First, customers may make repeated attempts to remember the correct login info, only to find that they have exceeded the maximum number of tries and have been locked out. Giving feedback about the number of attempts left is important to prevent this potentially surprising and frustrating result. In addition, it’s important to offer the ability to retrieve both the username and password, as customers are apt to forget either part of their login. In addition, offering multiple modes of authentication gives customers the flexibility to use the one that is most convenient for them. For instance, Chase offers customers the ability to have an authentication code either emailed or texted to their phone:

Financial Services Customer Experience Password Recovery

5.) Enhance customers’ perception of security and trustworthiness by adding additional messaging and imagery

Financial sites have additional opportunities to inspire trust and confidence during the login process. Additional messaging and iconography such as “secure log in” and padlock symbols reinforce the perceived trustworthiness of the site and helps to reassure customers the site has their privacy in mind. Shown here, these sites use visual signals such as differentiating the payment fields, secure messaging, third-party trustmarks, padlock symbols, and links to the site’s privacy policy to reinforce the security of customers’ accounts.

Financial Services Customer Experience Security

Kathy Totz is a Usability Auditor at ForeSee, where she uses her experience in conducting research and academic training to perform expert usability audits in industries such as Financial Services, Retail, Health Care, Technology, Telecommunications, and Government.

Learn more about how ForeSee helps financial services and other industries measure, manage, and improve the customer experience at ForeSee.com.

About the Author

Kathy Totz, ForeSee Senior Usability Analyst, conducts usability evaluations for financial services, retail, technology, telecommunications, and health care clients. She holds an MS in Information from the University of Michigan, specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. She also earned a BS in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Illinois Wesleyan University, where she published several peer-reviewed research studies.

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