E48: How to Plan Your Banking Website Home Page

The home page of your website is arguably the most import to get right. But is it? And what about "the fold"? We'll break through some myths and give you some solid planning advice for creating a home page that works.

Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Allison, thanks, as always, for being my co-host today.

Allison Gibbs Of course. Happy to be here.

MR Well, I appreciate that. Today's topic is something that I know that is near and dear to your heart: banking homepage design. Banking website homepage design, specifically.

AG Yes.

MR And I think you've got something up your sleeve today that is going to be a guide for how to plan and structure your homepage for your banking website.

AG Yes.

MR Am I wrong?

AG You are not wrong.

MR Excellent. Well, I'm on the edge of my seat. Let's get started.

AG So a banking website homepage. This is the page on your site that the majority of your users are likely going to go to because you've got a variety of audience members. You've got your current customers that are probably looking at how they can access their accounts. You've got potential business partners that may be wanting to refer your services. You've also got potential customers coming to your site. So you've got so many different audiences that are going to be visiting your website and you only have, really, one homepage within your website that you have the opportunity to then get all of this information across that you need to get across.

So the first step that I take, that I recommend taking is identifying all of those audiences first and really understanding who is coming to the website and why they are there. So what is the intent; what are they looking for? Obviously with customers, current customers, they are looking to access their money quickly. A potential customer is looking for information about your products; we want to make sure that's easily available. Business partners are looking for information -- business referral partners, they're looking for information about who they can contact to get in touch with to build these relationships. You may have users who have no clue who you are but may have heard your brand because there's some sort of event coming up; community events, we see that a lot as well. All of these different audiences want something different in the end. That combined with -- we also have an entire banking team that has their own ideas for a website and what should be on the homepage and what they should expect to see on the homepage -- so that combined with all of the idea from our banking colleagues can lead us down a path of a really chaotic homepage.

I see -- when clients come to us, I see a lot of frustration where they're saying we know that this is the most important, but we also have to have this on the homepage and we also have to have this on the homepage and so-and-so said that this is important to them and they want it on the homepage, but I don't think it should be on the homepage. So then it just becomes this giant mess and everybody gets really frustrated because everybody thinks that their stuff is the most important. As they should. It's their area; it's their department; they should think it's important.

What we need to do is take a step back and set the expectation that not everything is going to be "above the fold," which doesn't exist. We'll talk about that here in a minute. Not everything is going to be above the fold. Not everything is going to be on the homepage, but everything can be available on the website on the whole. Just because it's not on the homepage, doesn't mean that it's not important.

MR You mean people can actually scroll and click?

AG They can scroll and click, yeah.

MR Lovely.

AG So the other foundation within setting up your website and planning your homepage, specifically, is understanding that the fold does not exist. Now I have seen an article recently -- I'm not going to say who it was -- who said that the fold does exist and everything should be above the fold --

MR Oh my goodness.

AG -- I mean, within the last 30 days.

MR Wait, what year is it?

AG It's 2018.

MR That's what I thought.

AG Within the last cycle --

b Just double-checking.

AG -- within the last 30 days I saw this article. I strongly disagree with that because the usability data that we see and the behavior data that we see is that scrolling is a very natural thing for our audience. Scrolling is going to be a habitual thing that people do and that people engage with in order to find the information that they're looking for.

So let's stop and take that information. Let's apply that to our audiences that we have here, that we've laid out. Which audiences know what they want right when they come to the site, and which audiences are probably going to look around a little bit? So your customers, they know exactly what they want. Your potential customers know exactly what products they are looking for. Your business referral partners are looking for some general information. Then the people that have no exposure to you, those are the ones that are probably going to scroll around the most, realistically speaking.

That being said, now that we've kind of got this foundational information of who our audience is, we've set the expectation that we're not going to have everything on the homepage. Now we need to start making a list of what is the most important components. What are the most important components that we need to have on the homepage? They don't have to be listed in any particular order. Obviously, there are some things that are going to naturally fall into a website hierarchy like the header and the navigation and your logo. Realistically speaking, that's going to be at the top of the page; your footer is going to be at the bottom of the page, but anything in between, we can mix that up a little bit. I recommend going through and creating your list of must-haves on the homepage.

These are a few of my must-haves for a banking website. So the first one is going to be a header that includes your logo, your navigation, and a website search. And that main navigation, I recommend doing a separate planning session just for that. So that main navigation could be main navigation and utility navigation; it might all just be one line of navigation items. But we want to include anything that we need to include in our header. Our header is something that I define as something that's going to be site-wide. Every single page is going to have the same header. Other things that I might see within a header might be "Open an account," that button. Depending on how you have it structured, the log in access to your online banking might be in the header as well. If it's not in the header, then I recommend that it be in the next area that I recommend, which is having a feature area where we have our main tagline and then having the access to the online banking within that area. So that tagline -- obviously it's a brand tagline. You can go back and listen to the branding -- the Brand Distillery that we did with Garrett a couple of months ago to determine your tagline. That's exactly where it should go.

From there, now that we've got this foundation, what are other things that we need to have on a banking site? We also need to have some sort of component to message -- to leave a message for our customers if we have some major news to share. Let's say there's inclement weather, and you're closing branches early. Some sort of messaging mechanism that you can do that. It can be a bar that slides down from the top; it could be something that's underneath the feature; it could be something that's incorporated within the feature. These are all things that you can talk about with your website partner, the design at this point doesn't really matter, from my perspective, because right now we're just thinking about all of the things that we need on our site. With those alerts, I would start to set some ground rules about what you are going to put in there versus what you're not going to put in there. I've seen in the past where we add this awesome alert that is meant to be used for really specific notifications, well, then clients end up using it all the time because they love having the ability to have those alerts for everybody. But then people might gloss over that, so start setting some of those rules.

Next, we should have our primary calls to action. What are our primary calls to action here? We're going to have different calls to action depending on the different users that we have. Now there's a whole level of personalization that can go into your website. Usually some additional software is necessary in order to implement that. It might be built in with your content management system that you're using. So it's something to think about. But if you don't have that functionality built into your content management system, and you also don't have the software, so we also have to come up with our primary calls to action that encompass and involve all of those audiences that we talked about at the very beginning. Two to three calls to action. Usually I see something like "Open an account," "View the rates" -- I'm trying to thing of some other -- "Learn more about our bank." Those are all primary calls to action.

With that, I love the idea of including some type of social proof on a banking website. So if you can include reviews -- not everybody loves doing that because, I think, sometimes it kind of makes the compliance department feel a little wiggly about that. But any kind of social proof that you can provide about your involvement in the community and how happy your customers are -- whether it's real photography that you use on your website, I think that that is something that's really valuable to the end user. We use a lot of stock photography, which is great. Jason, our designer, works really hard to find really high-quality stock photography. There's nothing wrong with that, but I think that even having your own photography can come across and present some of that social proof that you're looking for and that we need on our homepage.

The next thing, which I think is sometimes a little difficult for our lovely financial institutions, the content offerings. So we've talked about a podcast, having a podcast in the past. Having all of the --

MR My offer still stands.

AG I know. I know. Which -- why don't you repeat what your offer is?

MR My offer is any bank or credit union, as a listener, that sends us proof and example that they're doing and maintaining a podcast on a regular basis, I will send you an iPad.

AG There you go.

MR There you go. My offer -- it's been standing -- I've had that offer out for like a year now. [laughs]

AG I mean, it hasn't been that long, but that's okay.

MR Almost a year.

AG Almost a year. Really? Almost a year?

MR Well, we're on episode 48 today --

AG I guess it has been a year.

MR Yeah -- 48 weeks-is.

AG Man, guys. Time flies when you're having fun.

MR Get that podcast going; get yourself an iPad.

AG Okay. So content offerings. It could be a podcast, could be a blog. A blog is what I see the most. If you are creating financial wellness education, this is great opportunity to incorporate that on the homepage. I love the idea -- we've talked about content centers, like a financial wellness content center, content hub, in the past. This would be a great opportunity to include that and link out to it. Some type of content offering on the homepage. The reason I love this is because I think it starts to present a couple of different things. One, you guys are the authority in everything that you are selling, which should be obvious, but isn't always. So you guys are the authority. You're super knowledgeable and your customer service is there to help answer any questions. So if you're providing answers to questions on the website, and it's right there on the homepage that people can see, that kind of triggers that good feeling that we've talking about with branding, in the past.

Next, the secondary calls to action. So we've got our primary calls to action, so things like "Open an account," "Apply for a mortgage," "Apply for a loan," those types of primary calls to action, which are very bottom of the funnel -- "Access your accounts," that's another one. So what are secondary calls to action? So determining what are the steps that people take before they apply for a mortgage or before they apply for a loan or before they open an account, what are the steps that they're taking in their research journey before that that we could create calls to action surrounding that behavior to then -- it signals to us, as the marketing team, that these people are our there and that we could potentially help them and also close a sale at the end. So those secondary calls to action could be something like a guide, how to buy -- how to buy a house or first-time homebuyers guide, that kind of a thing. That could be a secondary call to action. I almost said calls to action when I meant to say singular. Gosh, woo. Michael's over there laughing at me now.

MR No such thing.

AG No such thing. So other secondary calls to action. So think about things that people are going to be doing before they take that next step. So before they open an account, maybe they're searing for things like "what do you need to open an account"? That could be a good resource opportunity. A lot of times the content offering and the secondary calls to action, those might align perfectly with each other, and they may be considered in a section together. And those are all things that would be discussed within a creative and wireframing phase. Any type of community events, if you're involved in the community, a lot of people like to put those on the homepage. I certainly don't think that it is necessary, but if you have them, I think it shows how involved you are in the community because that's the one thing -- whenever we talk to banks, one thing that jumps out quite a bit is they always say that we're here and we're involved in our community; we're here and we're involved in our community. Well, your homepage should reflect that in come capacity. How are you involved in the community? Maybe instead of having the events all listed out, there's a whole blurb about how you guys are giving back in your community with a link to the calendar invite or the calendar listing. Those are all things that could be considered when trying to incorporate something about the community involvement within your bank.

So the last item I'm going to touch on today is going to be the footer. The footer usually holds a lot of information, or it can hold a lot of information. In the footer, that's where I personally like to include the social icons. I get a lot of pushback sometimes because everybody wants to put the social icons in the header. Remember what I said earlier about how you can't have everything on the homepage. You can't have everything in the header. You can't have everything above the fold. The more that we can move some of that stuff away and open up that picture, it leads our users to the end goal, which is those primary calls to action. So if there's less to distract them, then great. Also, I mean, full disclosure, people are not going to your website to find your Facebook page. They're going to go to Facebook and they're going to search for the brand that way. Same thing with the other social entities and social platforms. I think it's great to have them there so that way people understand that there's visibility there and that is important to you, but I'd keep them in the footer.

I'd also include, if you don't have a sticky navigation -- so a sticky navigation is going to be when you scroll down the page, that the navigation sticks to the top of your browser. If you don't have that, then have a navigation in your footer. If you're asking my preference, my preference is the sticky nav. But I think either way you go, as long as you've got the ability to quickly move back to the top or access the navigation from the bottom, from the footer, then I think you'll be covered. Obviously, location information, headquarter information, that type of stuff's pretty standard. But another thing that I love to put in on a banking website -- things about fees and disclosures. Usually a link to fees and disclosures. You'll have to double-check with your compliance dept, but a lot of times compliance departments are perfectly satisfied knowing there's a link in the footer to all of the fees and disclosures at any time so in case something ever happens and a disclosure, for some reason, doesn’t get linked appropriately, it's always in the footer for people to access. And that page, that fees and disclosures page, holds all of your fee and disclosure information.

Woo. That's a lot. I'm sorry, Michael.

MR I'm exhausted.

AG I feel like I've talked too much, Michael.

MR No, I'm loving it. Watching you plan out a website homepage is a work of art. [laughs] It's a beautiful thing to watch.

AG Well, thanks. I mean, I love -- this is obviously -- I love doing this. This makes me so happy. One thing to be aware of when you're doing this is everybody will want everything above the fold. Everything. I know I've already said this, but the more you put in there, the more chaotic it is going to be. The more chaos that is there, the less likely your users are to have a positive experience when engaging with your website. So everything goes back to the user experience and how people are going to interact with the site. I know that you are going to get a lot of pushback from your boss, from other departments to have things in there. But it is your job to be an advocate for your customers and for your users. Because if we're just putting everything on the website that we want people to see, then people will never find what they're looking for. We have to make this a tool and a resource for our customers and for our end users, and that is an extension of your brand, and it's the digital presence of your brand, and we want to make sure that those positive feelings are also evoked when they're experiencing that part of your brand.

MR Thank you. With a topic this deep, I'm expecting some of our listeners may have questions.

AG Yeah.

MR So if they do, I'm sure they can reach us at podcast@capitalpointmarketing.com and you'll look at those notes.

AG Absolutely, yeah. And I can certainly follow up in a future episode.

MR Wonderful. All right. Well, thanks, Allison.

AG Thank you. This was fun.

MR Great stuff. Thank you for joining us today. We appreciate it. And again, questions -- we love those questions not just about the topic, but about the podcast in general, podcast@capitalpointmarketing.com. Email us there, and we'd love to chat. Until next time, thanks for joining us.

This podcast is brought to you by Capital Point Marketing, the premier marking agency for banks and credit unions. Visit us online at capitalpointmarketing.com.