What Makes A Good Mobile Banking App Design – Part III

Mobile App Usability
Mobile App Usability

In our third and final part of mobile banking app usability testing, we looked at the top 25 major banks, and reduced their mobile banking app to a set of design elements and then turned 60+ designers loose to get creative and come up with variations that fit our brand. We then took various aspects of each design and tested each before 415 customers and potential customers. We looked at usability and asked them to rate each feature. In each case, we chose a base case and then compared variations for usage and desirability by each customer. The numbers below are the percentage points difference, positive or negative from the base case (Version A).


Statement Display


We presented a variety of statement designs to the focus group, and they chose almost in the exact opposite of what we predicted. It turns out that users like their products color coded and their information on one screen despite the design atheistic. Version C tested the best but only slightly.


The 18-to-29-year-old cohort preferred Version D as it had 2% better usability than the other versions. We will also add that the younger set disliked Version C the most. It was the 45-to-60-year-old demographic that strongly preferred Version C. We will also add that Version D and then Version A are the better choices if the goal was not to be disliked by the most people as all the other versions generated strong feelings against the design. 


Mobile Banking Usability - Showing 5 mobile banking screens


Number Display

One of the most startling findings of our research was the strong preference for color-coded numbers. Our thesis was that color-coded numbers might confuse the customer and that customers wouldn’t like seeing any red associated with their accounts. However, the testing revealed the exact opposite with the focus group having a very strong preference for color-coded numbers with the monochromatic version, the most popular among mobile banking apps, having 60% less usability.


In this case, it was the 30-to-44-year-old group that had the strongest preference for Version A with the over 60 set having the weakest preference. 


Mobile Banking Usability - three banking app comparison showing different colored numbers


Navigation Background Color


While we tested the background color on the statement screen, we wanted to confirm our findings on the navigation screen. True to form, our testing confirmed that fact, as a dark background is preferred any time the user doesn’t have to look at numbers or make a decision. For the navigation menu, since the user needs to decide on what to press, dark text on a white background was strongly preferred.


While all age groups supported this finding, the finding was correlated with age as the older the user was, the more they preferred the white background. 


Mobile Banking usability - graphic showing 2 different background colors for a navigation screen


Historical Balance Graphing


Another surprising finding is that we presented a graphed history of the user’s interest checking balance and then asked if this was helpful. Our thesis would be the most everyone would prefer having an additional screen with this information and find the functionality useful. It turns out, that the screen only enhanced usability in 23% of the cases.

This feature was almost perfectly correlated to age as the younger you were the more you found the graphing useful. Interestingly, a material portion of the over 60 crowd preferred not even having this screen as 40% of them found the screen distracting and not useful.


We will also point out that this was the only finding that was correlated to net income. The more money you make, the more you found this graph useful with the most substantial findings coming from the $150k-to-$175k cohort. We will also add that in most all of our tests there was very little variation in gender findings with the exception of this one as males found the graph more useful in 10% of the cases. 


Graph of mobile app with graphing of account balance 


Putting This Into Action


Unfortunately, most community banks have not changed their mobile banking app user interface since its introduction. During that time, the user experience has been elevated due to the popularity of Uber, Amazon, Instagram, native Apple products, and other popular applications. Over the last two years, swipe features, more icons, white backgrounds, and single screen navigation have served to increase usability.


Your bank likely thinks nothing of spending $100k+ in giving a branch a facelift. If true, it makes sense to spend $15k on a mobile app facelift, an investment where you can measure both usage and usability. Making your app more usable means customers will not only use the app more often but will adopt it faster. More app usage reduces transaction costs while helping profitability. The frequent an app user is, the more likely they are to have more significant balances at your bank and the more likely they are to be retained in any given year. This isn’t the case for a branch makeover which makes a mobile app facelift investment one of the best investments a bank can make resulting in a triple-digit return.