IS IT DIFFICULT OR EASY?
Bank Websites Have a 53% Success GradeIt's hardly probable that the well-known web designer Carol Gavin was the first one who exclaimed: INTERNET is the greatest gift ever given to mankind! Others must have said that before her, but Carol has experienced emotionally the incredible opportunities for exchange of information and joint work. She has bravely forecast that things would advance immensely in the forthcoming decade and the present INTERNET will seem prehistoric. A colleague of her who is not less ingenious - the Swede Par Amkvist - has explained that simplicity is a pillar in the web's coordination system, because according to Dalai Lama, too, it is the key to happiness in the modern world. Simplicity is necessary in order to commute correctly communicate any idea and more than anything else requires serious thoughts and efforts. Mr. Amkvist does not feel uneasy to shout over the web: Do it simply, goof!The first organisation which offers professional services for usage in Bulgaria - Lukrat - tested the websites of 12 Bulgarian banks in the end of 2004: ING Bank, DSK Bank, HEBROSBANK, BULBANK, EUROBANK, HVB Bank Biochim, United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), Post Bank, ProCredit Bank, First Investment Bank, Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria) and SG EXPRESSBANK. The results are reassuring because bank websites' success grade is 53%, which means that each second user has found a way to solve his problems by using the site of just one bank. The ability to orientate in the websites reaches 38 per cent. The low percentage indicates that users make more steps in the cyber domain than they should to get the necessary information. If a website is difficult to be used, people simply go away. If users get lost in it, they leave it. If the information is hard to read or does not give an answer to their main questions, they quit, Jacob Nealsen, a world renown expert in this field points out. It is not necessary to know the internal jargon or organisational structure of a company in order to use its services. How shall we, for instance, demand an overdraft if we don't know what it means? How shall we understand if we are private, individual, corporate or business clients of the bank?The best way to find out how much a website is close to the ideal version is to test it in real time with the help of real users. Lukrat has invited twenty people, representing the target group of bank clients, using INTERNET. They are affluent professionals from the strata of higher and medium management, with a high educational qualification who would not waste their time if they could not get quickly enough the information they need. From their reactions when solving the six tasks set, Lukrat's experts draw their conclusions about the usefulness of one or another bank website. Each of the users had to find in the respective site the bank's nearest branch office (in terns of place of residence or work), to calculate the amount of the monthly repayment instalment for a loan of BGN5,000 for a term of two years, and to find out how to get a credit card. If he argues with friend about the overdraft, to be able to find out quickly in the site what that term means; to calculate the interest he will be getting if he deposits his money in a credit institution. And when he wants to buy a home with a loan, to find out if he could get a mortgage credit from the bank and at what terms. The Achilles' heel in the websites' information turned out to be the unclear names of bank products and the fact that one and the same or similar services bear different names in the different banks. The information in most cases services advertising aims and does not correspond with the clients' pragmatic expectations. The terms and abbreviations are specific, the language is sophisticated and the structure is clumsy. Therefore, the comments of the polled are unambiguous: The language of these sites is too sophisticated and difficult to be understood, or I'll print what I need and I'll examine it with someone who is better acquainted with that kind of services. There are extreme opinions too: The information is poor and the language is poor, this is a law text and is of no use to me.Calculators in the bank websites are of invaluable help. It is another question that they are not always easily accessible. Often, the user should first find the demanded service and reach the respective calculated afterwards. Lukrat's research shows that bank clients are suspicious in principle. They are quick to realize an advertising catch and say: I don't want explanations about how good that product is, I just want to know what it is in fact, or There should be information concerning the customer and it should be explicitly stated what is required from him. Banks usually advertise their products instead of acquainting the clients with their terms. Some of the polled are more direct in their answers: I am sick and tired of being sent from pillar to post by banks for one thing or another; Perhaps a document about incomes is required. When I go to the bank and they tell me such a document is necessary I shall have to return for it and go back again.When there are ambiguities in the text and the information has not been provided in the appropriate visual way, it does not sound sincere and mistrust enters the relations between the bank and its customers: I believe some things have been deliberately omitted, the suspicious ones say. And the prudent ones comment: With the currently available big bank market, a credit institution which provides more information will attract more clients even if it is not the better one. The information is still insufficient.Asked if the web can orientate them about the network of bank branches, one of the polled replied: I prefer not to search in the site. It would be much easier to get a taxi and tell the driver to take me to the nearest bank office. He will certainly know where it is.Insufficient information about the credit cards impeded banks' trade in them: The differences between cards are not made very clear. What is written here is just 'term of validity' and it is not enough. Or: I get information about what I can do with that card, but I don't know if it is a credit or debit card. Authors of sites are aware that users feel as if they are hunting, i.e. they navigate through pages by intuition. A good web does not copy the structure of the bank, nor does it use terms of the bank jargon, because it should be entirely to the service of customers. What they look for in it is explicit and comprehensive information, enabling them to make their choice. Incomplete and vague texts leave them with the feeling there is a catch. The pollsters recommend standardization of terminology and cooperation between bank sites, as well as unification of their interface and language. They also appeal for a positive attitude to users, avoiding categorization that disparages people.The ideal bank website would be easy to use and contain information instead of advertising. The names of products and services are the essence of what is offered and should be appropriately grouped, accompanied by detailed explanations. The language should be easy to understand and the names of links -clear. The ideal site would also have an excellent vision, a pure design that does not hamper concentration, and the products and services would be presented on a single page. A handy calculator is a must.