The Equa bank story began with its launch on the Czech market in 2011 and we became part of it when the team asked us to help them create a vision of their online services starting from study of their future internet banking interface. The story describes only parts of our journey, serving as a source of inspiration, a case study and a tiny peek into our thinking.
We took these steps to assist Equa bank in taking its place among the few progressive banks on the Czech market. These banks can truly compete through the quality of their services, not massive media coverage or something that could be called a family tradition.
Keeping in mind the brand promise of easy-to-use and easy-to-grasp banking, we began designing their most important service – e-banking, the place where the today's bankers meet their clients and where the service takes place. As it is, none of Equa bank's clients ever need to show up at any branch, all services can be set up online, anywhere and anytime. Online is where all the magic of loyalty and relationship building has to happen now.
In addition to this, we help them design the visual communication and online services in line with the global concept and values of the Equa brand, and we made sure we could take advantage of what the digital landscape has to offer.
We started from the scratch, almost. We had product specifications, a brand manual and a lot of designing and testing ahead of us. Our goal was to create an easy, intuitive, simple and beautiful concept of online banking that uses everyday language and thinking – something that even our moms would want to use.
Step by step we came to understand the bigger picture. Sketching and prototyping might not look all that convincing initially, but it definitely lowers costs. You only need bit of imagination and confidence in your partner. Sometimes clients have to believe in the reliability, skills and experience of their agency. If you work as a team, you can even start designing something as complex as e-banking on paper.
In order to get genuinely organised content, you need to follow and analyse user behaviour for a while and see for example what activities users perform, how they sort them in time and also how often they need each of the actions. This helps us to understand their real habits and routines and enables us to confront our scenarios and hypotheses with reality. Once you have the core actions, the best thing to do is to simplify the concepts. And please, don't forget to use common human language.
This one-step-deeper exploration shows what users understand about each of the services and how they have them set in their minds, to see the logic behind their behaviour. For a designer, then the goal is to identify and analyse various ways to arrange and organise expected actions, to help develop convenient practices and simple habits, and to deliver easier solutions than the users could ever imagine.
Unlike most e-banking interfaces, we didn't focus on product lines, but rather on the purpose of each action – and this completely changed the main navigation. Our solution makes use of a temporal dimension, dividing actions into past, present and future, because this really helps users to focus on what they intend to do – look at past transactions, make a payment or see what transactions are waiting to be processed. The dilemma of choosing which account to make the payment from comes later. Other good reasons for classifying the actions according to time are greater flexibility and simplification of the homepage overview. Simple, just like the Equa brand.
Colours and simple icons are some of the details that make an interface intuitive. Symbolic meanings of colours are culture-based and can be used to support various features – say, by making mortgages green to imply that there is some nice housing growing out there.
Icons are based on similar features, yet not everyone interprets them in the same way. With some good testing and adjustments, you will soon see that people simply know what that little thing means. With persistent consistency in your designing and testing, you can reach a point where users orientate themselves via simple colours, tiny icon shapes as well as the overall design, and intuitively associate all of it with actions or values.
All of this was finely tuned with the global brand manual, and the way we expanded the brand style was ultimately applied across all channels – online as well as offline.
After all the previous research and testing, we started working on the parts of the concept that were viable within given time frame and budget.
We used eye cameras to track the way people look at and explore the website – visually, and most of all naturally. For this, we tested various types of users – from those with experience with the e-banking systems of different banks to those with no experience with e-banking whatsoever. And – surprise, surprise – all of them knew what to do, which is another sign of an intuitive interface that all users appreciate as much as our client did.
After all the sketching, prototyping and designing, finally the days of realisation arrived, and since then we have kept adding and improving tiny bits so that all the services are up-to-date.
After Equa bank decided to focus more on business clients, for example, we implemented a role-switching feature, which is really helpful for anyone with multiple accounts or shared accounts, or for anyone whose accounts require admin roles. This appears to be a crucial feature for all business accounts, as it saves time and administrative costs.
We adapted ideas from major media channels like TV and print for the online banner campaigns. To keep the numbers at their best, we used A/B testing – i.e. testing two versions at a time on real users – to be able to use the version more appealing to potential clients flexibly and effectively.
Play a game and click on the banner you think is the better, nicer, sexier one for the online folks.