Which Banks Offer The Best Web Experience?

It should be pretty easy to find out what's on offer from any major bank from its web site, but do Australia's big banks actually deliver? A new report from Forrester Research rates the user experience for Australian bank sites, and concludes that they're actually all substandard.

Forrester's local analyst Steven Noble rated the "big four" banks -- ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac -- to see how they stacked up. (While there are plenty of other choices, included second-tier banks, credit unions and building societies, those four do account for a massive proportion of the local finance market.)

Forrester's review didn't specifically focus on online banking for existing customers, but examined how easy each bank made a specific task: applying to open an everyday savings account after checking interest rates, account conditions, branch locations and hours and ATM details. Forrester has a detailed ranking methodology that assigns sites an overall score, with 25 considered a pass mark.

Astonishingly, despite the fact that Australian banks are hugely profitable and spend a fortune on site development (and marketing their customer service chops), none of them actually managed to reach that score. Westpac came closest with 24, followed by Commonwealth (17), NAB (9) and ANZ (-4).

The big flaw identified by Forrester was the lack of effective search functions across the site, making it fiddly in many cases to answer a basic question like "Is there a branch near me that is open on a Saturday?":

For example, a search for “weekend banking” on NAB’s site returned a result from the FAQ section, with no indication of whether the FAQ would actually answer the question, which it didn’t. Likewise, the search results jumbled unrelated types of content. For example, the same search on ANZ’s site returned a newspaper reprint, a memorandum for mobile banking customers, and more irrelevant results. None of the sites allowed the user to narrow her search results according to content type or other criteria.

In an era where many people use search functions to locate everything they want online, having a poor search experience really is a major problem, and unsurprisingly at the top of Forrester's list of recommendations for how the banks could improve their web experience. Reducing jargon and ensuring consistency are also key considerations.

If you are hunting for a new bank account, the lesson seems to be: you'll need to be prepared to spend some time digging out the detail. Whichever bank you favour, don't forget the basic rules for online banking security.

Forrester Research

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


Comments

    You always have the most interesting articles, Angus.

    *phew*
    Westpac scored the highest.
    I was dreading having to change banks due to poor web navigation.

      bahaha, same.

    I find that most (not just banking) sites have bad search facilities... however there is a solution: Google.

    EG: Search "site:anz.com.au weekend banking" and you will be presented with the following link as the top result: http://www.anz.com.au/personal/ways-bank/branches/extended-branch-locator/

    Hope this helps a few people out there.

    I can tell you that apart from BankWest having awesome rates....there website and customer services is pretty sub standard

    Back before 200 I had commbank on my very basic nokia 3210 - I could do transfers and everything via basic WAP.

    Since then I have been thru st george and NAB and neither have created something as simple good on their phone or online banking. Both are bloated and used as promotional tools.

    Also, I know security has necessarily increased but I now have 3 NAB passwords that all must be different. This, however secure it may be, is not user friendly.

    I was thinking of switching to Westpac a while ago, but crossed it off my list because of needing to use their onscreen keyboard to enter your password - which I despise.. I'm all for security, but forcing an onscreen keyboard always seemed overkill to me..

      I'm stuck with Westpac and I HATE the onscreen keyboard.

      Its so easy for someone to see your customer number, then watch you click each letter of your password. I've complained to them about this set up, and the response I got was, 'sorry, won't change, cos it prevents keyloggers stealing your password'.

      Fair enough about keyloggers, but really, I think their solution is less secure. I dread having to sign in in a public place. I have to cover the customer number with my hand on the screen (like a tool).

    While the search results for the same search ('weekend banking') didn't offer a better result than these major banks, I find the Teachers Credit Union website very easy to navigate. It has a set of quick links, a clearly marked log in button for internet banking and intuitively labelled categories for most of its services. It organises its accounts and loans information in such a way that you can access all relevant information about each acct/loan type in one place, using tabs. Also, their overall customer service is just miles ahead!

      Really? Teacher Credit Union? I banked with them for two years and found their online banking to be woefully bad. That combined with a poor account sent me running to Westpac's door.

    My comments here will just concern a visual and design aspect.

    I use 3 banks, Westpac, CBA and St George. For normal everyday private banking the CBA interface is by far the best of these 3, Westpac once you enter your account is very amateurish, no tabbed menus and visible summaries of payments pending or statements. The left hand side menu that Westpac uses reminds me of a design built by schoolkids. St George is another that needs an update , I don't know if it is the way I have Firefox set up but entering your account via a pop up window, come on, they must be joking. Luckily for me CBA is my main banking portal.

      I have to agree with Max I changed from NAB to CBA and their interface is just a joy to work with. So much more functional than the others I have seen my friends using eg. ANZ, Westpac.

      With St George IB, just save the address of the pop-up window as a favourite. That way it will open as a tab and not a new window.

    I agree with the above statement that Westpac’s online keyboard is a pain.

    The best solution I’ve come across to prevent keyloggers is to have a 6+ character password and have the system require you to enter three of the characters, chosen at random each time. My UK bank has two passwords, one numerical and one alphanumerical, and asks for random digits from each. Works well. The worrying thing is that, irritating as it is, Westpac’s keyboard is still the most secure online banking I’ve seen in Australia. I would even go as far as to say that all Australian banks have very lax security when compared to overseas banks. The bank I used in the UK even went as far as issuing a card reader that required you to swipe your card each time you added a new payee online. The reader generated a unique number which you had to enter online.

    I wonder if Westpac still have the "Please 'upgrade' to Internet Explorer 5.0 or above' when using anything other then IE!

    yeah i agree... how westpac got 24/25 in the above article is ridiculous. it is the most archaic stupid online banking system ever. So much so that their new iphone app is actually better than the entire current online system. I have used St george and CBA as well which are ok. CBA is probably the best in my opinion as it seems to be constantly updated. however that does also mean down time.

    I use the Police Credit Union and the site they have is simple and effective. Everything is set up in an easy to navigate layout.

    i think the point of this report is the public-facing normal corporate website:

    commbank.com.au
    anz.com.au
    westpac.com.au
    nab.com.au
    stgeorge.com.au

    etc....
    nothing to do with online banking.

    its a shame the aussie bank corporate sites are so far behind their overseas counterparts tho.

    At UBank, we use Google Custom Search - No need to reinvent the world of search, apparently Google are pretty good at it ;)

    Speak soon,
    Monty H - Online, UBank

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