Responsive websites v banking apps. What do customers really want?

Smartphones are convenient and great for quick, simple tasks. Tablets are perfect for casual browsing, exploring and consuming content.

With tablet banking set to overtake mobile banking by 2016, how do we ensure we deliver what customers need to manage their money?

Smartphones are convenient and great for quick, simple tasks.

Tablets are perfect for casual browsing, exploring and consuming content. But both of these devices suffer from small screens and fiddly interfaces. The heavy work is done on a PC or laptop, where organising or data input is required.

But 41% of UK adults have access to a tablet – double the figure of just 2 years ago, and recent research from Forrester suggests that more European consumers will bank on their tablets than on their mobile phones by as soon as 2016.

In ensuring that we provide comprehensive digital banking for all devices, and not just for PCs, focus on tablet use and its future prevalence is crucial.

Should we provide tablet banking apps or responsive banking websites to meet the needs of the consumer?

Tablets are perfect for reading, browsing, flipping, watching, but the lack of a tactile keyboard, small screen, and slower processor makes doing detailed, complicated tasks difficult. So when we want to fill in a multi-page form, write a letter, attach lots of documents to an email, we usually put the tablet down and revert to the computer.

Unless, of course, you have a slimmed down, sanitised, device-friendly version of the tool you need to use to complete your complex task – an app.

To date, there have been few deployments of tablet banking apps from the leading retail banks. Why? Because in fact, most feel that for everyday banking, a responsive website delivers the customers’ needs perfectly well.

An interesting internal guideline for UK Government departments is essentially ‘no apps, by default’.

Always err on the side of having a responsive website – one that scales up and down to fit the device’s browser and adds or hides page elements for the optimum user experience – unless there is an overwhelming need for an app, in which case have an app as well.

Responsive websites have many benefits over apps:

  • Tablet users access websites on their tablets more often than they do apps
  • Customers don’t want to download an app to carry out one simple task
  • Reduced requirement for compliance
  • Reduced support costs from IT and marketing teams.

However, where there is need for a more involved and more complex information (such as money management) then tablet apps are better suited.

Rather than be a cut down version of a website, an app should enable people to carry out specific tasks, faster, simpler, and with added benefit over using the website. Mobile apps can also be downloaded to tablets, and vice versa, and with iOS8 the experience is being further optimised.

An app is also in a privileged position of being able to access more information from the users’ device than a website is.
Which means you could tie up, for example, your banking app with your mobile wallet app to share data between each other on your phone.

A responsive website should be everyone’s starting point.

A company has got to have a website, and in 2014 it has to be responsive. But it’s probably going to be your ‘do everything’ interface.

Apps are there to support the website, to specialise, and especially in the areas of consumption, rather than creation, of data.