What is an account wizard?
According to Wikipedia, a software wizard “is a user interface type that presents a user with a sequence of dialog boxes that lead the user through a series of well-defined steps.”
Designinginterfaces.com echoes the sentiment, stating that “(wizards) lead the user through the interface step by step to do tasks in a prescribed order.”
While wizards might have started out as virtual help desks, the term now covers broader territory, including product wizards, which lead website visitors through a series of questions in order to calculate a recommendation of a specific product or service.
At its core, a wizard is an interactive decision matrix.
When customers shop for products or services, they want to be able to compare. This is true of everything from footwear to credit union website design to checking accounts. Therefore, if your credit union offers more than one checking product, you have your own choice to make:
How will you present the features of each checking account to the visitors of your credit union website?
One approach is to give each product its own webpage. Or if you include all of the checking options on a single page, each product can have its own section that shares the features of every product, either in paragraphs or bulleted lists.
Of course, there’s a more elegant solution for organizing the information, and many credit unions already are using them: tables.
By using product tables, you can list every checking product side by side. That way, customers can discern at a glance which options include a monthly fee, earn interest, require a minimum balance and so forth.
While product tables allow website visitors to compare and contrast options on a single screen, that convenience can sometimes be trumped by complexity. If you have too many products or an abundance of rows or columns in the table, customers can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data they must wade through.
Information overload aside, large tables can also present a problem for website usability. Even tables that incorporate responsive design — which optimizes the flow of content so that text and images fit any size screen — can end up looking odd on smartphones. To accommodate narrower screens, responsive tables tend to break up the data, grouping features by product and, ironically, making it more difficult to compare data from one product to the next.
In other words, complex tables might work well enough on desktops and laptops, but they can be problematic on smaller screens.
Advantages of product wizards
Unlike tables, product wizards are less likely to overwhelm users. Or as the Nielsen Norman Group puts it: “By showing less information at a time, (wizards) allow users to focus better on the content pertinent to each step and decrease the chance of errors.”
The leaders in all things usability also cite these benefits of wizards:
- Less cognitive effort is spent in completing the decision-making process.
- Users make fewer mistakes when compared to filling out overly complex forms.
- More screen real estate is available for each step.
- When wizards include logic based on user input, people will see only the steps applicable to their situation.
We at BrownBoots would add this to the list: The results page at the end of the wizard is a prime place to display a clear call-to-action that correlates to the specific recommendation.
For example, if the free checking account option is the best fit for a user, that results page should include a link to a webform for signing up or some other step for beginning the application process for a free checking account specifically.
Disadvantages of product wizards
Wizards aren’t the solution for every situation. In fact, Nielsen Norman Group spells out these disadvantages:
- Wizards can require a higher interaction cost (i.e. more clicks) than other input patterns.
- Wizards might not allow users to easily transfer or compare information from different steps.
- Wizards are not gracefully interruptible.
- Wizards limit users’ control and creativity.
Then again, some of these disadvantages can be transformed into advantages for banking product wizards.
For instance, if you keep the series of questions short, a user likely wouldn’t have a need to interrupt the process. Also, maintaining a certain measure of control over users’ activity puts you in the position to suggest products that are also in the company’s best interest — such as a savings product with aggressive growth goals.
Adding a wizard to your website
Wizards should be used strategically. They are ideal for infrequent processes, such as shopping for a specific service or product. Whenever possible, include navigation so that users can return to prior questions and then advance ahead to where they left off.
And when it comes to product wizards, the magic number is at least three. If you have only a couple of products to choose from, a wizard is needlessly involved. However, when you have three or more choices for customers, a product wizard not only provides step-by-step interactions, but also a clear-cut promotion of what your credit union has to offer.
This article was submitted by BrownBoots Interactive, a full-service website and marketing agency that caters to credit unions and banks. Learn more atwww.BrownBootsBankWebsites.com.