Website design – for financial services and beyond – has significantly changed since the early 1990s. Looking ahead, some exciting innovations are also on the horizon.
These could impact the type of project that financial advisers, wealth managers and investment firms may wish to pursue in the future. This article identifies five website design innovations to watch in 2023 and how they could transform the online experience for financial services firms.
We hope these insights are useful to you. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss your own financial website design project with a member of our team, via a free online consultation.
Looking Back, to Look Ahead
To appreciate how website design could change for financial services in the near future, it is important to understand how far it has come.
Financial website design has, broadly, travelled through three phases of the World Wide Web – each bringing new ideas, functionality and experiences to the internet user. These are broadly divided into Web1, Web2 and Web3.
Web1 was the start of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. Back then, websites were highly static and text-based, built on HTML. Users visited websites on their desktop computers and relied heavily on dial-up connections (very slow by today’s standards!).
By the early 2000s, things were changing. Big tech companies like Facebook were entering the scene, providing platforms for users to start creating their own content. Images and videos improved in quality and popularity. Increasingly, people used smartphones to access the web “on the go”.
Now, in 2023, many people argue that we stand on a “new frontier” of the internet – Web3. This envisages a more open-access, transparent and user-centric approach to the Internet.
Increasingly, websites and other online experiences will be built on technologies like blockchain, smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps). The idea is to create a more “trustless” and secure online environment.
Below, we explore five ways that Web3 and other innovations could manifest in the financial website design space.
#1 Responsive and Mobile-First Design
Web2 already coincided with the proliferation of internet-enabled smartphone devices. Yet, looking ahead, this is likely to become more prevalent – with search engines and other digital platforms prioritising the mobile user experience.
We have seen this already through initiatives like Google’s Mobile-First update, which means that Google predominantly uses the “mobile version” of your website for indexing and ranking.
Bluntly, if financial websites are left unattended over the years, they are likely to not be sufficiently responsive to new devices which hit the market. Investing in a mobile-first website design is a good way to “future proof your website and retain/build strong rankings in the search engines.
#2 User-Centric Design
Google and other digital platforms are always innovating to provide the best user experience (UX).
After all, if someone gets frustrated with the speed, accessibility and functionality of a particular platform, they are likely to go somewhere else. Search engines like Google and Facebook rely on keeping users on their platforms as much as possible (to keep seeing adverts, which is their primary source of revenue).
The priority of UX has important implications for financial website design. In short, if your website is not accessible, fast and easy to use, then Google and other platforms will be less likely to promote your page(s) to users.
Consider how seamless and intuitive the UX is when people visit your website. If improvements could be made, consider investing in a new website design project. It could help you retain your visitors and, possibly, take those from rivals with a poor UX compared to you.
#3 Voice User Interface (VUI)
Do you prefer typing when writing an SMS or search query? Or, do you find it easier to speak to a device, like Amazon’s Alexa?
Increasingly, users prefer the latter. It feels more interactive – mimicking human conversation. It is often faster than typing on a keyboard (especially if your fingers are fat and you are using a small device!).
Financial websites which are built to accommodate voice commands will likely be well-positioned to benefit from this trend. For instance, if a visitor asks a question about your service, can a VUI app (like Alexa) find it easily on your website (e.g. in your FAQ area)?
#4 Artificial Intelligence (AI) Integration
AI is perhaps one of the most complex and exciting areas of emerging innovation in financial website design.
AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming more sophisticated, often removing much of the need for humans to be involved with conversations with users on a company website.
Financial services businesses do, of course, need to consider some of the risks of AI-powered applications on their websites. For instance, data protection and security are paramount. Also, chatbots need to always remain compliant to avoid problems with regulators.
However, these issues are likely to be ironed out as the technology becomes more sophisticated. Also, governments like the UK will, hopefully, build a more robust regulatory framework for the responsible use of AI, which financial firms can then follow.
#5 Data-driven Design
In the not-too-distant past, website design decisions were often highly influenced by the preferences of the company owners.
Now, however, in our experience, financial firms are (rightly) recognising that a new website design is an investment. It is not merely there to “look nice” and make a good impression. It is also there to drive results – e.g. leads and inquiries.
To make this most effective, financial firms need to consider allowing data to increasingly drive website design decisions. For instance, what type of design is most likely to lead to website visitors, decent engagement and “conversions” (e.g. filling out the contact form)?
A financial website design agency will already have a good grasp of “what works” due to their experience will multiple other projects in the same sector. However, a professional can also look at data from your old, existing financial website to see what is working, what is not and where improvements can be made in a new project.