How good design keeps application abandonment low, and completion high

User experience design can keep people engaged in account opening, or drive them away forever.
Jun 7, 2022
Laura Caseley
Content Writer

It’s been said you don’t notice good design, but you notice bad design right away. This is true of everything from furniture design to road signage, and digital banking is no exception. And it starts with the first interaction: opening a new account.

If the application and account opening process is well-designed, smooth, and intuitive, people will sail through it easily and open accounts. However, if the process is poorly designed with redundancies, confusing paths, or overwhelming amounts of information, people are more likely to give up – resulting in higher application abandonment rates.

High application abandonment rates have a big impact on cost, team bandwidth, and growth opportunity. And yet, most financial institutions struggle with reducing their application abandonment rates, increasing completion, and cutting down on manual touch-points for opening new accounts digitally. 

In this post, we’ll take a look at three triggers for why people give up on opening an account from a product design and user experience perspective, and what you can do to minimize these pain points. 

Abandonment Trigger 1: Clutter and confusion

Too much information and too many options can feel overwhelming, and lead to a stressful account opening process – sometimes too stressful to complete. 

Opening an account and managing finances in general can be stressful, so cutting down on unnecessary stressors is key. While it might seem efficient to list multiple fields on one page, for example, the result can actually cause confusion for users. Visual clutter increases the likelihood of making mistakes like putting the wrong information in the wrong field. The more opportunity there is for error, the more time applicants and financial institutions have to spend reviewing the accuracy of the info provided – none of which makes for a pleasant, seamless experience.

It’s imperative to make sure the display is never chaotic or cluttered. Help everyone feel calm and in control by keeping your pages minimal, with only one field per page, so people can concentrate on the question at hand and have a smaller chance of making mistakes. 

Decluttering is also easier on mobile users who are dealing with a small screen and need to be able to clearly see what they’re being asked. Financial tracker Mint uses this principle for their onboarding process, asking one question at a time, and creating a logical sequence of questions. For example, after someone enters their zipcode Mint offers a selection of institutions popular in their area. And if their bank or credit union isn’t one of the suggestions, users can search for other institutions.

A clean, calm, and orderly screen lets people know exactly what they're looking at with minimal stress and confusion.

Another way to subtly create a calm and controlled digital environment is to ensure continuous consistency. While having matching buttons and other elements might seem cosmetic or trivial, having a maintained style throughout all areas of your site helps people associate your institution with stability and consistency – something everyone wants when it comes to their finances. 

Excess clutter, inconsistency, and lack of clarity can also become an accessibility issue, driving away potential customers and making them feel unwelcome and unserved. A great way to ensure consistent design is to implement a design system that provides solid guidance on how everything associated with your brand should look and behave.

A unified theme of fonts and elements across web and mobile lets people know they're exactly where they're supposed to be.

Abandonment Trigger 2: Lack of direction

No one likes to get lost. Make sure your users know exactly where they’re going with each click and lead them effortlessly to the end of their journey.

Similar to the calming effect of a simple and uncluttered design, an intuitive layout and navigation path leading from one section to the next creates a sense of calm and stability. This ultimately helps people feel more comfortable, less stressed, and more pleased overall with their interaction – and drives completion! People feel they’re in control because they have an innate understanding of what they’re doing and why. 

Replicating familiar design experiences from popular platforms is a great way to instill confidence in users. When peole already know how to navigate your site & product, the learning curve is reduced and the overall experience is smoother. 

Of course, there’s also a down-side to user flows that enable fast completion. People want an experience that’s quick enough to not feel cumbersome, but allows them to fully understand what information they’re providing and what they’re entering into. Finding the right balance in user flow pacing is key, and will depend on your audience. “People opening business accounts are willing to spend more time on the process to ensure all the due diligence is done,” explains Narmi Lead Product Designer Hillary Pollak. “But the individual consumer requires a much quicker, more efficient account opening experience.”

“People opening business accounts are willing to spend more time on the process to ensure all the due diligence is done. But the individual consumer requires a much quicker, more efficient account opening experience.” - Hillary Pollak, Lead Product Designer, Narmi

Consistency comes into play here, too. It helps assure new applicants that they’re still where they need to be, and still on the right path during the account opening process. If something suddenly looks different, the effect can be disorienting and potentially lead to them giving up.

Sometimes it's hard to tell how far along the process has come, and how far it has to go. Mapping it out helps people manage their expectations.

Abandonment Trigger 3: A sense of insecurity

Leave your newest customers and members with a feeling of security so they can feel confident about the account opening process.

There’s nothing worse than the nagging feeling that something might be left undone, like wondering if you’ve left the stove on or the door unlocked. It’s an especially nerve-wracking feeling when it involves finances. A sense of absolute completion in setting up and funding an account is an absolute must.

To avoid uncertainty, clear messaging is the way to go. To get the clearest confirmation, Grasshopper Bank looked to Amazon to give their customers a shopping cart experience that not only personalized their account opening, but also created a sense of definite completeness to the whole process. 

That also means that if there is an issue – for example a field left blank – people should be able to know about it as soon as possible, and fix it easily. Mistakes happen, but they don’t need to be a big deal. Clear messaging helps here, too; people can see any issues, rectify them, and move on. 

A receipt-like page lets people not only know they've completed the process, but gives them an easy-to-reference summary.

When a digital application process is intuitive and encourages rapid completion, giving clear information at each step is crucial. Having to enter a SSN or provide account and routing numbers for external linking can create hesitation for some users. By clearly explaining why this information is needed and what it’ll be used for, banks and credit unions can assuage fears and give people confidence to complete their application. Open communication and transparency are key in any kind of relationship, and banking is no different. Make sure your messaging is clear, simply put, and easy to understand. 

Good design is essential when it comes to inspiring people to open an account, and to making sure they get all the way through the process. It’s what draws people in and gets them excited to work with your institution. But you can also apply these principles to the rest of your site, helping guide people through all you have to offer, from resources and services to industry insights that can help people make the best decisions they can with their money.

Narmi Inc.
3 East 28th St. Floor 12
New York, NY 10016

How good design keeps application abandonment low, and completion high