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Bank Websites Lacking in Quality

The quality of banks' websites has suffered over the past year, according to a report from Change Sciences. The New York-based firm helps other companies design more intuitive interactive experiences for their customers. In the study "The Consumer Experience of Bank Web Sites: Optimizing First Impressions, Account Selection and Online Account Opening", it found that bank sites are generally harder to use, less informative and less persuasive overall.

Change Sciences examined the sites of 17 midsize and large banks. It compared user experience metrics on what people experienced as they attempted to find a deposit account that met their needs over the last month. The company also looked at the way products were cross- and up-sold and how the sites optimized account selection and online account opening ease of use, degree of information and persuasiveness.

It concluded that although there are fewer instances of unprofessionally designed websites, with homepages being 14 percent more informative than the previous year, bank sites are less welcoming (21 percent less). This, the firm says, is often a direct result of the financial crisis as many banks have replaced traditional imagery and welcome messages with notices of takeovers or closures.

Change Sciences says it is more difficult for consumers to obtain details about banks' products, noting that product comparisons and product details have become 12 percent less informative, while the sites are harder to understand and navigate. Plus, the number of "annoyances" users encounter when opening an account online has increased by 10 percent.

There were some bright spots in the study, however. Bank of America (Charlotte), Citi (New York) and BB&T (Winston-Salem, N.C.) were the three best sites. BofA moved up three places from the last study to the top position, while BB&T jumped from sixth place to third overall.

Other banks covered in the report include: Capital One, Chase, Citizens Bank, Fifth Third Bank, HSBC, ING DIRECT, National City, PNC, Regions, SunTrust, US Bank, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo.

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