I've been involved in the development of several websites over the years and I've seen examples of the good, the bad and the ugly, but what makes a financial website great?
Whether you have a website already, you are thinking about redevelopment or starting from scratch, it's important to understand the elements that make your website a valuable resource for your target audience as well as for your business.
Authorised and Regulated
We all know how bad the image of the financial industry is and how the media can be quick to highlight financial scams and bad advice in the press.
It's important that all involved in the industry should make a point of doing whatever we can to give consumers as much help as possible to know they are dealing with a regulate firm and how to identify financial scams.
One of the things that legitimate, authorised firms providing regulated advice should make clear on their website is how visitors can check your registration on the FCA website as well as providing access to the consumer page of the FCA website.
Having reviewed several financial websites recently, including some of the biggest firms, it's worrying that so many don't even have their FCA Firm Reference Number listed and if they do it's hidden in the small print at the bottom of the page. I recommend having a page that gives guidance on being a regulated firm and that you work with your clients to ensure they are given clear, fair and not misleading advice within the TCF guidelines.
Provide access to other useful information such as the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Financial Service Compensation Scheme and your complaints proceedure. This will help give reassurance to people visiting your website and show that you have an open and honest approach to dealing with client queries.
Look, Feel and Tone of Voice
Communicating financial services can be complicated, but consumers will be looking for information that is easy to understand and gets the message across in a clear and simple way. A clean and consistent website that conveys your brand in a friendly and approachable way will help set the tone for what they can expect from using your services.
Your websites look and feel should be memorable and if possible colourful to provide impact – but without being distracting from your main message. Consumers want to feel confident that the information you are giving them provides peace of mind and the freedom to make informed choices.
Strong Brand Message
How do you want your audience to feel when they visit your site? What do you want them to do? Where do you want them to go next? The answers to these questions should be pretty simple to answer and they should all be reflected on your homepage.
Ask and answer for yourself the questions your clients/customers will be wanting to find out about when they visit your site and build your customer journey from there. Ideally they should only have up to three clicks to get to the information they are searching for and having multiple calls to action on each page will also help ensure they have direct access to contacting you from wherever they are on your website.
Again, keep this as simple and straightforward as possible, because getting this wrong could not only affect how user friendly your site is but also your website ranks on search engines. List the most important items first in your navigation bar and if you decide to use drop down menus ensure they are essential and relevant.
Try to avoid using generic names for your navigation and be more specific where possible. This will allow your site visitors to find the information they are looking for more quickly and reduce the number of bounce rates. Ideal navigations are word links as opposed to buttons which are difficult for search engines to see.
Knowledge and Expertise
With the exception of clients who are coming through to your website to access their account information, the majority of your visitors will be researching your business and your services. With knowledge and expertise being one of the key drivers for accessing financial advice this is an essential element for your website.
Case studies / testimonials
Newsletters and financial guides
Blogs and whitepapers
Client questions / hub
News and industry insight
Fees and Charges
Being upfront and transparent about your fees and charges particularly in light of how this has changed with RDR is an important requirement for consumers who are considering using your services. The FCA will also be looking at how you are communicating this and whilst they don’t expect firms to list this on their websites, it would be seen as a favourable and clear message for your audience.
It also helps to build trust and openness within and industry that is unfortunately rife with scams and mis-selling. However, if you prefer not to advertise your fees on your website, you may consider creating a pdf document that outlines this and encouraging your site visitors to contact you to receive it. This benefits you by having a warm lead to follow-up with to promote your services.
I have already mentioned about multiple calls to action throughout your website, but your contact page along with your ‘About Us’ page can also serve to help your visitors get to know you better. In an industry built on building relationships, having photos and contact information for each member of your team along with a mini bio will give your audience reassurance about who they are likely to be dealing with.
It also adds to the friendly, approachable stance that most financial brands should be conveying to their visitors to inspire them to get in contact with you.
Investing the time in creating a great website will help pay dividends to your business overall, providing you with opportunities to leverage targeted campaigns that can be integrated across other online platforms such as social media, digital advertising and email to drive visits to your site and leads into your sales pipeline.