Author: Lee Wetherington, email@example.com
Within the next two years, more people will access the Internet with mobile devices than with personal computers. "Interesting factoid, Lee,” you might think, “but what’s the big deal?”
Well, for financial institutions, it’s a huge deal, a shift so fundamental that it might rival the inchoate potential of Dodd-Frank. “That’s crazy,” you say, “as crazy as the big ears on your disproportionately large head.” You’re right about my freakish noggin, but consider this:
According to Javelin research, less than 5% of mobile handsets sold in Q2 2009 were smartphones, but in Q2 2010, that number jumped to over 40%. The reason this matters is because mobile behaviors and expectations change radically when people migrate from feature phones to smartphones. Within two years, half of all mobile phones in the U.S. will be smartphones.
A typical smartphone user generally spends 60% of device time making calls. Users of “superphones” like iPhones and Droids spend 80% of device time browsing the Web and playing with apps—and only 20% actually making calls. The take-away is that behavior, usage, and expectations change dramatically with the sophistication of the device.
Mobile Tribes: Super, Smart, Dumb
Ask someone with a feature phone whether he’s interested in Mobile Remote Deposit, and you’ll get a deer in the headlights. Ask someone with an iPhone if she’s interested in Mobile Remote Deposit, and you’ll get a very casual, “Sure, is it in the app store right now?” Then only after downloading the app will she realize that she doesn’t have any checks to deposit.
Already, 70% of banking transactions happen online outside the physical branch, so as the locus of most online banking migrates from personal computers to mobile phones, getting the mobile experience right is paramount, and in the mobile space that means usability first.
Usability vs. Security?
Historically, financial institutions have prioritized security over usability, often strengthening security in ways that explicitly diminish both usability and access. That tradeoff is a false choice, one that’s mortal in the mobile space. Moreover, it’s based on a false assumption that good security inherently makes something more difficult to use, even for authorized users.
Few seem to realize that security is actually bolstered by superior usability as the latter encourages frequent access to account info by the very people who have the highest stake in monitoring those accounts for unusual activity and outright fraud.
As banking interactions move from a 12x9-inch computer monitor to a 3x2-inch mobile screen, the tolerance for bad design, unintelligible navigation, or poor visualization of data drops to zero. It’s a whole new world, and one we had all better master quickly. Just ask Steve Jobs.