Sidmouth FolkWeek 2011 - what was so awkward about the 2011 website?

Comparisons of banking websites - the 'Keep It Simple Stupid' principle still applies!

As has been discussed earlier, the Sidmouth FolkWeek website in 2011 was distinctly unhelpful to people who might have been visiting the festival for the first time. If you were 'an old hand' and already knew the ticket structure inside out (despite the fact that it has a habit of changing a bit or a lot each year) you would have had little trouble using the website - but that is not the point. It should not be necessary to use 30 or even 10 clicks to obtain a clear picture (and on one screen) of all ticket prices.

A festival website should be as user-friendly as possible to every user, especially as their 'shopping experience' may even determine if they spend any money at all. In the world of e-business and e-commerce this is surely axiomatic.

My own annoyance resulted from years of using dozens of banking and investment websites. Nowadays, these are much better designed than they used to be. However, some still make it tedious to obtain the key information that savers need - the interest rates on all the dozens of accounts that are on offer. Many accounts have such low rates of interest that they could be disregarded 'at a glance' - if only all the rates were displayed in one place.

Some examples follow from August 2011.

savings chelsea.jpg (73697 bytes)

savings chelsea list.jpg (86966 bytes)

At first glance, the Chelsea website is an ancient design (see left) - you can expand out each account type but to obtain details (including the interest rate) you have to click on each of about 20 links. However, if you spot it on the left of the home page, there is a link to 'interest rates' - an all are displayed clearly as shown above. This is what most savers need.

savings northernrock.jpg (104748 bytes) The Northern Rock design is adopted by only a few other societies and banks.

This approach gives users the option of selecting what type of account they wish to have (Branch/Postal/ISA etc) BEFORE they even know most of the interest rates. And it is the rate that may be the principal deciding factor. Some 'money comparison' websites also work in this way.

In effect you are invited to close off some of your options before you even know what you might be missing! And then if you think you might be, you go back to the beginning and start again.

You can scroll down a very long list of all account types (starting with ISAs as shown) but you'd need to make a list of the rates paid on each type of  account as you went, and before it disappeared from view.

Applying the filters can also be unhelpful - selecting 'save as and when I want' produces 13 ordinary instant access and some ISA accounts - it is unlikely a customer wanting one type would be interested in another.

Technically, it all works very well and NR are very efficient on the phone.

It's an example of a highly developed and very artistic 'interactive' website - one whose developers may have lost sight of the fact that most people might like the simple option - some means of viewing 'at a glance' all the interest rates on one screen.

In some respects therefore, it is a little like the website of Sidmouth FolkWeek 2011.

savings nottingham.jpg (112755 bytes)

savings nottingham rates.jpg (69963 bytes)

Amongst the types of presentation illustrated here, that from the Nottingham Building Society is perhaps one of the worst. But they are always efficient in operating their postal accounts and telephone service is good too - more than can be said of some other societies and banks.

On the left is the main list of account types (a very long list that scrolls well off the top of the screen) and it gives you just about every detail of all the accounts on offer except the information you most need.

But there is an option to see all interest rates at a glance - but only if you first click on each and every account type! There is a further page "Pick the right savings account" this is very like the Northern Rock product selector where you are invited to close off options before you know what they offer.

Overall, it is all very artistic and interactive - and, arguably, as badly designed as the Sidmouth FolkWeek website in 2011.

savings firstsave.jpg (105780 bytes)

This page, accessible easily from the home page of the website is exactly what is needed - it is clear, compact and gives all the important terms and conditions and the interest rates payable on a single screen.

The customer service from FirstSave is first rate too.

Whilst their fixed rate bonds are often competitive, it can be seen at a glance that their instant access account would be best avoided.

At the time of this advert, it was possible to obtain 3% on an 'instant access' account from other providers.

What FirstSave do not do anywhere on their website is to state that FBN means First Bank of Nigeria - they are a UK based (and regulated) offshoot of a Nigerian bank. And given the number of 'scams' operated from that country it might put some people off investing.

But not to worry - they have full UK status and their customer service would put some UK and EU banks to shame. FBN in the UK operate from Newcastle Upon Tyne.


savings principality.jpg (82171 bytes)

Information and comparison of rates at a glance.

Another good example - and from one of the UK's smaller building societies, based in Wales.

This page lists many different account types and just manages to fit on a single screen. It is accessible in a single click from the home page. Another (and even more detailed) page listing interest rates is also available as a 'quick link' from the home page.

A good feature is that 'more details' about each account type can be obtained via the blue buttons - these produce a 'pop-up' box that leaves the main screen intact. It is very easy to use.

Who would bother with an instant access account at 0.10% when you could open an e-saver for 1 and enjoy 2.85%?

Yet people do - and it is the elderly who have no-one to help them who are increasingly disadvantaged by 'the digital divide'.

They are often the people who desperately need to earn as much interest as possible, yet lacking internet expertise they settle for the miserable rates on offer from local 'branch based' accounts.

Except in well-connected Sidmouth of course, where a friendly neighbour might help them.......



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