The role of user experience in investment management websites

In this digital age, user experience (UX) is vital for success in any industry. Revenue from your website may not be a trackable metric in the investment management industry but an excellent UX isn’t always about direct attribution to revenue generation. Positive brand reputation, increased customer loyalty, deeper engagement with users (leading to more insights and more conversions on site goals) and a stronger ROI for your marketing are all significant benefits and this industry can’t get left behind despite having some additional hurdles to overcome. 

Why user experience matters for investment management websites 

A well-designed website can provide your clients with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions and in turn support their clients better, making their lives easier. In this blog, we’ll explore the critical role of UX in investment management websites and why it should matter to you, your team, and your organization.  

Surprisingly, finding this key information (often this is performance / reporting data) can be easier said than done. While producing a recent review of top investment management websites, our research showed us that many asset managers do not prioritize this enough.  

That said, once you find the key information, there is another, even bigger challenge – presenting key information in a way that is easy to understand and navigate. These two significant blockers can be addressed with a well thought out and designed user experience. 

So, what are the fundamental guiding principles of user experience?  

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The user DOES come first (always) 

The importance of keeping your focus on the user can never be underestimated. Understanding your clients’ pain points and needs – and then designing for those – is the most basic of fundamentals when it comes to UX. All too often you see internal priorities or subjective design preferences creeping onto investment management sites. These behaviours serve to lose empathy for the user’s perspective and reduce your overall user experience.  

Data Data Data 

The importance of data in investment management website design is twofold. Firstly, in terms of content, your fund data and delivery of that information is pretty much your north star when it comes to importance.  

Traditionally, PDFs or monotonous tables / standard charts were used to display this data. Nowadays many investment management websites use interactive charting and new forms of data visualization that allow users to explore their fund data in a more intuitive way, leading to a better absorption of that content and a larger inclination to share, revisit and use again. 

Secondly, a positive user experience is not a static target. What makes the user experience positive does change over time. So, it is key to use your user data (from your website analytics) to inform your user experience’s evolution. Even the most seasoned design professionals working from extensive research can make incorrect assumptions from time to time, while reviewing your data to create actionable insights can help you continuously improve your UX. 

Provide the right amount of user control 

How many times have you sat on a site and wondered “why can’t I go back?” after you take a wrong turn and navigate to the wrong page or product? This can be incredibly frustrating and trying to lead your users on a journey doesn’t mean taking control of navigation and flexibility away from them. 

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This one can be a little controversial with design purists, but regardless of how aesthetically pleasing your site may be, it won’t resonate with users unless it’s easy to use. Prioritizing look and feel over how easy something is to use is a common flaw – and one easily made – when the decision makers are not aware of the impact of usability. 

A website that is cluttered with content, whether it be focused funds for sales, thought leadership content, marketing campaigns, embedded video, or other links, is doomed to a low visitor engagement. Where the design has a direct impact on users (and conversions / KPI’s), when considering your user experience, you need to ensure every piece of text, button, module or graphic on the site has a purpose and it is clear what that purpose is. 

Usability testing is a key component to website development and the evolution of your user experience improvement (remember the data section?). Usability testing should be done as early as possible, ideally during the wireframe / prototype stages of your website development.  

Remember, usability testing can easily be done on live / legacy products and services to ensure you are still delivering the desired outcomes to your users – these data points can be a great way to justify improvements to stakeholders. 

Accessibility – designing for all users 

Accessibility historically took a bit of a back seat to usability from a design perspective; however (and thankfully so) it is now an essential aspect of UX and should be considered “table stakes” by investment management websites, portals, or applications. Regulation across the UK, US and EMEA is getting tighter, and your sites, portals and tools should be prepared for this.  

To make investment management websites accessible to all users, designers must consider several factors. Firstly, the site should be designed to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These guidelines provide a framework for designing accessible websites that can be used by people with a range of disabilities. 

Designers must also ensure that the site is optimized for assistive technologies, such as screen readers and keyboard navigation. This can involve providing alternative text for images, ensuring that form elements are labeled correctly, and using semantic HTML to provide context for page elements. 

Investment management websites also need to be compatible with different devices and screen sizes. Users with disabilities may use a range of devices to access the site, including desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones. Responsive design can help ensure that the site is accessible and usable across all devices and screen sizes. 

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Information Architecture (IA) 

Sometimes it can be difficult to explain the importance of Information Architecture (or IA) to stakeholders that are less familiar with UX design principles, but the basics are that your IA is the foundation (the core structure) to the website, portal or application that organizes everything for you. From the IA you get the creation of: 

  • Sitemaps 
  • Navigation 
  • Hierarchies 
  • Metadata 

A good foundational IA will help people understand what they are looking at and where to find what they are searching for.  

Performance: The need for speed 

Investment management websites often have complex data sources and rules ahead of loading (especially on fund centers and when delivering the data visualization), resulting in a long wait for the user before being able to view a full page with all content visible. Slow-loading pages and unresponsive menus can frustrate users and lead them to abandon the site altogether.  

To ensure that websites are performing at their best, many investment management companies are turning to content delivery networks (CDN) and other optimization techniques. These technologies can help reduce page load times and ensure that users can access the information they need as quickly as possible. Once again, it is worth focusing on key sections of your site such as fund performance data first. Ensure that these sections or content snippets load quickly, and your site functionality is geared to be responsive to the user’s interactions.

Consistency is key  

While creating engaging and easy-to-use user experiences, it’s essential to adhere to the UX design principle of consistency. This is a multi-layered principle. Firstly, you need to keep your designs consistent in look and function across pages, sections and even sub-sites within the same brand or product family. 

To complement this, consistency extends to meeting the user’s expectations for the kind of product you’re designing. In the investment management space, users will come to your site with certain expectations of how it should work and the information they need, based on experiences within the market. While we are not saying you should copy your competitors, we don’t advocate re-inventing the wheel either, as trying to be too different can cause issues. 

Keeping consistency across your UX will align to what users expect. A smooth customer experience means as little friction as possible. An intuitive design will minimize any unnecessary distraction on ‘how to use the site’ and maximize the user’s focus on the content they are looking for.

Maintain a visual hierarchy: Creating a positive first impression 

Visual design plays a crucial role in the UX of investment management websites. The hierarchy of this design is your way of focusing on the importance of certain elements to the users. A good visual hierarchy will help users’ eyes move across the interface, starting with the most essential elements through to the least, gradually and without conscious effort.  

At its most basic, an example of visual hierarchy includes font sizes and colors of the call to action (buttons), with a “send” or “agree” button being bolder and brighter than the “cancel” or “go back” options. 

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Less is more 

One trend that has emerged in recent years is the use of minimalistic design, or the “less is more” approach. An organization will have multiple stakeholders who want to contribute to your site’s content and even the design. Whilst teams are intensely working on creativity and uniqueness, these demands can dilute purpose, clutter the interface, and damage the UX. Less is more approach emphasizes consistency and usability through simplicity and clarity. By eliminating unnecessary clutter and distractions, minimalistic design can help users focus on the information that matters most (you can use your analytics / user data and usability testing alongside customer focus to maintain this focus). 

Designing an investment management website with a clear focus on user experience principles can make a significant difference in attracting and retaining your target users. By optimizing for these factors, investment management firms can create a positive user experience that can help users make informed decisions about their investments. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the best investment management websites of 2023, be sure to check out our whitepaper, “25 of the Best Investment Management Websites 2023”. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve compiled the top investment management websites that excel in areas such as design, usability, and accessibility. By exploring these websites, you can gain insight into the latest trends and best practices in the industry and find inspiration for your own website design.