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So I'm building a payment interface, and we allow customers to pay with Checking or Savings accounts by entering their 'routing number' and 'account number'. The routing number is an identifier that's unique to the specific bank for which the account belongs, and the account number is the identifier of that customer's account in that bank.

A requirement bubbled up that we validate the routing number as the user is typing it (on 'blur'). I like that idea, as it hopefully stops a mistyped routing number from causing an invalid payment. However, the requirement also states that the project owners want the Bank Name to appear once we successfully validate it. (The code for this is pretty easy, btw...)

My problem is, why would I want to show the user their own bank name? What value does that have? All users will assume, by default, that they entered the routing number correctly. Its not something you have memorized, and its not something you just guess at, so to enter it, you must be looking at your checkbook or bank statement right there.

I am concerned because for the rest of the app, having text 'appear' as users type ALWAYS indicates an error. A malformed field, or a blank required field, etc. So in this case, the bank name would appear but would mean a successful action, not an error, which is kind of going against the grain.

And what value does the bank name add? I already know the name of my bank and I'm already going to assume I typed it right. Furthermore, the likelihood that I'll mistype my routing number, but accidentally get a proper routing number for some other bank is very, very unlikely. In all likelihood, a mistype will just result in the error of 'No Bank Found!' appearing, which matches the pattern of the other errors (being that errors cause labels to appear, and correcting them causes the label to disappear).

Am I being correct in resisting this requirement of showing the bank name as pointless and potentially confusing?

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Confirmation text appearing is fairly common in forms now not only for errors but also success confirmations –  Ben Brocka Apr 11 '12 at 19:05
    
Thank for you letting me know about this new invention of 'confirmation text' :) And in THIS app, text that appears as a user is entering values is ALWAYS an error. Am I wrong in sticking to my guns on this issue? –  Graham Apr 11 '12 at 19:25
    
Perhaps your concern is about users confusing confirmation text with error text. This seems unlikely to be confusing in practice, but if you want to avoid doubt: it would be common to display these in different colours (green/red). –  Ronald Apr 13 '12 at 9:13
    
May I suggest, to avoid confusion between error and success; show a small Bank logo instead of the Bank's "name". Just how the visa, mastercard and um, American express card icons appear on payment forms. That way, the user will know that it's a correct routing number because their bank's logo was displayed and also they will know that it's not an error because they already know that for credit cards it's normal for credit cards to appear in the form and when you enter card number (in many forms) the appropriate credit card icon is displayed/highlighted. I think this way is a win/win. –  jay_t55 Aug 7 at 9:22
    
I wouldn't know how to retrieve every possible bank logo though. –  Graham Aug 12 at 13:27

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Having just gotten married and begun the process of merging finances, I don't at all take for granted that I know what I'm doing with my bank information. I doubt I am alone.

First of all, show the bank name on a confirmation step after submittal, rather than onblur. Confirming financial institution information is a nice thing, since it's about money.

Second, a user might have more than one bank they use to do such payments. A bank confirmation screen gives me a chance to see the name of the bank written out and, more importantly, gives me a moment of pause to reflect if this is what I really meant to do—how many times have you whipped through some data entry only to realize you entered unintended data out of habit?

Third, just because you are smart, have a good memory, and are "on the ball" doesn't mean your users will be. The moment they are stressed about something, their mental process and attention deteriorate. It could be something on the site, something at home … could be anything. But assume that your users are operating in some sort of brain-addled state and then see how well they'll know their bank name.

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But I'm saying NO ONE has their routing numbers memorized. They are just reading them off their check book or bank statement, which has the bank name printed right there. I do like your idea of showing it as a confirmation after submittal, because we DO have a mechanism where they can kill that payment right after they make it but before their bank is drafted. –  Graham Apr 12 '12 at 12:35
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Do you know how often people typo when transcribing long undifferentiated numbers? It's something close to 1% on average. –  Myrddin Emrys Apr 12 '12 at 14:15
    
I am expecting typos to occur, and those events generate a regular 'error' message, since the routing number does not match a known bank. I'm just curious if there's any value to showing the bank name when the user always has that in front of them physically when they do the typing. –  Graham Apr 12 '12 at 14:31
    
@Graham, I have my routing numbers written down elsewhere, because I never carry my checks. Nevertheless, my second point stands, as I may whip through the numbers on the bottom of the check and never realize I've grabbed the wrong checkbook. Furthermore, even if you have multiple accounts from the same bank (and the name would be the same either way), a confirmation screen still provides a moment of pause to make sure you've got it as you meant to do it. –  tajmo Apr 12 '12 at 17:46
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Every time I enter my bank routing number I wish the site would tell me the bank name so I can verify that I entered the routing number correctly. Even though I'm copying it off of a check in front of me, I'm still worried that I'll make a mistake. –  17 of 26 Jul 25 at 16:45

I'd say that showing the name is a good thing. As tajmo says it's an extra piece of information that confirms to the user that they are doing the right thing.

Take the opposite example. On my phone when sending a text I select the recipient. This presents me with a list of my contacts - sorted by name. I pick a name and then it fills in the number of that contact. I always worry that I've picked the wrong name by accident but there's no way to double check at this stage.

Now, if this were a banking application I'd be very reluctant to hit the "send" button if there was no way I could verify I'd selected the right bank account.

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The error rate for transcribing long numbers is quite high. I do completely agree that you should display the bank after the user enters it.

Since you are concerned with the user believing that the text is an error, use typography to display the bank name in a friendly way; don't use bold red text below the box, instead use dark gray to the right, as if the name of the bank was merely a continuation of what the user entered themselves.

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I would say the general principal is good: it's a confirmation for the user and an indication of what will happen when they press the Go button. However, in the UK just showing the bank name might not be enough. Sort codes look like nn-nn-nn and the first two digits indicate the bank; the rest identify a branch. So 40-00-00 is a branch with HSBC, as is 40-12-34. In this case it might be more useful to supply as much detail as possible, including the branch name.

That is, not only do I think it's not confusing, I think you ought to be supplying even more information than is currently proposed.

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