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For the context :

I work on the website of a big financial company. The company sells products in both the banking and insurance segments and is seen by it's customers as one entity.

Although the current strategy is to focus on the user experience and give an impression of unity and simplicity, it has been decided that the banking and insurance activities should be split in two separate websites, managed by two different teams.

Both websites share the same visual guidelines but have a different content, tools and navigation. And they provide links between each other.

A big part of the traffic on the original website was for the internet banking application but it's the insurance website that kept the original URL.

So, by default (favorite or habit), the user lands on the insurance website.

  • update - In the previous common site, the homepage provided content for both groups of products and the main navigation provided links for all products.

In the navigation, banking and insurance products were kind of grouped in their own sections but there was some overlap like the investments where there was both type of products.

The problem :

Currently, before the homepage of the insurance website, we added a choice page where the user can decide if he wants to go to the insurance or bank section.

Both websites also provide a link to their counterpart in the main navigation.

But as these are multi-language websites, there was already a page before the homepage for choosing the language (fortunately, this choice is saved in a cookie).

So accessing the homepage insurance is a 2 or 3 step process.

Question

Do you have an idea on the potential negative impact of two choice pages before the homepage ? A lot of my colleagues were afraid that without such a page, the user would get lost.

What could be a better approach to make sure the user finds what he's looking for without getting in his way ?

  • Do people actually frequently need to change the language? These days, I expect a website to automatically automatically select a language based on browser design, with an option visible somewhere on the page to change the language if necessary. – AlannaRose Jul 16 '15 at 3:20
  • Also, you said the insurance website kept the main URL that they used to share. What was navigation between site sections like before the split? Was there a main landing page? Were they completely integrated? – AlannaRose Jul 16 '15 at 3:22
  • @AlannaRose - People do not change their language frequently. However, a lot of them have a browser configured in english and this is not a language we provide (only dutch and french). The language choice is saved in a cookie so the user should see that screen only once. – Manuszep Jul 16 '15 at 7:39
  • @AlannaRose - I updated my question with some info on the navigation. Yes, both section were completely merged. The split was not so obvious, especially for technical products like investments. – Manuszep Jul 16 '15 at 7:44
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    Sane defaults, easy language switching, prominent link to alternative. – Traubenfuchs Jul 16 '15 at 11:55
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Clever. Simple. Unbiased Design.

Here are some of the things to watch out for:

Customer's confidence. Set the tone in a way that both products / services are equal, otherwise customers might assume the company's focus is more on A and B would soon cease to exist. So letting the insurance site use the main URL is a big no in my book. The main URL should always point to the company and remain unbiased.

Creating a seamless experience is important for the brand. You do not want your customers to think they're navigating to an unintended page or confuse them with a vast difference in the design/layout of the site for A and B, especially when they've been represented together until now.

Emphasis on product / service owner. You'd often come across terms such as powered by XYZ or a XYZ company or a product from XYZ, brand value is important and you should try to emphasise on it. If the products or services have a identity then supplementing the identity with its owner or parent would prove to be beneficial in the long run.

About splitting the home page

Split navigation controls for a company isn't a new concept. It is used to differentiate between a company's product or their services. Its been out there for a while and a lot of companies have managed to pull it off. Lets first look at a few examples, some of these are good examples and some are a "no-no" (I'll let you be the judge of that)

Food for thought:- Guess how many services / products Amazon has! can you find them all?

For example:

  • did you know about the Mechanical Turk?
  • Do you think amazon will keep this service alive 10 years from today?
  • You make a good point saying that no product category should seem to be privilegied by the brand. That's indeed something we want to avoid and that separation between bank and insurance gets in the way. Maybe the first step should be to use the main URL for a common hub page that would give shortcuts to the corresponding websites... – Manuszep Jul 16 '15 at 11:37
  • Yes, that's the step in the right direction. example: brand.com/bank and brand.com/insurence with their shortcuts on brand.com page. Also its very very important to ensure that both products get unbiased and equal privileges. – Rayraegah Jul 16 '15 at 11:40
  • This might help ux.stackexchange.com/a/81570/13276 – Rayraegah Jul 16 '15 at 11:44
  • Indeed, this answer and comments helped me realize that the problem is mostly in the fact that the insurance website is hosted behind the "main" URL. Using the main URL for a split design and subdomains for each section would probably make things more clear. – Manuszep Jul 16 '15 at 11:49
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Just my two cents worth and having some experience with the "choice" page you speak of.

There are three general users of any technology: 1) The tech savvy users will know how to use the site and will be able to navigate where they want to go. You will not have to worry about them. 2) The median group (and usually the larger group) will set up some sort of bookmark to get to the site they want. 3) The least technical group will have trouble no matter what you do. They will need help in any aspect of the site. Here a choice page is not a bad idea to help them get to the place they want to go.

From your question I am not exactly sure what is happening with your sites, but in my experience having more options for a user to navigate is not a bad thing. Things like breadcrumbs and home buttons and choice pages can help take care of the less technical users and most higher level users will ignore them after the first go around.

One final thing to think about is most modern browsers store the history and "help" users to pages as they type. Not something to rely on by any means, but something both teams need to be aware of.

Hope this helps

  • Thanks for that answer Andy. Indeed, the tech savvy people shouldn't have too much problems with this (except they could be annoyed by that extra step to get to the homepage). But for other groups, they often come to do some banking operations and that's not something you do for the fun. So it's better be straightforward and that's why I'm looking for the most clear and fluid solution. – Manuszep Jul 16 '15 at 7:47
  • The other suggestion I would have is to make changes slowly and over longer time period. One sure way to upset a less technical user is to make a huge change to the site. They will surly be lost then. – Andy J Jul 16 '15 at 14:38

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