Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: ux

Zero UI: What It Is and Why It Matters to Your Credit Union.

Originally published on

I want you to share a piece of information. Anything. There’s only one catch: You have to do it using only your voice. You’ve just used Zero UI.

Pretty easy, right? Thank millions of years of evolution (and a unique amino acid order in a specific gene) for its silent help.

Now, imagine I placed you in front of a computer and said, “convey information to this system, receive additional information in response, then ask it to perform an action, all while using only your voice.” You’d offer me an exasperated look. Because you’ve done this before. And it’s…not fun. Voice assistants improve every day, yet they’re still a ways off from equaling a simple person-to-person exchange.

Part of that is due to the complexity of computer systems, plus the depth of information they can access, while adding the struggle of context. Asking a coworker about “the game” incorporates prior knowledge of the person, their activities, their preferences, and much more.

Harry Potter Playing Quiddich

You’re thinking it was a professional sports event. Nope. They’re really into Muggle quidditch. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Computers are getting frighteningly good at context (see constant stream of, “I know what you did last summer…and will do for the next 5 summers” demonstrations from large tech firms). Yet the user interaction still leaves much to be desired. As I write this post, I’m typing on a keyboard into a section of screen, surrounded by a lot of tappable (iPad) spots which do everything from change how the text looks to switch to another notebook (I’m in Evernote). At its core, what am I trying to do here? Convey information to you. If we were standing face-to-face, it’d be stupid easy. No “user interfaces” (UI) needed to take in my thoughts, process them, format what’s written, and so much more. I mean, really. Think about all the little steps that have to occur for me to get my thoughts to your brain. It’s not simple at all. That we manage to communicate at all is amazing (though, we seem to be struggling with it lately).

The easiest and most direct way to communicate is with voice. That’s why Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have enormous potential (I’m not the only one to say this), and are so vocally (see what I did there?) critiqued when they fail. We expect an app to crash. A browser to freeze. Yet when Siri misses one word of our dictated sentence, we’re all, “this tech is such garbage…YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW!” Because our voice is part of us, and it’s pretty reliable, until you’re in front of an important crowd, then it just shuts off like the computer giving you those low battery warnings. Barring that, our voice accomplishes its task much of the time.

Bringing Everyone To The (Tech) Table

The idea of interacting with tech using only our voice is called Zero UI. And it’s a goal of most tech firms. It’s also really hard, because computers haven’t had millions of years to learn how to do it best. We’re trying to teach them to teach themselves in less than 0.0001% of the time it took us. Imagine the potential, though. It eliminates the need to learn specific steps for any computer-assisted task. You just say it. Think of the person who struggles to find the icon for the web browser. Or looks at modern tech and recoils, dreading the learning curve. Zero UI makes them part of all improvements, and they can reap the benefits as much as a total geek like me.

Zero UI As A Guide

Veggie Burger
Not that burger. (This one’s veggie, anyway)

Think of your entire digital ecosystem. I’m certain it isn’t Zero UI, and that’s ok. The technology isn’t there yet. In the meantime, how can you reduce what a user has to do to accomplish their goal, while minimizing any learning curves? Remember, a learning curve can be as simple as knowing that the icons on the bottom of the phone screen in your app actually represent different sections. Or, that the three lines on the top left mean it’s a “hamburger menu” (which, after becoming the norm, is going away again) with more sections within?

Ask Your Grandmother!

When designing websites, phone systems, mobile platforms, and more, I’ve always deferred to the tried-and-true method: If you showed it to your grandmother, would she have a basic idea of what to do? I’m not suggesting she’ll start using Alexa to pay her bills (though, being a Zero UI solution, she probably would rather that than the app), only, did you design something simple enough to explain simply?

Alexa, help close us out.  Sing a song about paper airplanes. (Seriously, ask her!)

Paper Airplane Held in Hand

Pictures Put Your Brain On Turbo

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but recent research suggests it could be much, much more. Which is more appetizing? A 50-word description of a scrumptious fudge brownie or…:

Fudge Brownies

Dessert, anyone?

Restaurants have known this simple fact for years. Show rather than tell. We don’t eat words! Even if you get 1,000 to a picture.

But what about for marketing? The key is to get people to remember and act upon your strategy. Unless you’re a very different credit union, offerings don’t normally include food service. So what good are pictures? A well-placed picture tells your story in a way words cannot. Or, more accurately, a picture entices the viewer to remember far better than mere words.

Recent research shows good visuals put your brain on turbo. And not just a little bit. Up to 60,000 times faster. That’s right, appropriate imagery triggers memory, emotions, and decision-making up to 60,000 times faster than text alone. And the coolest part? The study wasn’t just looking at photos of favorite entrees. It highlighted the entire idea of visuals.

What do I mean? That’s a great question. We have already established how photos bring a tale to life. No one wants to read a report on your favorite vacation pictures without seeing any! Be honest: When you’re browsing your Facebook News Feed, do you look for the longest text post you can find, or slow down when you get to shared photos and videos of vacations, pets, kids, etc.?

Does that mean littering your website, branch, and marketing materials with photo upon photo? Please don’t. Instead, it supports the idea of telling a story with every aspect of your presentation. One of my favorite credit union websites does this to great success. Heritage Grove CU is situated in the Pacific Northwest. It’s an area built around a love of the outdoors. Of course, the weather and terrain suits this mentality. Be it a relaxing mountain drive, a slow walk, trail running, or any number of activities (remember that post about the bicycle-loan program?), members of Heritage Grove experience plenty of Mother Nature’s air conditioning.

Heritage Grove CU

As a result, their site is built to visually express this mentality. Beyond pictures, the entire experience exudes adventure. What about your website? Is it replicating a bank, or does the visual feel match your mission? This consideration can mean the difference between an engaged member and one which just pays the bills.

So we’ve established that pictures are an effective means to tell a story in an engaging way. Plus, we learned that proper visual design can make your brain work up to 60,000x faster. And this Floridian thought Cuban coffee was potent!

Cuban Coffee Shots

Disclosure: Heritage Grove CU is a client of my company. I receive no compensation for their inclusion.

Image credits:
Flickr: /photos/[email protected]/4282401037

It’s Not a Website. It’s Another Branch.

Keith WinnIntroducing a guest post from Keith Winn, VP Marketing of cuZOOM, and CU veteran!

It’s taken some 100 years, others 50 years, or even less. To do what? Essentially to develop the “perfect” member experience. You know exactly what I am talking about. For years, the credit union industry has challenged the “impersonality” of big banks, and created a unique, caring, and helpful financial environment where the member, no matter what they walked in for, comes first.

So, with that said, what happened with their websites? Perhaps when credit unions started building websites, they were simply non-interactive billboards. Fair enough. But that was over 20 years ago. Probably about the time many credit unions embarked to create that perfect member experience in their physical locations. What about member’s online experience? Unfortunately, even with all of the available new technology, recent surveys indicate most credit union websites are still years behind in meeting member expectations.

Maybe it’s because we gave it a name: the virtual branch. Sounds like we would see Keanu Reeves with dark glasses dodging bullets in slo-mo in the lobby, or a techno-rave with colored lights and head banging sounds. For whatever reason, we got lost. And, yet, the answer is so simple.

Think of your website as just another branch and design accordingly. When you walk in the front door of your branch, its very clear where the reception desk is, or the teller windows. There’s no posters and banners to distract you. When the receptionist asks how they can help, you are immediately directed to a person who can assist. It’s almost too easy.

Imagine a website that opens with a warm greeting, and then asks you “What would you like to do today?” and then offers 4 main choices: Home Banking, Credit, Save, Business, with hidden dropdowns for all of your other services. By keeping it simple (Does your website really need 8 rotating banners on the home page?) and emulating your already great member branch experience, you can also allow the member to seamlessly and quickly move through the process that will help your website sell. Yes, I said sell. All credit union real estate, whether physical or digital, needs to earn money to stay in business.

Where do you start? I think I’ll leave that part to the Credit Union Geek.

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