How to Build a High-Performance FinTech Website: The Planning Phase

An ebook by Darrell Wilkins on 21 Feb 2022

Strategy

Summary: Many FinTechs skip the early, yet crucial steps needed for a successful website build. Avoid unnecessary delays and costs by identifying objectives, conducting user research, and defining your scope.

Millions of pounds are spent to convince people that creating websites is easy. That's correct. It's never been easier to create a terrible website. And many FinTech sites fall into that category.

Why? Because while building websites has become easier, knowing what you should build has not.

It's difficult to imagine a FinTech customer journey that doesn't involve your website.

Visitors may be deciding if you're credible before downloading your app. Or, for a complex B2B offering like core banking APIs, many stakeholders will visit to see if you're a good fit for them. For some Fintech firms, your website is the entirety of your product or service.

Getting your product or service right is essential. But people don't buy things they don't understand or can't experience. So your marketing website becomes critical in showing how your offering solves visitors' problems. If you don't get it right, they will go elsewhere.

This ebook will guide you through planning a new website build and introduce the foundations for effective high-performance websites.

Many will skip these steps and start with visual design or technology choices—those that do often wonder why their website isn't working for them.

The Unique Traits of a FinTech website

The process for building a FinTech website isn’t that different from any other industry. But it is a rapidly evolving sector and highly competitive, so you must plan for flexibility and high-performance. FinTech firms also have some unique considerations:

  • Trust. This is the most valuable commodity in business. Hard-earned and easily lost, your customers must be able to trust you, or you don’t stand a chance. The quality of your website speaks to your credibility. Furthermore, research shows a direct correlation between page speed and user trust.
  • Security. Closely related to trust, security is paramount for any FinTech. And while you’ll rightly focus on securing your product or service, you can’t ignore your marketing site. Your customers demand security, and delivering on those expectations requires expert planning.
  • Compliance. There are no specific regulations governing FinTech. But finance is a highly regulated industry. And depending on what you offer and in which countries you operate, those rules may well apply to you. Understanding the impact of regulations on your features and content is paramount.
  • Fast growth. One of the hallmarks of successful FinTech firms is rapid growth. You regularly roll out new or improved products and services. You’re creating reports, case studies and insights you want to share. You have 20 open positions across tech and operations. All of these touch your website— you must design a system that can cope.

The bottom line: To succeed, you need to create a high-quality, flexible site — with performance baked in — that can grow with your business.

The Three Steps to Website Planning Success.

There are some principles to think about as start the planning process:

  • Great websites are not about design or technology. They are about understanding what your business wants and what your customers need, then creating features and content that deliver on that insight.
  • The order you do things has a massive impact on success (and costs). Many companies start with branding or visual design, bypassing the strategy phase completely. Research, not personal preference, should inform technology selection and graphic design. It's wise to spend more effort on research and planning than aesthetics.
  • Websites are never done. Success requires a long-term commitment to continuous improvement and optimisation. Don't treat your website as a project.

Let's dive into the three steps for planning a high-performance website with these principles in mind.

1. Define Your Objectives

Goals are a destination; objectives are measurable activities you use to achieve them.

For example, "double our sales" is a goal. "Improve website conversions" is a measurable objective that will help you achieve that goal.

It's critical to define the objectives for your websites and how they will contribute towards those broader company goals. Clear objectives help you focus, measure progress and inform your decision making. Everything will flow from your objectives, UX strategy, technology choice, graphic design, and how you write the content.

The two fundamental questions you need to answer to help uncover your objectives:

  • Why do you have a website?
  • What business problem should your website solve?

Why Do You Have a Website?

I ask this question when I first speak to clients. It seems like such an obvious question, but you'd be shocked by the number of people who can't answer it. So think: What's the purpose of your website?

Coming to an answer will get to the crux of what you're trying to achieve, which will, in turn, lead you to your objectives.

What Business Problem Are You Solving?

This second question is a bit more involved. Start at the end and work backwards from there to arrive at your answer. What action do you want your site visitors to take? What do you want them to learn or do? Then ask yourself how you are going to measure it.

Once you have a metric (or set of metrics), you can use them to inform your decision making and tune every feature or piece of content towards them.

Typical business problems websites help solve include:

  • Generating more leads
  • Driving app downloads
  • Improving brand experience
  • Decreasing customer support costs
  • Impressing investors
  • Making your CEO happy

Here's the thing. It doesn't matter what the goals are so long as you're honest about what you need to achieve — and why. The "why" really matters— it's what binds teams in common purpose and keeps you on track.

If you create a lead generating machine that your CEO hates, your sales numbers might be great, but the friction it causes will be unpleasant. On the other hand, if making your CEO happy is essential to your business, be honest and make it one of your objectives. You'll make far better decisions if it's out in the open.

Document Your Objectives and Get Stakeholder Buy-In

Getting your stakeholder to buy into your objectives before building your site has many benefits. It creates a sense of purpose, keeps the team honest and gives you a focal point in decision making.

If you don't get approval upfront, you risk a stakeholder throwing a spanner in the works halfway through the build. And changing your mind is the most expensive part of website development.

Eleventh-hour suggestions don't have nearly the same impact if you have their initial sign-off. Instead, you can point to the objective they agreed to and show how what you've created meets it. The onus is then on the stakeholder if they want to make a change.

This point illustrates how important it is to be honest about your objectives when you define them. It will save you so much pain if you are.

Objectives are not real until you've written them down. Once you've decided what they are, print them out. Stick them on the wall. Keep them visible throughout the build and regularly remind all your stakeholders of what they are.

2. Conduct User Research

Many firms know what they want their website to achieve. Some manage to articulate specific objectives. And usually, that is where they start their build. This is a mistake.

Your objectives are only half of the equation, and if you want your site to perform, you must balance those objectives against your users' needs. High-quality user research is the single most valuable thing you can do before building a site. As a result, you'll create better features, write better content, have higher conversions and improve customer satisfaction. Not only that, good user research will save you money.

Despite the many benefits, most companies skip this step. But please, don't. Knowing what your customers want from your site is incredibly valuable.

Successful websites are built on a foundation of great user research.

How to Do User Research

Conducting user research requires you to put your biases aside. User research is specific to what your users need, want, and expect from your website. It's not what you want them to want. Or what you think they need. So don't let your preconceived notions colour your research.

The only way to know what your users want, need, and expect is to ask them. Or better yet, watch them. Find out what their research and buying processes look like. What factors persuade them to take action on a website? What do they consider necessary? What would put them off?

You are looking for insights that will inform the features and content that will serve them best.

Your research should also uncover your target audience:

  • Demographics such as age, sex, ethnicity, religion, education level.
  • Location. Where do they live? Will they use your service at home, at work, on the move?
  • Type of device. Mobile, tablet, desktop, connected TV.

There are a variety of techniques you can use to gain insight. Consider a mixture of the following research options:

  • Surveys
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • User testing on your current and your competitors’ websites.

Gather your findings, analyse them and let them inform the functionality and content of your site. If your website meets users' needs and exceeds their expectations, it will perform far better for your business.

3. Define Project Scope

User research uncovers what your customers want from your website. Then, Scoping defines the features and content that will balance those needs with the company objectives.

Don't get hung up on technology selection or which CMS you should use. Scoping is about defining what your site needs to do — not deciding how you're going to build it. You won't know what tools you need until you've decided on what you're building in the first place.

Decide What NOT to Build

It's easy to create an extensive list of features or content you'd like to have on your site. You could class some of those things as mandatory — you have to have them; otherwise, your website can't do its job. However, the most important part of your scope is specifying what you will not build.

If you don't explicitly state what you are not doing, people will make assumptions. Assumptions cause ambiguity. And ambiguity results in miscommunications, delays, and increased costs.

Your list of things you won't be building should be far longer than the ones you are. Include on it anything that must not be used. For example, not using WordPress because of security concerns or the CEO hating the illustrations on the current site. This is the sort of information you want documented upfront.

Deciding What to Build

Your scope should define:

Content

  • You have content on your site because you have something to communicate. You'll likely have many things you want to communicate, including:
    • Your positioning
    • Describing your product/services
    • Thought leadership
    • Reports & insights
    • Testimonials
    • About your company & culture
    • Investor relations
  • How will each one be expressed? What words, illustrations, video, or animation will you need to answer your users' questions (less is often more).
  • Be sure to work out a content schedule. Knowing what will be published and when can inform the features you need to build. If you're planning to publish content four days per week, you need a very different website (information architecture, CMS, tools, etc.) than if you're planning to publish just once per month.

Features

  • Features are the functionality or things that people can do on your site. You need to create a list of what the features are and a description of how they work. For example:
    • Do you need to support multiple languages or regions?How many languages? Which regions?
    • Can people search? — Do they search the entire site? Or just a section? Is it a full-text search? How will you keep your search index up-to-date
    • Do you need a blog? Does it have filters? Categorisation? Tags?
    • Do you have an interactive product demo? How will it work?
    • How do people contact you? Via the phone? A contact form?
  • Some of these might seem obvious, but it's important to list them all. They all have to be built, and making assumptions means things are missed. That leads to changes down the line, which are the most expensive part of web design.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • You also must decide who will be creating your content. What approval process needs to be in place? How about publication permissions? Who will manage both content and features? How many of them will there be? What is their skill level? You need very different tools for a large distributed team than you would for a small centralised one.
  • Who are the project decision makers? The people who make the final calls on your budget or feature sign-off. Who will be managing the project day-to-day? If you don't make decisions early about who will be doing what and when you'll make your life considerably harder down the line.

Tools

  • What tools will you need to build and manage your website? It's likely (but not guaranteed) that you'll need some form of Content Management System (CMS). What about tools for gathering and editing written content? Will you need an image library or a design system?
  • What about quality assurance (QA) and testing? How will that be done? How will you capture feedback from stakeholders? Or manage change requests?
  • As far as your technology requirements go, don't get hung up on your tech platform. Let your needs define your choices, not preferences. And favour technologies that fit with your company's ethos.

Measurement

  • The only way to know if you've met your objectives is to measure them. What will your analytics strategy be? How are they tied to your business metrics? How are you going to consume and store these metrics? Do you need a dashboard? Who needs access?

Migration

  • Do you have a website already? If it's a site with 20-30 pages, migration is not too much of an issue. If you have hundreds or thousands of pages, then content migration can be a major piece of work and time consuming, so plan early.

Bring it All Together

The trick with a scope document is to have enough detail to remove ambiguity but not so much that it overwhelms. Use your research and objectives to inform your decisions and be ruthless with your choices. Only include the absolute minimum on your list of what you will be building. Don't add features or content you think you might need, only the ones you know you must have — you can always add more later.

As with your objectives, get stakeholder buy-in for your scope. You want the whole team clear on what you will and won't be building.

A Note on Budgets

Don't approach a website as a cost. If you do, you'll end up compromising. Instead, consider how much value your site will create. Don't only think of it from a purely marketing perspective, either. Consider how you could reduce customer support costs, avoid those excessive recruitment fees or better service your partners.

And remember, the initial build is only the beginning — budget for continuous development, maintenance and optimisation — all critical to long term site success.

Analysing ROI for each of your intended features and ranking them can help set priorities — and your budget. It's unlikely that you can do everything you want at once. Even if you can, you probably shouldn't. Small, focused builds are almost always more successful.

How much should you spend on your website?

Between £50k and £500k, depending on your needs and ambition.

Any less than £50k and you will be compromising on research, content, testing or developer skill. So don't expect a good return on investment.

Any more than £500k, you are in danger of creating features or content that don't deliver good value for money.

Do You Need an Outside Partner?

Building a successful marketing website takes a broad set of skills from planning through design and development. You may not have the expertise or resources to do the work in-house. However, when you have the right people, they are usually busy delivering your product or service.

If you choose to work with an external agency, be sure to get them involved early. Judge them by how they approach the planning process, as it is critical to success.

Under2 can help you plan your site, build it and then optimise it over time— maximising your investment. So let us help you build the site your FinTech needs.