I was recently helping my mother sign up for online banking with Fifth Third bank. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any screenshots of the experience (I didn’t want to interrupt her progress to take any), but I did make some mental notes of some usability issues:

  1. The “secret questions” offered for password recovery were almost all ”favorite” questions (i.e. “what is your favorite dessert?”). Peoples’ favorites change over time—these aren’t reliable questions for recovering passwords. An alternative would be to let the user put in her own question and provide an answer.
  2. One of the “secret questions” was “What was your favorite band in college?”. After reading this question my mom said sarcastically “Thank you, I didn’t go to college”. This mixes demographic information (business/domain knowledge) with the interface. The user doesn’t want to read your assumptions about her background. Even though I don’t like the “favorite” questions overall, this one could easily be fixed by simply asking “What is your favorite band?”, without the assumption that the user went to college.

There were several other glaring issues that I wish I had been able to record but, as I said, I didn’t want it to turn into a usability session. Rather, I was just helping my mom get her task completed. Ironically, that’s what the website itself should have been doing.