Banque AIG : Lessening effectiveness
An attempt to make a site stand out visually compromises its usability.
Banque AIG, a France-based derivatives broker, takes the use of white space and content control to an almost militant extreme on its website. The central area remains white (i.e. unpopulated) throughout, with only a simple navigation menu to the left and a narrow text panel aligned to the right. The menu extends horizontally to reveal secondary and tertiary menu topics on rollover.
Clicking on a topic triggers a change of content in the text panel rather than a complete change of page, with the changeover involving a fade out of the old and fade in of the new. The size of the panel is fixed, so that scroll arrows are needed in most cases to read the full text.
As BanqueAIG helpfully explains in the economic Welcome on its home page, its site has been set up to support its market positioning: “We aren’t a typical financial institution,” it says, so its non-use of space is “Not typical for a financial website”. Clearly it wants to stand out from the crowd by daring to be different. A legitimate idea for a campaign, but is this the way to an effective website?
Consider the target audience, financial professionals in high-pressure jobs. Just the sort of people with time to spare waiting while a Flash interface fades content out and in at its own pre-set pace, or not? Users who will even-temperedly hold their cursors down on scroll arrows to advance a nouvelle cuisine-sized helping of information, or not? Viewers who will install Flash if they don’t already have it as there is no alternative version, or not?
It must have seemed like a smart idea to the marketing people to align the site with the bank’s slogan, ‘Less of the same’. But if that means reduced usability and access to information, then the people being marketed to might well conclude that their needs come a poor second to a clever idea. For BanqueAIG the risk is that less could be, well, less.http://www.banqueaig.com
First published on 14 December, 2006