Online Banking and Additional Security Questions

It is typical for an online banking site to ask you an extra security question or two if they don’t recognize the computer you are using to login. I took a look at two banks I use and how they treat this user experience differently. See below for the steps taken for each bank’s user experience. 

While users would (typically) go through three steps with each site, the two experiences are very different. In the case of Bank of America (bofa), their typical login – even without the extra security question – is split up into two steps. First the user provides the username, then bofa shows the user his/her site key, then the user enters the password. In this unrecognized user flow, the user enters their online id, is then asked an additional security question, shown their site key, and then he/she enters the password. So in all, the flow extended from two pages to three. 

In Star One, the user typically comes to the home page and logs in from there – so it’s just one page (and one page less than the typical bofa flow). In the unrecognized user flow, they login, are asked to answer an additional security question, and then are asked whether or not they are on a public or private computer. So their flow has been extended from one page to three pages. 

I think the best way to go for Star One would be to take a page out of bofa’s book and bring in the preferences option into the security page itself and leave it as a checkbox with help text or a help link popping out to an overlay (like bofa). This will reduce the user flow by one step and keep the product virtually the same. 

The other difference I noticed between the two flows is that bofa defaults into the user being on a private/safe computer whereas Star One defaults the user into being on a public computer. This is a simple trade-off of: what’s more likely vs. extra security for the buyer. I’d be interested in seeing analytics on what users typically click on for this preference. 

Bank of America

Step 1: (partial) Login with username

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Step 2: Answer an additional security question
Optional step: Remember this computer 

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Optional step: Help Overlay when user clicks on “?” by “Remember this computer”

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Step 3: (complete) Login with password

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Star One

Step 1: Login with username and password

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Step 2: Answer an additional security question

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Step 3: Preferences layer

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