Responsive Web Design For Financial Institutions: Fad Or Strategy?

It’s frustrating for bank and credit union marketers to build three separate websites — one for desktop computers, one for mobile phones and one for tablets. But with a responsive web design, your site will automatically scale and adjust to every device and every screen size.

By Gregor McKelvie, Director at Mapa Research

The debate around mobile app vs. mobile web vs. hybrid app for mobile banking is certainly one that is unlikely to be resolved in the immediate future, as the pros and cons of each approach waffle around with various technology developments. As a consequence of this unresolved conundrum, an ever growing number of discrete applications are being used by customers to access the same sites. Sadly these are not well handled by financial institutions.

In a Mapa Research study earlier in the year, only one third of 103 banks researched can detect mobile users on their main public site. As a result, visitors using their mobile devices are, in the majority of cases, not being redirected to a specific site designed for their device. The net result is they are having to compromise, and experience a below-average user experience.

However, a new technique is weaving its way into the ever-changing mobile landscape. It’s called responsive web design. And it is likely to make a luddite approach to the mobile channel even less acceptable than it is now.

So What Is Responsive Web Design?

A website that is responsively designed is one that changes, scales and adapts to the device a user is on. There is no application to download, and no need to redirect visitors to a mobile device-specific site. The website is fluid across all desktop computers, tablets and other mobile devices (namely iPhones and Androids). This approach delivers a consistent customer experience across devices for all users — something that many financial institutions struggle with today.

Just don’t kid yourself: It’s a big task, and it isn’t easy.

While few financial institutions are using it today, you can expect to see an increase in adoption — particularly as mobile networks get faster, mobile traffic increases and tablets become ubiquitous.

For each of the examples provided below, you should definitely load the website in a browser and test the responsive designs yourself. Squeeze the window down as narrow as you can… stretch it out… resize it. Play around. It’s not only slick, it’s also fun.

Jyske Bank

Jyske, the largest bank in Denmark, is one of the most creative, progressive financial institutions in Europe. They have been been consistent online innovators, and they continue to forge ahead with their responsive website (launched in 2012).


Kiwibank has over 800,000 customers across New Zealand. Being a fairly new bank, the process of rolling out a responsive site may have been easier than for bigger, older, less nimble competitors. The content significantly adapts and is tailored as the screen size reduces always ending up with clear options for the user on a mobile phone (e.g., log in).

It is evident Kiwibank uses mobile detection for tailoring displayed messages.

Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union

AACFCU is based in Alabama and has over 107,000 members. Although a small credit union, their new responsive site shows they are forward thinkers. “By using responsive design, you don’t have to scroll back and forth to see all of the content, or zoom into the screen see what you’re looking for,” pointed out Angela Norris, web master for Army Aviation, in an article over at American Banker.

Gateway Bank

Gateway Bank sought the help of Forty, a customer experience design firm, to realign their brand experience and design a compelling responsive website that automatically adjusts to multiple screen sizes. The new site helps people find the information they need quickly and easily on all platforms and devices.

“We’re excited to be the first Arizona bank — and one of the first in the country — to offer a responsive website,” said Gateway President and CEO, James Christensen. “Designing our site this way instead of developing a separate mobile app saved us time and money, and it just made more sense for our users.”

Is This Just Another Web Fad?

Only time will tell if/when financial institutions will develop responsive websites en masse, but 2012 has seen the beginnings of growth in this area.

Other financial institutions using responsive web design in the market include BNZ, (Bank) Simple, Countryside FCU, First Central Bank (Alabama), SB1 Federal Credit Union, and S&T Bank. And non-financial firms have been building responsive sites for a while, including popular sites like Time, The Boston Globe and Microsoft. The investment by each of these organizations was undoubtedly significant, but they were clearly committed to delivering a much more consistent user experience.

Financial marketers have been fooled by some over-hyped yet unproductive web innovations in the past, so they may understandably be wary. But make no mistake: Responsive web design is not just another fad. As always, the challenge is knowing when to have to jump in.

If you aren’t sure you’re ready to bite off a complete redesign of your website, you can always try dipping your toes in instead. One example of a financial institution dabbling with responsive web design is Handelsbanken, a Swedish big bank. Handelsbanken TV (in Swedish) is a responsive microsite dedicated to discussing finance issues. This is a great way you can test the water with a new technology this. By using a separate standalone site (like a microsite), you can learn what’s involved with building a responsive layout on a much smaller scale vs. overhauling your main website.

For your next marketing campaign, you should consider experimenting with responsive web design. Give it a try. Learn the ropes. Familiarize yourself with the process, workflow and costs. Then you’ll know whether your financial institution is ready to pull the trigger.

Gregor McKelvie is part of a team that oversees the operations and development of Mapa Research. He is the resident source of technology news on mobile trends both inside and outside of banking. Mapa Research has been providing research and benchmarking services to the digital financial services industry for the last 15 years. The company services clients globally from offices based in the UK and Scandinavia.

This article was originally published on November 29, 2012. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Responsive web design is the future. Write once, publish everywhere. It’s no longer the dream it was a couple of years ago. It’s reality. Big sites are starting to implement it, like Microsoft.

  2. Shannon Coulter says:

    Hear hear! I second Tim’s comment that responsive design is the new reality. Here’s a great little one minute video I found demonstrates responsive web design:

  3. Andy Janning says:

    Incorporating responsive web design into my website was one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. With more of our online life being lived out on multiple devices, this functionality makes perfect business sense.

    I’m grateful to the team at Second Street Creative for making this feature a reality on my site.

  4. Gregor, I am so glad to see you wrote about responsive web design (RWD). It is a great technique. I am glad to see Tim, Shannon, and Andy concur.

    Any business who has a website should be looking to this technique for the next iteration of their website. Responsive Web Design is an old, by web standards, and mature web design tactic. Unfortunately, many web designers, marketers and business owners are still unaware of this design process. Also, many websites are still built as if everyone only accesses the web via a computer.

    Ethan Marcotte introduced to the world “Responsive Web Design” on May 25, 2010 when his ground breaking article, “Responsive Web Design” [ ], was published by A List Apart. He followed up this article with a book called “Responsive Web Design” and it can be purchased at A BookApart –

    I have read the article numerous times and am currently reading the book for the second time. Anybody in business today should read both of these at least once. You may not have to master the programming but you should know the implications this has on web design. Your business website is the front door to the world. The last thing you want is to have a door that does not work with the device your customer is using to enter.

    One of my favorite resources for viewing responsive websites all over the world is called Media Queries –

    I suggest you look at them all on a mobile or tablet device. It is also a good idea to use the site with a smartphone, tablet and desktop and watch how the sites differ.

    Some people say it is really hard to create responsive websites. The great thing about the web is there are hundreds of responsive web design resources you can use and royalty free frameworks you can start with that have worked out all the CSS3/HTML5 programming. One such framework is called the Golden Grid System and can be found here: [Disclaimer: I randomly chose this framework from my bookmarks, I have not personally used it for a project]

    The best advice Gregor gave was this: “For your next marketing campaign, you should consider experimenting with responsive web design.” Do it! Do it now!

    Thank you Gregor for helping spread the RWD word.

    If you are on Twitter then follow Ethan’s RWD tweets –


  5. Thanks for your comments David. Yes agree – is a great place to get inspiration

  6. Navdeep Malhotra says:

    Great article with a balanced viewpoint! No doubt major websites are turning ‘responsive’ by the day. Microsoft, Google, Mozilla… seems like a tide that’s set to engulf all?

    Why not? In times when new devices pop up like pop-corn, ‘device independence’ is what you are looking for. So every CEO on the golf course must be wondering why shouldn’t ‘my website’ be NOT responsive?

    Beware! Gregor is right in suggesting to dip your toes before diving in head on. I’ve always found the following tips handy…



  7. I Agree 100%. Responsive is an effective way to deliver a great cross-device user experience. Having said that, custom responsive sites can be difficult to get right which is why I recommend taking advantage of something like Foundation which makes light work of media queries, hide/show options, and more. It’s definitely something to look into for any designer looking to expand their toolkit.

    Native apps are still the first choice in delivering the best user experience, but responsive is an excellent fallback.

  8. Add North Shore Credit Union to the list of those with a responsive website.

  9. You could add accountancy firm to the list. They have a responsive website.

  10. Pratyush says:

    I dont think responsive is a good value for money. It costs about 40-60% more from the typical web. Any thoughts from Return on Investment? If I build a separate mobile only pages can get it for 10% of the cost and optimize the experience much better for the form factor. Want to know more of what are the advantages from some one who really built it and why they choose it will be helpful. You can always build three versions of the same page and push based on the device.

  11. 11 great examples of responsive website designs from financial services companies.

  12. A much larger bank to now add to the list – – doesn’t seem like much of a fad if fortune 200’s are jumping aboard…

  13. As everyone ads to the list and to confirm the trend it strong I would add:

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