Accord Mortgages is the intermediary-only lending arm of Yorkshire Building Society. It is a business-to-business (B2B) organisation dealing with mortgage brokers and financial advisors.
We’ve been working with Accord Mortgages for a number of years on everything from print advertising to Flash banners to a major brand refresh. Towards the end of 2011 Accord approached us to research and undertake a website overhaul with all-new design and structure.
As this would be such a large project we advised a period of research (both market and internal) to ensure that the final site was perfect for everyone who was going to be using it.
The research began with an exhaustive look into what Accord currently had in terms of its website including looking at analytics to see what was being used, how often and if there were any clear areas of confusion. (Did they have a high bounce rate, where were people arriving, where were they visiting most often and were they getting lost anywhere, etc.?)
Once we had a clear idea of what was going on with the Accord site we looked at some of their competitors to see what we thought they did well/not so well.
After this it was time to ask the people who use the site. Because Accord is a B2B company the users are different from the typical consumer. We needed to make sure we were making life as easy as possible for them on a site that they may need to visit multiple times a day to do very specific things and find very specific information. Rather than use our own assumptions the best way to get this information is right from the horses’ mouth – so off we set to interview some brokers.
The broker interviews were great fun; Liz and Sarah both went out the visit them armed with questionnaires and cupcakes (a bit of bribery never hurt anyone!). It was very important for us to keep quiet who we were representing; that way we could be sure to get honest answers. It wasn’t until the end of the interviews that we revealed who’d sent us.
The feedback was extremely useful and from all of their comments we were able to put together a wish list of what the ideal intermediary website would have, how it would work and, equally as important, what it shouldn’t have.
Once we had all this info it was time to start planning the actual site. We started with a sitemap and user journeys. This allowed us to make sure all the pages that needed to be there were going to be and also that the user could find everything they wanted in the quickest most straightforward way possible. Once that was done it was on to wireframing to make sure that everything that needed to be on each page was there – it’s not a quick job making sure it’s all present and correct!
We wanted to give Accord Mortgages a couple of options when it came to design so we drafted in one of our lovely freelancers to come up with a design alongside one of our own from Johnny. Sometimes it’s good to get someone who’s not had as much previous involvement with the client and project to give you a fresh pair of eyes and approach a design from an unbiased point of view.
Once the two designs were presented to the client and they’d decided on their favourite bits from both it was back to the drawing board to combine them in to a gorgeous looking and really user friendly website.
But we weren’t ready to build the site yet. Oh no, at this stage we had a whole other round of user testing using the designs and a really handy prototyping tool called Axure.
Using Axure we were able to put designs of the pages and our most common user journeys in and link them up so that they worked almost like a functioning website. The point of this exercise was to ask our helpful brokers to find certain pages or carry out certain tasks and make sure they could do it quickly and easily without getting lost. The test was extremely successful and everyone who took part commented on how simple it was to find the things they needed.
Now that we had confirmation from users that the new site was going to be great for them it was time to build.
Building the site went through our usual stages with lots of in-house checking and testing making sure all of our quality assurance checks were made so that when the client saw the final site everything was working as it should be.
Once we’d finished we provided all of the files to the technical team at Accord Mortgages so that they could deploy them to their web servers and now it’s up and we couldn’t be prouder.
The Accord website has a number of features to make it as user-friendly and useful to the brokers as possible:
This is a customisable area which appears in the right hand column of most pages on the site. The user is able to edit the section to have their favourite and most used pages appear as links. This is great for the user as the site remembers their options (using cookies) so they don’t need to go through the main navigation to get to their most used pages.
From our interviews with the brokers we discovered that the most useful thing for them would be to have more flexibility in how they could search and filter products. Most brokers use external sourcing systems which list products from almost all mortgage providers with lender product codes. Our new search function on the Accord site allows brokers to search using this code to ensure that the product is still available and that all the information on the sourcing system is correct. Brokers can access this search through the main navigation or from a search box on the homepage which gives them really quick access to the information that they need. They can also filter products by term, product fee, type of mortgage and more.
The site has a large promo banner on the homepage, but as we were told by most brokers that they don’t like being sold to on a mortgage website, we’ve given them the option to hide the promotional banner so they only see the information that they want to.
The site has to have a lot of PDF documents available for download. Rather than have a long list where it’s difficult to be sure you’re downloading the correct one we decided to use thumbnail images of the forms to help users identify the one they need. There’s also information about the size of the document and a thorough search tool so the user knows exactly what they’re getting before choosing to download.
In late 2013/early 2014, we worked with the Accord team to redesign and build the Buy to Let area of the website, thus ensuring a consistent experience for brokers across all areas of the site.
We’re really proud of this project and think the site looks great. The client does too, Marie O’Reilly, Marketing Manager at Accord had this to say:
“I’m delighted with the site that Digital Consortium has produced for us, it’s a real improvement on what we had before. We’ve already introduced a new design that DC had come up with for our adverts and other offline material so it’s great to see it come to life online as well. At the same time, DC has managed to take on board broker feedback through the research they did as well as our input about what we wanted to achieve. I’ve really enjoyed working on this project and it’s great to see the site live after everyone’s hard work.”