By Thomas Brennan-Siegert

I’m with Tesco Mobile. I get a lot of stick for this – friends asking if my iPhone is value branded, for example.

But Tesco piggybacks O2’s network and it’s really cheap. I get 5000 minutes, 5000 texts and 4GB of precious data.

4GB is normally more than enough for me. I’d never gone over my allowance - until this month.

Mobile first

I smashed through my data allowance in February because I needed wedding insurance. Unfortunately, Fairer Finance doesn’t rate wedding insurance products (here’s the areas we do rate) so I couldn’t just look at our tables. I had to research it from scratch. I compared different products on a few comparison sites then decided to go direct to find out more about them. As weddings cost a fortune I needed to know exactly what was and wasn’t covered. If my caterer cancelled due to going bust or illness would I be covered for both or just one?

Unsurprisingly, not all the info I needed was on the product pages. So I downloaded the summary docs and the Ts & Cs. Most of these were PDFs which used up my data allowance.  

However, heavy data usage is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems with financial service providers’ Ts & Cs. Most aren’t optimised for smaller screens, or clickable, or even open in a new tab.  

These are all simple things that can frustrate users.  

Mobile now

Since Google’s Hummingbird update, mobile can’t be viewed as a separate online channel. Three quarters of visitors to a mobile site will leave after five seconds and half won’t return if the site didn’t work first time. This is why mobile optimisation is so important.

But while a lot of websites are mobile-friendly these days, the same attention isn’t being paid to the Ts & Cs.

Don’t think that customers haven’t noticed. When we conduct our customer polling every 6 months we assess what customers think about their provider’s digital and online capability. We calculated a ‘digital capability score’ in the same way we calculate our happiness and trust scores (see methodology here). Banking had an overall score of 48%, with the worst being mortgage providers with a low score of 33%.

How to go mobile

For Ts & Cs to be designed for mobile they need to:

1. Be concise

Mobile content needs to be bold and add value for users. Cut down the length of your Ts & Cs. And use sections that cascade when clicked upon. Think about how you can make the journey to each customer’s possible line of enquiry as short as possible. So if they want to find out if they’re covered for items stolen from their car, they should need no more than three clicks to find the specific answer. At the top level there will be a contents, where one of the headings might be “What does my policy cover me for?”. Click on that, and you’ll be down to a list of things that the policy covers – one of which might be “Personal possessions in your car”. Click on that, and the answer should be there in front of you.

2. Include clear, useful contents

Mobile devices are used very differently to other devices, so make sure you cater to that. Ts & Cs should be designed like an FAQ section, with each header corresponding to a question that the consumer might be asking. This is what we commonly do when rewriting providers’ documents. For example, ‘Complaints Procedure’ could be rewritten as ‘How do I complain?’. With mobile, details can be hidden until the title is clicked on. 

3. Have copy that is broken up

Mobile screens are small. Content must be presented in small, digestible chunks. Otherwise, the user will scroll for eternity and forget the earlier points. You could use infographics and images to break up the text - and make them clickable to guide users to different sections. The younger generation is used to engaging with multimedia content, so this can open up new options.

4. Have lots of space

This is good practice regardless of device, but a lack of space is even more obvious on mobile. Walls of text are off-putting to readers, and good mobile sites don’t overload the reader in this way.

5. Utilise user behaviour

Swiping right on mobile internet browsers means going back a page, double-tapping an image zooms in, double-tapping on copy highlights it. All these functions have become normalised on mobile – use them.

Think of going mobile like you’re breaking up with desktop: make it as short and sharp as possible, divide up your things, and leave lots of space.

Making mobile work for you

Mobile-first is a mindset. It’s a shift from what a lot of us have been trained in. But the quicker you shift towards mobile, the quicker you’ll reap the rewards.

For those who don’t rise to the challenge, there are conduct risks. If your terms and conditions are illegible on a hand-held screen – don’t expect to be able to stand by them when you end up at the Ombudsman or in the courts.

Barely anyone has got to grips with this problem in financial services yet – even though sales through mobile devices continue to rise sharply. That means there’s still an opportunity to lead the way and excel for forward thinking businesses.