The Citibank brand is consistent throughout the website. Each page houses the “citi” logo in the upper left with a royal blue border at the top of the page (fig. 1). Though consistency is evident, I am reluctant to call a logo placed on a page an actual brand. The lack of a tagline and traditional brand elements throughout the remainder of the website contribute to an impersonal and uninviting presence.
The design of the website is very clean, consisting of a white background, promotional flash element and sections devoted to user tools, quick links, and ads. The top navigation area and brand is consistent on each page, though once the user navigates from the home page, the design takes on a more informative style, eliminating promotional advertisements and dropdown.
The layout of the website, in my opinion, could be better. There is no flow of information, only a sea of dropdowns and ads – especially on the homepage. The user is given a plethora of “where do you want to be” options, however, no hints to show the user the right path to take. I think Citibank could have eliminated the “Products/Services” page and instead included these links in categories on the home page with the optional “see all” under each category to save space. The interior pages lack all and any type of design element – merely a body full of text and a meager right hand menu that does not convey any message Citibank may want to present.
Overall, the aesthetic design of the website is fairly bland. There are no color deviations, design elements, or photos to separate areas of interest. I would like to see more color used to draw attention to areas such as the “Look, Apply, and Find” sections. Without photos or other design elements, the user is forced to find their way around the website on their own without any direction from the company.
The top navigation bar, consisting of “Welcome” and “My Citi” is standard (fig. 1). Each tab contains relevant information to either the member or the visitor and appears on each page for easy user navigation. The switch between the “Welcome” tab and the “My Citi” tab can be a little confusing, considering the sub-menu changes when the main tabs are rolled over.
Aside from the “Sign In” area, the left hand menu on the home page is nothing more than a few drop downs that may or may not be relevant to the individual user (fig. 2). These dropdowns are not self-explanatory and the layperson would seemingly have to find what they are looking for through trial and error. These particular dropdowns on the left hand menu, at first glance, cater only to the business owner or investor – an area the individual may avoid.
The dropdowns in the body area – “Look and Apply” – are effective for both the individual and the business owner; however, these sections are in no way displayed to convey this. As I mentioned in the Design portion, the “Products/Services should be contained on the main page and appropriated toward the individual, the business owner or investor. Nearly the only dropdown that makes sense on the homepage is the “Apply” selector. This option makes it very easy for the user to apply for an account of their choice.
Last but not least, the navigational text links on the top and bottom right of the page are fairly standard in web design. It is common for users to look in either area for links to specific types of information. These links, along with the top navigation bar consistently appear on each of the pages for easy user access.
The Flash element on the home page is non-offensive and tasteful (fig. 3). Having said this, it is not memorable either. With no color deviation throughout the overall page design, the Flash ad is lost and does not draw the attention that it should. Another issue with the Flash ad is that it stops at the end of a promotion and does not generate a new promotion unless the page is refreshed or revisited. I would like to see a constantly active Flash element that keeps the non-offensive approach but brings in the user’s attention.
The small thumbnail ads placed at the bottom of the page fall into the same scenario as the Flash element (fig. 4). At first glance, I did not realize they contained promotional information and thought they were simply unpleasant design elements linking to various portions of the website. In addition to the lack of attention these promotions are given, they are difficult to read. I would like to see promotions like this included in the Flash element – one that is constantly, but subtly, moving through promotions.
The strong point of this web site is information and the amount and readability of that information. If a user looks long and hard enough, they will be able to find the information they are looking for, however, looking long and hard is the problem.
Overall, www.citibank.com could use some organizational and design help. Adding design elements and restructuring information flow would not only present the website better aesthetically, but it would also give users some direction in their search for information in navigating the website. It is fairly evident that the planning for this site was accomplished through the eyes of the company – what they thought the user would want and need – and not through the reality of the user’s wants and needs.