5 min read 15 Oct 21
Ahead of the M&G Wealth website launch and rebranding of the Ascentric website, social media channels and your usual service emails next month we asked Robin to speak to us about the philosophy behind the design.
Creating the new M&G Wealth website has not only been an opportunity to create a great user experience. It’s also been a powerful opportunity to show how smart design can help a company deliver on its sustainability and inclusivity goals, explains Robin Neilly, senior creative lead at M&G plc.
When people talk about rebranding their website, they usually just mean applying their brand colours and design. When we were thinking about creating the new M&G Wealth website and other online channels, we wanted to go much further than that.
Given that sustainability and inclusivity are at the heart of M&G Wealth’s brand values, they had to be our first priority when creating our digital experiences. As a result, the first UK financial services website built expressly to have a reduced carbon footprint, as well as great accessibility and usability, has been born and will be launched in November.
If you’re a company looking to cut its carbon footprint, you’ve probably thought about the energy efficiency of your buildings, encouraging employees to fly less or car share, or localising your supply chains. But what about your website?
The carbon impact of our online lives is routinely overlooked. But the internet and the technology that supports it generates 3.8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – about the same as the aviation industry. The good news is that, with smart design, this can be radically reduced.
How have we done that with the M&G Wealth website? Our approach has been two-fold, focusing on the principle that sustainable design is simply about good design. First, we’ve looked to create really efficient, short user journeys. This reduces the amount of data required but also makes things a lot easier for the user (a double positive!).
We’ve also aimed to reduce the energy and data our website uses to the bare minimum. So, for example, our website and platforms (as well as some bulk emails) will use ‘dark mode’ where light text is reversed out of a dark background. On modern smartphones and laptops, this can consume a staggering 60% less energy than the traditional light mode.
Our website will also host fewer data-hungry videos – where they do feature, we’re keeping them short. PDFs and other downloadable documents are designed to minimise their memory size. And instead of photography, which can use up 800k bytes of memory in one high-resolution image, our new website is illustrated with vector graphics using as little as 4k each.
The beauty of these design changes is they don’t just reduce the website’s carbon intensity. They improve its inclusivity too.
For example, dark mode can make text easier and more comfortable to read for many users. Using vector graphics rather than photographs of people helps ensure that no-one feels excluded from our audience. Most of all, the clean, Bauhaus-influenced design we’ve used featuring lots of space, a minimalist approach and larger type sizes should make the site simple to navigate.
We call this a ‘universal design approach’: something that improves accessibility for some – such as a larger type size – should actually improve the user experience for all. M&G Wealth is all about reimagining the wealth management market to open it up to many more people. Using good online design to improve accessibility is, for us, a keystone to realise that vision.
After launching the new-look M&G Wealth Platform website and other collateral in November, the same sustainability and inclusivity principles will be introduced to the platform itself from early 2022. It’s a unique way to design that allows us to have a lasting impact on our own carbon footprint but also the energy that’s used by advisers and their clients. We think that’s a first for the UK financial services industry.
But the launch of the new design is just the start. Thereafter, we’ll be continuously analysing traffic data to see how users are navigating both the website and the platform to ascertain what’s working well and what could be improved further. Or, even, which bits of the site users don’t seem to need at all and could be culled.
To this end, we’ll be encouraging everyone to tell us what they think of the new website and their experience of using it. There will always been room for improvement. But we’re confident that by using good design techniques that have been carefully thought through, we’ve created a website that should please – and hopefully even delight – as many people as possible.
If you look at any of the world’s most loved brands, such as Apple or Google, what they have in common is a great user experience that allows people to get things done easily and enjoyably. In the financial services industry, we’ve all tended to make the online experience about ourselves. To be truly sustainable and open to all, it now has to be about what’s right for the user – and for the world around us. We hope our new design for M&G Wealth has delivered on both counts.
Principles for reducing our brand’s digital carbon footprint
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