What's Wonga with sliders?

11th August 2011

Leading the charge of the short term loan market is Wonga.comLink opens in a new window . Self-proclaimed as one of the ‘UK’s most innovative businesses’, they offer borrowers loans within minutes and market themselves on the ease of use and immediacy of cash advances. In 11 minutes you can have a loan agreement approved and £400 on its way into your account.  It’s (seemingly) that simple.

Of course, as an online-only lender, the success of Wonga.com’s entire proposition relies on an intuitive and transparent online application process.  Their latest campaign features the newest tool on their site – the ‘slider’ feature.

The advertising, which features 3 elderly puppets, explains the slider. It makes borrowing so easy to understand that even the oldest, and perhaps by association, most technophobic users amongst us will be able to complete the process. However has Wonga.com made an error of judgment in mixing their metaphors in this way? 

It is well known in the accessibility community that sliders are a far from ideal interaction for those with motor impairments, and in particular the elderly community who experience a multitude of problems when attempting fine motor movements. Poor eyesight, limited motor skills and a general lack of familiarity with online processes can all contribute to a user’s inability to confidently and efficiently complete an online loan application. It appears Wonga.com have been guilty of designing a sliding metaphor because they can, rather than because they should. 

The slider interfaces are potentially difficult for many users due to the reliance on fine motor controls; the usability of the sliders is also far from ideal. On Wonga.com the visual connection between the slider position and amount/date range selected is not strong. In conjunction with this the visual design of the page places a shadow at the top and right of the text input field, an unexpected positioning for such a shadow, the result is that the interaction is made less clear than it could be.

Wonga.com slider
Wonga.com iPhone appIn Wonga.com’s defence the website (and indeed the iPhone application) both offer the user a slider and also + and – controls to change values, along with more traditional text inputs. The site cannot be said to be inaccessible. However, the problem lies with the promotion of the sliders as a key functional element of the page. The sliders themselves are large and prominent, the simple fact that they require fine motor movements, with click and hold actions in order to activate them makes the process difficult for a large number of disabled users. Users who do not use a traditional mouse may find the sliders redundant.

The need for sliders is also unclear. Loan amounts range from 1 to a maximum of £400, and loan durations range from 1 to 30 days.  It is unclear that with such restricted amounts why users may wish to ask for a loan of £201 pound, rather than a rounded figure of £200, and the tricky nature of the slider to increase or decrease a loan by a single pound makes this interaction potentially frustrating. This is further confused by the use of the + and – icons in increasing the value in increments of £5. Users who are likely to want to ask for a specific loan amount (i.e. £201) are also likely to expect to type this amount rather than use a slider to reach this exact value.

Wonga.com TV advertWonga.com is clearly proud of this slider technology and wishes to promote it as a means of differentiating themselves from others. Unfortunately, whilst they understand that their success depends on an improved user experience, they have failed to consider the accessibility repercussions – as well as the actual usefulness of the slider technology. Their choice of advertising campaign, using elderly users to represent the ease of use and efficiency of the sliders also serves to misrepresent the accessibility issues they may have actually introduced. 

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This article was written by Jamie Sands. Jamie is a Usability Consultant at User Vision,  a usability and accessibility consultancy that helps clients gain a competitive advantage through improved ease of use.

[Usability] has serious business ramifications going forward... In a world of dynamic trade, ease of use will be the differentiator that drives market share and brand perception

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