Best Practices in CU Websites

Your newest branch is virtual, and your website is the front door.

May 01, 2012
KEYWORDS marketing , website
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Content management

Keeping a website current sounds fairly simple, but that wasn’t always the case. Content management systems (CMS) now allow credit unions to make moderate changes frequently without requiring an advanced skill set. Be-fore CMSs, website updates required code rewrites, which were expensive and cumbersome for credit unions without programmers on staff. That led to infrequent changes and relatively static websites.

That era is over. “I love the fact that our website is based on a CMS,” says Shannon Lynn, director of marketing at $730 million asset OSU Federal Credit Union, Corvallis, Ore. “Instead of focusing on code, we can focus on content. It allows us to make changes faster.”

Another benefit of a CMS, Rubini adds, is that credit unions don’t need complete website overhauls. “You can keep your site relevant without redesigning it,” he says. The CMS lets you update images and content as needed, so your website stays fresh, agrees Lynn.

A CMS helps small or midsize credit unions keep their websites as current and feature-rich as those of larger fi-nancial institutions. Darden Employees Federal Credit Union, Orlando, Fla., with $24 million in assets, has only one small branch in its sponsor’s (Darden Restaurants) headquarters, so it serves its members almost entirely online.

That hasn’t been a problem for the credit union, which doubled its assets and tripled its membership from 2009 to 2011. It proves that size doesn’t matter as much in the online world: Any credit union can compete and thrive online, says Brooke Rodriguez, assistant vice president of marketing.

“You can develop a good website on a shoestring budget,” she says. “If you plan to grow, your website is a vital element. And if you don’t have a website that features good functionality and design, you need to get one. It’s a necessity in today’s environment.”

Best CU Websites GraphAesthetics and navigation

Design alone seldom drives sweeping website facelifts, but aesthetics and navigation do.

OSU Federal’s Lynn learned this firsthand during the credit union’s 18-month website redesign process, which ended in 2010. Lynn consulted member focus groups and staff in every department and every branch. She conducted usability exercises to test portions of the redesigned site.
The new design is now consistent with the rest of the credit union’s branding. Members, not models, populate the site where possible. Navigation is more intuitive. And there are far fewer pages.

“We’d taken the approach previously that everything went on the website and everything went on the home page, because no one went to any other pages,” Lynn says. “Now we use that home page as a way to direct members to other information.

“We want to move them from the home page to the information they’re looking for,” she adds. “Our goal is not to have them stay at the home page.”

Avoiding clutter can be challenging. And limited space on home pages can lead to internal department conflict. The key is to prioritize information and base decisions on what’s relevant to members, says Sharon Cook, senior vice president of marketing and public relations at $3 billion asset Mountain America Credit Union, West Jordan, Utah.

“We have so many products and services,” she says, making it challenging to find website space to promote them all.

It comes down strategic decisions. And it’s critical for credit unions to pay close attention to navigation, says Rodriguez. Her credit union’s website uses “cookie crumb” navigation, which is a small amount of text that shows users how they arrived at a particular point on a site. And she tries to streamline access to products or services wherever possible.

“You should never make a user click more than three times to get where they want to go,” she says.

Remember a call to action—the phrase that instructs people what to do next, such as “Click here to apply for a loan” or “Open an account today,” adds Barry

Sloane, CEO of Newtek Business Services, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.

It has to be the right call to action, emphasizes Rodriguez. She recently changed a home page box that said “join” to “open/apply.” she was concerned prospective members unfamiliar with credit union terminology might not understand “join.” While both are correct, the new call to action, she says, is less confusing and more successful.

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