It’s difficult to imagine anyone making the argument that a website is not one of the key essential marketing tools for your credit union. Websites provide educational material, contact information, product explanations, links to self-service tools, access to online banking, and so much more.
So why wouldn’t a credit union consult with experts when creating their website? Do you think your members want their website to be designed and developed by an inexperienced family friend? Probably not, but it happens more than you think. Remember, the credit union’s website is often the first impression to visitors and potential members. You should definitely put your best foot forward by tidying up and presenting clear, trustworthy information.
Don’t jump in blindly
There are many pitfalls along the way when creating a new credit union website, including things like struggling to rewrite existing content that isn’t that bad or forcing a wide-ranging committee of your credit union staff to agree before moving the design and development forward. There is no dispute, every credit union needs a website that is unique to themselves and their membership, but that does not mean that credit union websites should be so extremely different that they are unrecognizable.
When looking for a partner to create your credit union website, it’s important to vet your options. Talk to them about their values, their perspectives, and their vision for your website. Do they understand what you want? Do they understand your business? Most importantly, do they understand your membership? Anyone can make a website – a quick internet search will inundate you with free options, but please do not be easily fooled, your membership deserves better.
Online banking is important, but it’s not everything
This should not come as a surprise, but the vast majority of traffic to your website is members simply trying to get to your online banking system. My team knows this, we have the data, we get it. So, should your credit union site just put a big button front-and-center to whisk them away to online banking? Nope.
Why? Because the other people coming to your website might be visiting for the first time, and this is your chance to make that first impression we talked about earlier. A good website will, almost automatically, invite visitors to look around, feel comfortable, and easily find the information they need. Do not make the fatal mistake of ignoring your visitors who are looking for something other than online banking.
Content reigns supreme
The look and feel of your website is almost universally considered the number one thing that needs to be fixed by credit unions. People always believe that when the site looks old, it doesn’t work as well. This may be slightly true, but the real truth is that your website probably did look good at one point and your content was awful then, too.
Pretty designs and pictures won’t fix your confusing navigation or your inaccurate product descriptions. Cool icons are only cool when they link to something the visitor actually wants to click on – and they won’t care how cool you look if your products and services aren’t accurately explained. Design compliments good, engaging content. Design can absolutely bring it all together, but it will not be as effective if you are not sharing good, desired information.
The horrors of hosting
An inexperienced website maker might not see the problem with signing your credit union up for some inexpensive, unvetted hosting platform. Will your website crash? Maybe not. Will your website be available when you need it? Probably. Will you be able to reach a person who can help you if your website does crash or becomes unavailable? No.
That moment, the moment your website isn’t pulling up for members, is a difficult moment and a lesson learned. Your site needs to work. Your members are counting on your staff to select a service provider that will work for them. They don’t want you to risk security vulnerabilities or service interruptions to save a couple dollars each year. Please, find a hosting solution that has real humans who answer the phone, who understand your business, and who can fix your problem quickly. Your nephew cannot do it all.
Beware the maintenance of plugins
I have seen credit union websites with dozens of third-party plug-ins and tools. Some of these are connected to online banking, mortgage services, other lending services, or calculators. A seasoned website developer will have no problem researching, vetting, assessing, and making recommendations for these tools.
Many of today’s leading website plugins are updated on a regular basis and require attention from a trained, skilled web developer. Too often, my team has engaged with a new client who was unable to keep up with the plugins and technologies they incorporated into their credit union website, and they are reaching out to us as a last-ditch effort to fix what they cannot. How do credit unions get in this predicament? They allow someone to make their website who does not fully understand their members’ needs and is willing to risk the credit union’s reputation.
Don’t underestimate accessibility
Another instance where your nephew might seem good enough, but is not, is when you have members with accessibility issues. Today’s websites need to be available to everyone, including those with disabilities. This is a nearly impossible task, but it is a task worth giving your absolute best effort.
Making an accessible website has many benefits below the surface. Every visitor to your site benefits when you take steps to make your credit union’s website accessible to all. Your content will be easier to discover, read, and search engines will even like you more! When you are deciding on a new site, it is imperative that you understand the importance of making your site accessible to everyone.
A professional website requires professionals
Your members are the most important thing to your credit union and your website is arguably the most important marketing tool for them. Your visitors deserve a great website experience and you want to make an outstanding first impression. Why would you hand over that experience to someone who doesn’t understand your credit union and does not have the expertise to deliver an outstanding result?