Missing the Forest for the Trees: Today’s Website Trends


Just like everything else in this world, websites are always changing. Your organization is always changing. Your members are always changing too. But it is important to remember that these changes are an evolution. Things don’t change overnight; they creep up on us and what was once radically new becomes the norm.

If you try to keep up with every new idea, innovation, or trend in web design you are probably going to be exhausted and you probably will not do a very good job of providing the great service your members or customers have come to expect.

This article will help you navigate through today’s website design and development trends and provide some advice on what new ideas are the most valuable and worth your attention. As the Marketing Manager, I am responsible for keeping up with current trends and making sure our team is making our client websites as stylish and current as possible while keeping them practical and accessible.

As the title implies, the trends and ideas listed below are simply tools or ideas for your site, the trees, if you will. You must find the right formula to assemble these ideas, the forest, to create a complete website that allows your visitors to engage and have a quality and worthwhile experience.

The trends

Every month I review more than 100 financial institution’s web presences–from mobile to desktop, I look for what is new, what is the same, and most importantly, I try to spot trends and continuity between these organizations’ presentations and notice if there are consistencies in their tactics and strategies.

This may come as a surprise, but many of the largest institutions are behind when it comes to web design. I presume this is because they are too big to move quickly. It is hard to be nimble and change rapidly when you are providing such a broad spectrum of services.

This does not mean they are not providing a nice website or a nice experience for their field of visitors–it is okay to not be on the bleeding edge. You are better off providing a good experience to visitors rather than finding a way to force some kind of cool new trend into your strategy.

These organizations know that their website needs to be clear and most meet that objective easily. However, the ones that miss are obvious and most of the time the misses come from smaller institutions trying to do too much. But enough about that, here are the cool new trends!


This trend can be achieved in one of two ways. The first way is quite complicated and this process involves coordinating a lot of different technologies to serve up customized and personalized offerings based on user tracking from other platforms. Organizations that do this type of personalization properly spend millions of dollars in third-party integrations and software development.

The good news is that you can still provide personalization without breaking the bank. You can still develop messaging and communications that feel personal for targeted demographics in your audience. Simply adding “for you” in your promotional headlines can be very effective in conveying to your visitors that you have tailored your service to them. Instead of simply promoting a loan rate, consider saying something like “We have a holiday loan special ready for you!”

Telling stories

Telling stories follows many of the same ideas as the personalization point above. With this storytelling trend, the websites I review use a third-person perspective, much in the same way many websites use testimonials. However, these develop a broader message and allow for a more relatable explanation of the service and benefits offered by an organization.

I do not know if these stories are true, but many examples simply provide a customer or member’s first name and many of the images that are provided appear to have a stock photography style. These stories are not incredibly personal, in terms of providing personal information, but instead, they share the journey and results of how the subject of the story succeeded by using the organization’s product or service.

In my opinion, this trend is very effective in conveying the success of an organization’s products. It allows the visitor to feel very relatable and it allows the organization to have an easy method of delivering that message.

Mobile app promotion

This trend is fairly straightforward, but the reason I am including it in this list is simply because of the increase in the number of sites I review giving this a more prominent location on their websites.

I do not have a strong opinion on this trend. Organizations wanting their visitors to use a mobile app versus a mobile website is very cyclical. Both strategies have positives and negatives, and you can read more about Mobile App Strategy in Kristian Daniel’s article.

While I agree a mobile app is important for transactional websites, it is important to note that credit union websites still get heavy doses of desktop browser traffic as David Damstra mentions in his article. Today, we are currently in an upcycle for the promotion of mobile apps–so take note, do your homework, and decide if this is right or wrong for your organization.

Video and motion graphics

Credit unions have been adding video or motion graphics to their sites for a few years now, but where this used to be the exception, it is now very commonplace. I believe this is the result of increases in capacity on both the hosting and server side and also on broadband and cellular throughput increases and capabilities on the user’s side.

The effect of adding video or motion graphics is undeniable. When done right, they look fantastic and provide the wow factor that many organizations crave. One of my first takeaways when I visit a site that has incorporated video into their homepage, is that their website is new and fresh. That alone sends a pretty strong message to your visitors about the organization and the likelihood of the service and information provided being of good and trustworthy quality.

However, there is no doubt that video or motion graphics require more memory. Where a website previously showed a graphic that would be 100 to 200 kilobytes, they are now presenting a video that is 5 to 6 megabytes–an increase of 2,500%! Despite this radical increase, video and motion graphics work, so this trend is not going away anytime soon.

Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that a bigger website will take longer to download, and in turn, can make for a less-than-ideal mobile experience. The advice I have for you on this topic is to check with your website designer, developer, and hosting provider. There is certainly homework to be done before you incorporate video or motion graphics onto your website, but when done right it is very effective.

Social movements

This is a broad topic that can quickly turn controversial, but rest assured, I am not stepping up onto a soapbox to direct you in any way. The trend here is that many financial institutions and also other organizations are more prominently displaying messages regarding the environment, diversity, inclusion, etc.

These are often placed in what I would categorize as secondary promotional locations on sites. They are not displayed as the primary message on the homepage, but there has clearly been a trend in including these types of messages more prominently for visitors.

The takeaway for this trend is that industry websites are catering to younger audiences who want to do business with organizations that have similar world views. It is a good idea to review your priorities and decide if you need to make a more concerted effort to highlight these topics for both your current and prospective customers or members.

Dont ruin the forest for the trees

There you have it, today’s website trends. As I stated earlier in this article, not many of the organizations I review on a monthly basis incorporate all of these trends. That is because they know that it is incredibly important to prioritize what will be the most effective for their visitors. If you do not have a solid foundation built on quality content and providing a usable experience for your website traffic, none of these trends are going to have the effect you desire.

Implementing one or two of these trends on an existing financial institution’s website can have a very powerful impact on visitors. If your website has a solid foundation established, I highly recommend that you do your homework, take some time to check out what the big financial institutions and even your local competitors are doing on their websites, and get started implementing a couple of these trends. You and your visitors will not regret it.


  • Peter Meyers

    One part creative thinker and one part analytical problem solver with a bias towards innovation and design. 10+ years in financial technology and still not cool enough to call it fintech.

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