Before you start chasing the latest buzzwords, make sure the basics are in place

Basics before buzzwords

Are you feeling a little guilty these days because your credit union doesn’t have an active blog and a loyal audience of thousands following a Twitter feed? Before you start chasing the latest buzzwords, make sure the basics are in place — a useful web site, with current information that’s easy to find.

To be honest, most credit unions could gain a lot by simply paying more attention to maintaining their web site and making some tweaks to make information easier for people (and search engines) to locate.

Following are a few examples of the basics — take care of these before you worry about how many times the credit union has been friended or how many tweets the CEO has sent today:

1) Get it right. Personally go through every page on the site with a fine-toothed comb and clean up outdated, incorrect, and incomplete information, dead links, broken layouts, technical issues, and other flotsam. This sometimes takes a surprising amount of time, but it’s extremely important — members must be able to depend on and trust your site.

(If a cumbersome process gets in the way — you can’t make these changes yourself easily and quickly, or they cost you extra money, may we humbly suggest that you consider a change?)

2) The following are the four most-requested pages on every credit union site on the planet. Make sure yours are extremely easy to find, contain the stuff most real people really want to know, and make VERY sure that your members can use them exactly the way they want and expect.

  • Home Page
    90% to 95% of site visitors simply hit the home page and continue to the home banking. Let them. Make it as easy as you can, with a login right there on the home page.
  • Rates
    Many rate-watchers bookmark the rates page. Consider splitting rates into different pages so they get only the rates they want — and you can tell which rates are getting the most attention. If you want to court their business, consider adding an RSS feed or rate alerts. Consider helping them out with a separate rate sheet showing only the current best deals and specials.
  • Locations & Hours
    Where are you and how late are you open? Believe it or not, this information is incredibly hard to find on most credit union web sites. Include phone and fax numbers. Names and photos of the branch managers are a nice personal touch.
  • Contact Us
    Every page on your site should contain your phone number, but for some curious reason most CU web sites omit this. Members are almost always looking for a phone number on the contact page. Your call center number — and the hours — should be the first thing they see. Bonus points for specific branch and department numbers. If I want a mortgage, I want to talk to a human being in the Mortgage Department. Super double bonus points for a list of real humans and their names and numbers.

3) Get real – after you’ve corrected everything back in step 1, go back and remove the market-speak, blather, and hype. People don’t trust hype on the web, and they prefer and trust information in smaller, plainer chunks.

4) Use text – graphics and Flash are generally invisible to search engines and make web pages harder to read and update. Modern CSS can make type look great while keeping it readable to people and machines.

Brian Wringer

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