A great website is a screaming bargain.

Five things to expect when building a new web site

tubesSince we build new websites for credit unions all the time, we’re pretty familiar with the process. But most of our clients are only involved in a website project once or twice in a decade. Sure, it’s exciting and exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting and unfamiliar.

Here are five things to expect when building a new website:

1) You’ll be completely over your head. And that’s completely OK.

Designing and building a website is at least ten times more complicated than a print project. The technologies involved are complex and changing almost daily. You’ll have to deal in some way with domain names, DNS, SSL, CSS, W3C, and plenty of other obscure acronyms. Things won’t look exactly the same on your CEO’s computer as they do on your computer. Mix in mobile devices, and things suddenly get even more complex. And now you have to learn a new CMS, and what the heck does “CMS” mean anyway? And, and, and, and…

Relax.

Your main job (assuming your web site vendor is doing their job) is to keep your eye on brand and communication. Does the new web site clearly communicate, extend, and invigorate your brand? Does it clearly communicate and deliver the information that your members need? Keep the overall goals in mind at every stage, and you’ll be fine.

When you need to make a decision, understand how it will affect your members and your brand. Insist on getting answers you can understand and use.

2) Pick a vendor with people you can trust and work with.

This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get bogged down in lists of technologies and TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) and forget that web sites are built by people in order to help people communicate with other people. The people involved are far more important than the exact mix of technologies. (Any competent vendor will have rock-solid technology.)

Therefore, make sure you have the chance to talk to the people who will actually be building your website. Make sure you’re comfortable with them, that they’ll answer your questions in a way you can understand, that they’ll be flexible with finding solutions, and that you’ll be able to get reliable advice and recommendations. Make sure the content management system really is easy to use and can really do what you need.

3) It’s probably going to take more time and attention than you expect.

You’ll have a lot of coordination to do, a lot of learning, and a lot of decisions to make. Make room in your schedule to respond quickly when your input is needed.

4) You’re launching a new branch, not a brochure rack.

Keep your new website project in its proper perspective — it’s an important, public, living outpost for your brand.

Or, let’s put it another way — for about the cost of remodeling a bathroom, you can get a killer site that brings you more visibility and traffic than a neon-covered 24 hour branch right next to the interstate. A great website is a screaming bargain.

5) You will need to be able to say “no”. You may also need to hear “no”.

The great thing about the web is that the possibilities are literally infinite. That’s also the worst thing about the web.

Sure, it’s possible to have your CEO walking around on your home page and talking to members, but it’s also a terrible thing to inflict on your members. You may need to find a diplomatic way of breaking the news to your CEO.

In other words, not everything that is possible is practical, and not everything that’s a good idea on a shoe store’s website would be a good idea for a credit union site. Keep your high-level goals in mind, and make sure you’re open to alternatives and advice from your vendor.

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