How to build a great credit union website
Tips on how to envision, buy, build, and future-proof your website
A great website is the best of your credit union in action. Not everyone will see your new branch, brochure, or ad, but almost everyone will interact with your website. It's the public face of your brand, the backbone of your marketing, and a primary communication tool with both members and potential members.
But how do you get a website that connects with your members? How do you build a website that does everything you want it to do? How do you end up with a website that can grow with you in the future?
Here's how to build the website your members deserve -
and make sure it stays fresh for years to come.
What's your Purpose, and how should the website serve that Purpose?
We'll get to the techno-toys and acronym soup soon enough. Great credit union websites start with a clear, high-level Purpose and a brand strategy and vision, not HTML.
Your Purpose comes from your core values, the things everyone agrees are fundamental truths of how you operate. What are you here on Earth to do, and why? That's your Purpose.
Start by laying out, in clear everyday English, straight lines directly from your credit union's long term strategic plan to your website. How do you want the website to affect membership growth, demographics, expectations, emotions, and service?
Here's a starting point for laying out a clear vision for your new website so you can get your whole team on board and pulling the same direction.
>>> HINT: Copy and paste the following, and add, change, tweak, and fine-tune to make it your own! <<<
Our credit union's new website will be great because it...
...is the hub powering our credit union's Purpose and growth.
...welcomes new members who are looking for something better, delights and invites existing members, empowers employees, and makes processes faster, simpler, and more effective for everyone.
...is flexible, adaptable, and easy to keep updated. Content, navigation, and even many interface changes are straightforward. It must be built on a rock-solid, flexible framework made for continuous expansion, new capabilities as needed, frequent improvements, tiny tweaks, and even experimentation.
...leads the way for our brand. It's a valuable strategic asset, the most visible, up to the minute face of our CU's overall growth, brand, and marketing strategy, the 24/7 branch visible anywhere in the world with any device.
...plays nice with others. Integrations and embedding are straightforward. For example, our online banking login integrates smoothly. Branch and ATM maps, CRM/Digital/Email marketing platforms, forms, and more embed seamlessly.
...produces data and results. Experimenting and iterating content and interface are straightforward. Important analytics derive from our overall strategies, and data powers updates, fine-tuning, and future decisions.
...is stable, fast, secure, and future-proof, built on a well-known, rock-solid platform with the best available hosting management and support technology, constant monitoring, and automated updating. Future platform changes will not be needed, freeing funds and attention for constant evolution and continuous improvement.
Same for the negatives. What are the never-do-this items, the things competitors are doing you want to avoid, the CEO's least favorite color, hard lessons learned.
What do you love and hate about your current website? What features or ideas do you want to "steal" from other credit union websites? What are some features you want to "steal" from non-CU websites? Go ahead; the whole internet is your oyster.
What technology concerns or changes are on your mind? What systems will your website need to integrate with or work around?
At the same time, it's also important to focus. Keep only the things that will best serve your Purpose. Throw out everything that doesn't.
Start with our free, editable checklist and RFP guide
We've put together a Better Website Kit containing a handy free checklist and an RFP guide to help credit unions figure this out. Download .pdf or .doc files you can edit, print, and scribble on to help you stay organized and cover all the bases.
We'll make this easy: the CMS (content management system) wars are over and WordPress won. WordPress is the CMS champion, powering over 40% of all of the websites around the world, for several reasons:
Two words: Continuous. Evolution.
- This is your last platform change; WordPress is here to stay, so from here on out you can focus on evolving and improving continuously rather than starting over every few years.
- Increase the slope of your evolution and improvement curve.
- Decrease the slope of your learning curve
- Greater agility because you can iterate, test, and evolve far faster.
- Move from playing catch-up to anticipating and leading member needs and new technology
WordPress powers millions of the world's most powerful websites
- No proprietary software, no vendor lock-in.
- WordPress is a thriving ecosystem with thousands of WordPress developers.
- Nearly unlimited capabilities can be added through thousands of WordPress plugins.
- Properly managed and hosted, WordPress is extremely fast, secure and reliable.
Tools for increased productivity
- We use a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG Page Builder on top of WordPress to make life easier for our clients. (It's the largest WordPress Page Builder system, powering over a million websites.)
- Routine updates to content, images, rates, promotions, videos, and more are easy and lightning-quick.
- Complex updates, such as new product pages, landing pages, navigation changes, video galleries, graphs, and more are drag and drop simple.
- Third Party integration is seamless. Home banking, bill-pay, search, Google maps, CRM, enhanced analytics, secure forms, calculators, locators, chat and more can all be integrated into your new site.
Obviously, we're hoping you'll choose iDiz Incorporated to build your spiffy new super-powered website. We've fine-tuned our processes over lots of years and lots of credit union websites, and this is what we've learned.
Lots of places can build nice websites. But credit union websites are kinda weird, so it's worth seeking out the specialists like us. We have decades of deep expertise and experience with credit union marketing, strategy and growth. That means we can multiply your effectiveness and save enormous amounts of time and trouble with everything from content to compliance.
Compatibility is vital when you're choosing a website vendor. The right website partners (like iDiz, we hope...) will make your life easier and make your whole team far more efficient and effective.
We'll be spending a lot of time together during the build, and we'll be there to support you for years to come. So it's important for your CU and your developers to have compatible cultures and a high level of mutual trust.
A few important credit union website vendor compatibility questions to consider are:
- How compatible are our cultures?
- Can we get to know the people we'll be working with day to day?
- How well do they understand credit unions?
- How well do they understand OUR credit union?
- Do they understand credit union branding?
- Do they understand how to coordinate our website with our entire tech stack and marketing mix?
- Do they understand CU compliance?
- What can we expect when we need tech support?
- What can we expect when we need changes?
- What can we expect when we need creativity, something different or custom?
- What kind of support and expertise can we tap into when we're facing a major challenge or change?
- Can they explain things to you clearly?
- Are you talking to salespeople, account managers, or actual developers?
- What's the "next big thing" they can't wait to bring to their next website?
In a nutshell, who's got your back? Do they understand credit unions, credit union brands, and CU growth? Are your cultures compatible? How are they going to help you ensure your website continues to lead the way for many years to come?
We'll do all the heavy lifting, of course, but managing a website project does take a significant investment of your team's time and energy. You'll want to be actively involved, so make some space in your schedule.
How long does it take to build and launch a new credit union website?
Our process can take as little as 12 weeks, but we've found about 16 weeks is more typical. Your team has lives and lots of other things to do, after all!
If you have a more collaborative and consensus-building culture than most, then you'll likely need to allow more time for your team to work through the process. If you have a small team with one leader, empowered to make all project decisions, then things can go very quickly.
Here is a typical timeframe:
We'll start the project with a few virtual meetings using screen sharing to get a handle on your Purpose, brand, vision, goals, features, etc. We'll ask a LOT of nosy questions to get to know the credit union and your team better.
Plus we'll do some research on your credit union and your market, and we'll ask you for all the relevant data you can provide.
We'll also make contact with your IT or tech people to plan for a smooth transition and work out the details of any integrations (like your online banking login, mobile app offers, etc.)
Then we'll disappear for a few weeks while we develop mockups showing what the site could look like and how the interface could work on mobile and desktop devices.
While we're working on the mockups, this is a good time for your team to start reviewing the current content on your site, and make some decisions about content and pages you want to keep, discard, or change.
Once we have mockups, there there will be a few rounds of feedback and revisions over the next week or two. If your team can respond fairly quickly, this will help keep the project on schedule.
Once the mockups are approved, usually in about four to five weeks (1/3 of the way through the project) we'll start building. We'll set up the new site in a development environment and start turning the mockups into a real website.
We'll also start importing content from your old site, so make sure you let us know if site content will need to be different on the new site.
At about the 8-10 week mark (roughly 2/3 of the way through), the site will still be under construction, but largely complete. We'll be ready to let you start reviewing the new site, start testing, and we'll set up training for the people who will be maintaining the site content. Training usually takes two or three one-hour sessions.
Two or three weeks before launch, the site should be complete, and everyone trained, and fully tested. You'll need to be available to coordinate any last-minute updates, and you may wish to take time to proof the site content again, and make sure it's in good shape for launch day. You can also send links to the site in progress to staff and volunteers a week or two before launch.
Many of our clients "tease" the upcoming new site with promos, info, and screenshots for a few weeks to get members and staff excited, and to ensure members aren't confused by the new site.
On launch day, we'll coordinate with your IT or tech people to make the DNS changes needed and ensure a smooth transition with no downtime.
Usually, we choose a relatively low-traffic time to launch, like midmorning on a Tuesday. This ensures everyone is on hand to monitor the process and deal with any problems the same day and later in the week.
Congratulations! It's a bouncing baby website!
We suggest pizza and an assortment of beverages for your website launch party. Kazoos and party hats are optional.
Here's the great part: once you're on WordPress, you'll never need to change platforms again. Now you can focus your budget, time, and energy on continuous, ongoing improvements rather than starting over every few years.
Plan and budget money and time for at least one relatively major update or addition every year, with nearly constant minor updates. The best websites are never "done." That's how you future-proof your credit union's website.
Don't wait: iterate and evaluate
Once your website launches, don't let it sit around. Start changing stuff right away. Work with your website every single day, even several times a day.
Don't wait for budget time, or for needs to appear. Get ahead of the curve. Schedule regular reviews at least once a quarter with a small core group of stakeholders and your developers to go over feedback, new needs, nice-to-haves, and future needs and plans.
And close the loop with evaluation. What was the feedback? Did loans go up? Which alternative worked the best? What do the Analytics numbers say?
Take what you've learned, apply it, and see what happens; that's how you evolve.
Set aside a portion of your funds and time for experiments. Try new things, see how they work out, then make them mainstream, kill them off, or make changes and try again.
Push the limits, and don't fear failure if there's something you can learn.
Got a crazy idea? Ask your web developers; we love finding ways to make crazy ideas work. Or maybe there's a not-so-crazy idea that could work even better.
Yes, experimenting on top of everything else is tough, but it's the one thing that really separates the best websites from stale online brochures.
Raise your content game
Extend that continuous improvement philosophy to your content. Scrub every page and blog post for errors and outdated info. Cut the cruft wherever you find it. Edit ruthlessly to get to the point faster and make your site more useful and interesting to your members and potential members.
And don't forget to punch up your highest-value pages for SEO, and monitor and update them regularly.
Don't limit yourself to your website; work to improve integration and interfaces for all your touchpoints. Your apps, online banking, loan and account opening, and social media should all work together and integrate smoothly. Work with your website developers and connect with your other vendors to inch closer to this goal.
Get smarter every day
Work on yourself and your web team as much as your website. Ask your developers how things work (we love to share!) and how you can learn new skills and better understand the innards of your website.
The more you know, the more you'll know what's possible, and the better you can keep up.
Learn to love constant change and continuous improvement
The pace of change online is breathtaking. Learn to love it, and lean into that speed and that state of constant flux.
Embrace uncertainty and plan for the unknowable on your website, and you, your credit union, and your members will be well-equipped for whatever's next.