The 9 Biggest Mistakes You're Probably Making On Your Credit Union Website

I spend a lot of time on a lot of credit union websites and—let's not sugarcoat this—most of them are really, really bad (this is true in virtually every industry, to be fair). After working in digital for a quarter century and being part of more than a thousand redesign projects, I can easily categorize the worst examples:

  1. those who don't think their website is enough of a priority to justify an upgrade

  2. those who don't have sufficient budget to fix the issue

  3. those who don't realize how bad their sites are

It's this last category that I want to address today by outlining some of the top issues that we continue to see on credit union websites. Not to ruin anyone's day, but to provide a bit of a blueprint for some key improvements that can help generate more new members and help keep more existing members. Let's dive in.

1. You're leading with rates and promos instead of a compelling value proposition.

Credit unions aren't commodities, although most of their websites give the impression that they are. By packing your home page with rates, promotions, and gimmicks, you're encouraging visitors to judge you by them—and that commoditizes you. Instead, establish and communicate an effective WHY and make that one of the first things visitors see. Instead of an opening headline of "Get a loan for a boat!" try something like:

Banking Solutions For Today's Values
Responsible Lending/Spending • Lower Rates • Top-Rated Technology • Member-Shared Profits & Governance"

"PEOPLE DON'T BUY WHAT YOU DO; THEY BUY WHY YOU DO IT."
- Simon Sinek

Remember that your WHY needs to address a problem. Nobody cares about your message until it resonates with an issue they're already experiencing. In the example above, we reference the problems of greed, high costs, and poor member experiences. Decipher your FOM's biggest frustration(s) and then clearly demonstrate how your credit union is committed to solving them.

2. You don't have your phone number at the top of every page.

(If you're reading this article around the time it was posted, you'll no doubt notice that we're breaking this rule, but we just rebranded and this site is temporary. We're actually rolling out an amazing new communication system that spans phone, form, chat, and bots.)

Growing any business today is about more than generating new customers. Once you gain a member, it's critical that you do everything possible to make the experience smooth, easy, and enjoyable. It'll keep that member around longer, increase the likelihood that he/she will spread the word to other potential members.

We've had a bit of an inside joke in our industry. "Increase sales 5% by adding one piece of text to your website: Put your phone number at the top of every page." There's nothing worse than needing to speak with someone and having to scroll and dig for the right page (especially on mobile). Don't risk frustrating your visitors over something so simple. At the very least, have a "Contact Us" button/link (that's visible without clicking on mobile) at the top of every page. Even better, have a single number (that's clickable on mobile) that's answered by a live human in under 2 rings.

3. You're not truly optimized for mobile devices.

Having a mobile-responsive website doesn't mean you're actually optimized for mobile. Pull up your site on your phone and test a few things:

  • Do you have static images with lots of text overlays that scale down so much you can't even read it?

  • Are mobile-first features (the aforementioned "Contact Us" link or click-to-call phone number, Branch/ATM Finder) visible without clicking or scrolling?

  • Are maps and directions usable on a touch-screen device and is there a conspicuous link to open the location in a native maps app for quick and easy driving directions?

  • Does your home page hide features and content that are unlikely to be browsed on mobile and instead promote mobile-audience features and content (mobile app download links, etc.)?

4. You're confusing visitors by using too much industry jargon.

A recent survey featured in The Financial Brand revealed that consumers are increasingly frustrated and turned off by banking terminology that they don't understand. Sit down with a high school senior and see if they can decipher your headlines, navigation, products and services. Make adjustments based on this interaction—avoid terms like "yield", for example—and don't be afraid to provide helper text for everything (e.g. "Money Market Accounts: Acts a lot like a checking account, but pays you a higher interest rate").

5. Your online banking features are inadequate suck.

Again, every decision needs to be about the needs, desires, and expectations of the member, not internal considerations and perceived limitations. Your online (and mobile, for that matter) banking interface is a big part of the member experience and one of the key decision factors for joining—and sticking with—your credit union. If you have a sloppy, 3rd-party login form pasted into a corner of your home page, the experience is going to go south quickly. Be willing to spend more time and money on a provider that delivers big-bank-class solutions. You'll have better luck activating and on-boarding and you'll lose fewer members to the big banks and other alternatives.

6. You're trying to feature too many concepts and too much content on your home page.

We have a saying in the web design world: "When everything is called out, nothing is called out." It can be challenging to accommodate the desires of everyone on your team and to effectively filter, organize and present that information to your visitors in a way that's intuitive, efficient, mobile-optimized and beautiful, which is why it's typically a task best left to a professional (if you need a free opinion, contact me and I'll audit yours at no cost).

7. You're not organizing your content and navigation by audience use/importance.

One thing we see frequently is websites that require a user to click 3 times (and/or scroll down the page) to get to the most popular features/content, while providing 1-click access to obscure features/content. Check your traffic analytics to see where most of your visitors are going when they visit your site and then make sure you have single-click access to those areas. If 20% of your mobile users are searching for ATM locations, make sure you're not making them scroll past a collection of promotions to get to the ATMs link in your site's footer. In fact, keeping the most important features "above the fold," so that visitors don't have to scroll to get to them, is a good rule-of-thumb. And again, make sure critical mobile features are visible without clicking. 

8. You're still not ADA compliant.

Hopefully, the flow of legal letters has slowed and you've managed to update your site enough to resolve the most critical WCAG guidelines. But the battle isn't over: compliance is a never-ending exercise—partly because the guidelines are constantly evolving and partly because every new piece of content (promo banner, graphic, blog article, etc.) you add to your site is a new opportunity to fall out of compliance. Run regular checks with a tool like PowerMapper's (we provide quarterly reports to our credit union clients) or connect with us and we'll happily audit your site and review the findings with you for free.

9. Your site is ugly.

If you want to remain competitive in today's FI-sphere, you need to show visitors that you "get it." If your site design is outdated or looks like it was created with minimal effort and minimal expertise, people will associate those same characteristics to their general assessment of your brand, drawing the conclusion that that's how you approach every aspect of your business. 'Nuff said.