Building your new bank or credit union website should be treated as a process.

In other words, your new website needs to be viewed as an entity in your organization that can be continuously optimized and improved over time. But even before you get to that point of optimization, your new website initiative must begin somewhere.

Below are four items we work our clients through when building new websites in four to five months using the Growth Driven Design methodology.

And while you may choose to ignore the principles of Growth Driven Design in your next website redevelopment project, I would challenge you to consider these ideas as they will help to provide a sense of purpose and direction for you and your team moving forward.

Disclaimer: These are just four out of dozens of other items we consider in our website development process.

1. The Purpose of the Website Must Be Defined

Like any character in a story, your new website will fill a specific role in your organization’s narrative. Will it be just another glorified brochure with a bulleted list of product features? Or, will it be the central focus of your digital growth engine, a true digital marketing and sales platform, that guides consumers through their own buying journey?

Once again, let’s consider the evolving consumer:

  • “Current data indicates eighty one percent (81%) of consumers in the U.S. today
start researching banking products online.” - Bankrate
  • “50% of consumers report searching exclusively online for financial services products. They are typically first drawn to a product before settling on a bank or credit union brand.” - Filene
  • “Banking shoppers used on average 8.9 sources of information to help them make their purchase decision.” - Google

However, after guiding dozens of banks and credit unions through our Digital Growth Blueprint engagements, many fail to keep up with these changing behaviors of their consumers. There’s usually a disconnect as to the purpose of the website in the organization, especially at the executive and board level.

To help provide clarity and confidence for these organizations, we conduct half-day workshops with key executives and stakeholders with one goal in mind: education. Because as consumer behavior continues to evolve, marketers must continue to learn and train others within their organizations as to how our digital assets, including the website, will provide value for these consumers.

So, instead of starting discussions about wireframes, designs, or overall structure, simply begin by defining the purpose of your website. A good question to answer is, “Why does our website exist?” This often yields deeper discussions about your financial institution's purpose, or “Why do we exist?”

2. Defined Consumer Personas Steer the Website’s Direction

When guiding banks and credit unions on these website endeavors, it’s necessary to determine the intended audience of a new website to provide initiative direction and focus. In other words, simply ask, “Who are we trying to help in our community?”

These discussions typically start with a broad perspective, like wanting the new website to appeal to anyone who lives, works, or worships in a certain geographic area.

But regardless of if your financial institution is located in the rural countryside of the Midwest or the metropolis on the East Coast, the communities in which you operate in are made up of smaller market segments.

The basis for persona development is outlined in our consumer persona worksheets in which we answer the following questions:

  • What are the general demographics?
  • What are the persona’s questions or concerns?
  • What are the persona’s hopes and dreams?
  • What are the values of this persona?
  • What are the lifestyle behaviors of this persona?
  • What products and services are applicable for this persona?
  • What media channels (both traditional and digital) are applicable for this persona?

And through the development of several consumer personas with our clients, we can better understand who their current and ideal members are. As a result, we can then develop a comprehensive website, from design to content to imagery to even calls to action, for those consumers.

3. Historical Analytics are Invaluable

Once a group of consumer personas has been clearly defined, the next step is to assess the financial institution’s current website’s performance. This analysis typically involves an in-depth review of their current website architecture, Google Analytics account, live user testing, website surveys, and various heat maps.

A majority of today’s bank and credit union websites are a bloated mess of unnecessary content and information, and this analysis helps us to understand what pages are truly necessary for the new website.

For example, in a recent website initiative, commoditized product features, like Estatements, Bill Pay, and Remote Deposit Capture, had their own individual pages, yet historical traffic to these pages didn’t justify migrating the existing content to the new website. We were able to consolidate these features into one page with visual icons and short descriptions. And if questions arise from our clients as to why certain pages are not migrating over to the new website, we point to the historical analytics as to the basis for our decisions.

Furthermore, these analytics allow us to understand how people are coming to our website. What devices are they using (desktop, tablet or mobile)? What has the trend over the last few years been for each of these devices? What are popular pages people are viewing from a mobile device? From a desktop?

Historical analytics allow us to better understand past website performance, eliminate flawed assumptions, and incorporate real-time user feedback and data when building a website from (mostly) scratch.

4. Mobile First. Mobile First. Mobile First.

Notice how this is simply not “responsive design.” Like other buzz words in the industry, we receive numerous RFPs and have various discussions with prospects where the primary goal of a website project is that it’s responsive.

To that, we respond, “Table stakes.”

What’s more important, and often overlooked by bank and credit union marketers, is the content for these responsive sites. Much attention is spent reviewing and refining the design and visuals of the new website, while the content, for the most part, is quickly and quietly ported over. In fact, our website assessments continue to find much of this content has survived numerous versions of the website.

But this text heavy content is not optimized for mobile consumption.

And we hear this from consumers. After conducting hundreds of user testing sessions of various bank and credit union websites, the primary complaint shared about contemporary financial institution websites is simply too much text. In fact, to paraphrase one recording, one user tester exclaimed, “No, there’s no way I’m reading that.”

Content is just one part of this conversation. We must also consider mobile delivery at each step of the consumer buying journey. From a product landing page, what is the experience of a consumer who clicks on the “Apply Now” CTA? If they were to go through the entire online application, what would then happen?

Yes, a responsive design is a must for bank and credit union websites.

But what is the value does that bring a consumer when the sum of other website elements add up to a negative experience?

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