I can already hear the skepticism.
“You can build a credit union website in four months?”
My response is, “Actually, in the last six months, we’ve launched three new credit union websites, each with an average development time of just under four months.”
“Outside of a few paragraphs of content, most which were disclosures, yes. From scratch.”
This isn’t hyperbole. And this is certainly not insanity.
A few years back, after developing and launching hundreds of bank and credit union websites over the course of a decade, we decided we needed to take a break.
Diagnosing the Problem
Though we began noting some recurring patterns in our daily work, it wasn’t until this necessary sabbatical that we fully understood the underlying problems of website development in the financial services industry.
We simply couldn’t see the forest from the trees, and this much-needed break provided us time to reflect, research and, most importantly, think. Now, we want to help financial institutions change the way they approach building their most important sales and marketing asset. That’s why we have spent the last few years writing and speaking about our findings.
Building a Website is a Process, Not a Project
A topic not listed above, but one I would like to expand upon, is the attitude many marketers and seasoned financial executives have about the website development process. While not the case for all credit union professionals, many within the industry view revamping their website as a periodic task that’s revisited every three to four years when “the time comes to refresh the website.”
In other words, it’s a project.
It is finite.
It has a beginning and an end.
And this is where the problem lies.
Your website, your most important marketing and sales asset, can no longer be treated as a project.
It is a process.
And like any process, your website can and should be optimized and refined over time.
For example, various technology platforms now provide insight into how current users are interacting and engaging with your different pages. This optimization allows you to make real-time adjustments to improve page layout, call to action placement, and, most importantly, the digital consumer journey.
However, a fundamental shift in thinking must occur as to how bank and credit union executives view the website development process.
Finding the Solution
During this sabbatical period of our company, we invested over $300,000 and two years researching digital consumer trends and behavior while also vetting different technology platforms and analyzing hundreds of hours of bank and credit union website user testing recordings.
As a byproduct of our company renaissance, we were introduced to a radical website development process known as Growth Driven Design. The fundamental philosophies of this approach are rooted in agile, which requires an article series in itself.
Before getting into the details of this particular methodology, let’s quickly explore the traditional process in which the financial services industry is accustomed to redeveloping a website.
The Traditional Web Design Process
The above chart may accurately reflect how your credit union approaches building a website. Yet, this approach carries inherent risks as it is built on assumptions that are most likely wrong. Often, it is the blind leading the blind as financial institutions look to other poorly performing financial institution websites for inspiration. While they might look good, their functionality and performance are questionable at best.
These risks are amplified when a website project goes over budget, out of scope, and is delivered late. In fact, one financial institution we consulted shared that it took 14 months to complete their website redesign.
At the conclusion of the initiative, all departments involved rarely want to speak about the project again.
That is, until three or four years pass.
And then the project repeats itself. And then, outside of a new design, just a few incremental improvements are made to the overall website, resulting in minimal impact to the organization as a whole.
Growth Driven Design
On the flip side, Growth Driven Design takes a scientific approach to the website development process. This four- to five-month process begins with a period of research and planning that minimizes risks by:
- eliminating flawed assumptions;
- incorporating real-time user feedback and data;
- producing a clear roadmap for where the overall process must go next; and
- developing an operating method founded on continuous improvement.
Because there is more upfront work, development moves at a much quicker pace to build what is known as a launch pad website. This site is not the “final product” per se, but the first iteration of hundreds more to come in the following months and years based on what we learn about user behavior in addition to sales and marketing data.
It is through these continuous iterations you will see modest improvements. In return, your website yields an even greater impact on your bottom line through quantifiable and measurable results that go far beyond vanity metrics like visits and page views.
While the promise of Growth Driven Design can feel exciting, the first step to implement this thinking at your financial institution is to ensure you have the executive buy-in to go beyond viewing your website as just another project.
Building and maintaining a website must be viewed as an ongoing process, one in which you will never fully realize as you continue to make incremental improvements based on real-time feedback and user data. Getting this buy-in does take time, but it is possible with persistent education as you help others see an entirely new path toward future growth.