Look to the past and gain insights for tomorrow.

Sounds like a telecom company’s tagline from the late 90s, right? For all I know, it could be (and my apologies for the infringement). Oddly enough, that’s part of the point. Think back to the turn of the century. Yes, we’re in the 21st, yet it still feels like someone is referencing 1900 with that line. #GrowingUpProblems In the 90s, the Internet was a thing, but not in the way a Millenial would recognize. YouTube didn’t exist. No dial-tone, no web. Wireless was Star Trek tech. Geeks like me ordered products through the web, but Amazon was only a few years old by then. The Internet was a fantastically different place. Animated GIFs were all the rage (oh, wait…), every website just had to have a weather forecast, and if you didn’t display a Netscape Now! or Get Internet Explorer box in your footer, you weren’t a proper denizen of the digital realm.

Ah, the good old days. Who doesn’t miss a little bzng-hiss every now and then? I had personal websites, the forefather of our current company used one, and they were glorious for their time. Of course, with a 28.8kbps connection (that’s 0.056% the speed of my current cable internet, or, conversely, my current connection is nearly 1,800 times faster), you had to be careful about load times. Today, if a page doesn’t load in 4 seconds, we give up. Back then, a page taking 30 seconds was normal. If you added too much, it would push a minute, or more. So, we kept it simple (but no one is taking my weather ticker!).

“Hold up, Joe. You made some sage statement at the beginning, yet have just gone off on a reminiscing tangent…is there a point?” Glad you asked. In those formative days, corporate sites were bare essentials. What else could you offer? A sparkling unicorn had no place on a banking site, even if you couldn’t resist the “Under Construction” graphic. You put what members needed, and that was it. Contact information, rates, services, membership eligibility and, if you were really high-tech, a loan application.

The world has evolved, but do we really need any more? Attention spans have diminished, yet information has increased. Think about it: Have member needs really changed?

One of my favorite sites is the Wayback Machine, powered by the Internet Archive. Think of it as a DVR for our online history. Every version of every site ever made is accessible, sometimes back to the early-90s. I’m amazed at the breadth of data available, and can spend far too much time browsing long-lost companies, early site versions, and more. Among the searches, I pull up credit union sites, then compare to their current pages. Often, they don’t change significantly until I’m more than a decade back. Protip: That’s too long. When they finally do, they’re often a simpler version of what they have now.

If your credit union has not changed your website in more than 10 years, you need to update it. Responsive design, mobile capabilities, and standards compliance are all necessary today. Before you do, check how it appeared at launch, and then even before. Take notes from the limited content shown, and then have a serious discussion on what you will need in the new site. Remember, it’s another branch, so it should exude the same feel: warmth, openness, and simplicity.

Sometimes, we can learn the most by looking back. Maybe that’s what your members really want…a place they can visit to get the answers they need, the support they expect, and the feel only a not-for-profit financial institution can provide.