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Bad Advice on Website Clicks, Design, and Passwords for your Credit Union

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Read this post to get a whole lot of bad advice.

You’re still here? Wonderful. Because I didn’t give up the whole story. I am giving bad advice, but then we will learn about the better alternatives.

And, we will discuss why that advice was bad. Turns out, there’s a lot of it, so the discussion will be split into a couple of parts. To start…

…Let’s focus on your website, as it is the face of your institution for most of your members most of the time. It’s like a branch…does that sound familiar?

Bad Advice: Fewer clicks are better

In the early days of the World Wide Web, everything was slow. Browsers were slow. Modems were slow. Even turning on your computer was a timely process.

If a website took under 20 seconds to load, things were great. And now I have to click to another one? Ugh. I have plans tonight, you know!

Today, your phone, computer, and internet connection are each hundreds, if not thousands, of times faster than those original setups. If a site doesn’t load in 4 seconds, the majority of people are gone.

Back of Router

It’s easy to tap or click your way dozens of links down a rabbit hole of “10 best” or YouTube related shorts with almost no delay.

Just ignore the fact you burnt 3 hours of your life watching a chameleon walking across a branch, then a cat wearing a hat of its own fur (this exists).

While we may waste time online, very little of it is dedicated to waiting.

Give your members the right information to set their expectations properly. If a banner directs to a program, have a page presenting what they can expect, then guide them to applying/shopping/registering.

If you were on Amazon and clicking on a product took you to the shopping cart, it’d be off-putting. Don’t do that to your members. Embrace the clicks, within reason.

Bad Advice: Information Can’t Be “Below the Fold”

Back in the day, scrolling was miserable. If you were cool, you had a sticky, dirty gray wheel wedged in your mouse. Otherwise, scrolling meant clicking a tiny arrow on the side of the screen. What. A. Pain.

Apple Magic Mouse
We’ve come a long way.

As a result, websites were made to fit within the most common screen dimensions of the day (800×600 or 1024×768). This meant a lot of info squeezed in a small area.

I’ll admit. Many of our company sites years ago were sticklers to this concept. We still try to make pertinent information immediately prominent, but if scrolling makes a cleaner, more explanatory process, we’ll do it.

Today, who doesn’t scroll? Touchpads allow easy scrolling. All mice have a wheel or swipe area. Phones and tablets are built on scrolling. It’s second nature now. Which means your members are accustomed to doing it.

Your webpages can go down, it’s ok.

General rule: If it’s essential, put it up top. If it’s explanatory, let it go below.

Bad Advice: Changing Passwords Often Improves Security

Wrong. Wrong1. Wrong123. Wr0ng2017. Fido.

Fingerprint Key on Keyboard
Many modern laptops actually have fingerprint scanners. Use them.

How many sites do you sign in with the same password? If the answer is “none”, then you’re obviously using a password manager, or they’re written down on your desk.

If the latter, get rid of that list. More than likely, you reuse your favorite password everywhere. It’s ok. You’re not alone. Passwords stink.

This piece of bad advice is my biggest pet peeve. Until recently, it was the official recommendation of the Federal Government, and is still policy at many credit unions (kudos to VyStar, who only offered partially bad advice…smiles!).

I actually got into an argument with one of the largest CUs in the US for suggesting it. I’m sorry for their members.

Complex Becomes Simple Over Time

If I asked you to make a complicated password, what would it be? Random letters and numbers (impossible to remember)? A common word with a 1 at the end (possible)? A pet’s name (likely)?

Now, imagine I told you to change it every three months, “in the name of security”. Would you come up with a more complicated password, or a simpler one? Research has shown the latter to be true.

Password Rotating Lock

If “MyPetIsTheMostAwesome2016” was your original, perhaps the new one would be, “MyPetIsTheMostAwesome2017”. Until they say it has to change more than that. So then you use, “Pet2017”. For the next cycle, you use “p3t2017”.

And a few months later, you just gave up and wrote it on a post-it note stuck under your desk.

Security experts” (despite being Norton, their advice is awful) claimed that changing your password ensured it was safe. As if passwords are slowly degrading over time. Wrong.

They’re either compromised or they’re not. If you have a long, complicated, but easy-to-remember password, stick with it (unless that service said their data was hacked).

Keep Tabs on Your Passwords

Also, if you use modern password managers, they can check to see if any of your usernames or sites match those that experienced breaches. The software will help you change passwords that may be compromised.

My favorite comic, xkcd, has a popular post about the password topic. Go there, then tell me your password doesn’t include a correct horse with a battery staple. Do it.

More Bad Advice To Come!

In the interest of time, let’s end part one here. Did any of this advice surprise you? Have you been told the opposite by your co-workers, superiors, or trade associations?

Comment here, and I’ll help connect you with the resources to educate them the right way. Hey, we can all be wrong. It’s what we do when realizing.

What other bad advice do we have to look forward to? Option overload, one final point about password strength, and those annoying “are you sure you want to continue” pop ups on your website!

Your Old Website Is Still There…Learn From It!

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.

Let’s Market Your Competition! Wait, what?

Have you ever walked into a Dunkin Doughnuts to find them selling Krispy Kreme treats?

Probably not. Same reason you’d be hard pressed to find Apple selling Dell computers in their stores, or Toyota marketing Ford trucks.

Why is that? Chances are, you’re reading this blog thinking, “Well, of course they don’t. Those are their competition!”

It’s also possible you walk to your own beat and exclaimed, “Ah, ha! Having an open approach to competitor’s products could be a brilliant way to foster trust and growth in your industry!” Ultimately, only the Macy’s Santa has adopted your approach.

Might that mentality of giving and helpfulness be pervading our credit unions? Oh no, they’re behaving ethically!

It’s not the steadfast dedication to members to which I speak; it’s the willingness to promote their competition. Yes, credit unions nationwide are sending their members to big banks, online merchants, and other businesses. And they call it, “Helpful Resources”!

Allow me to explain. We’ll use auto lending as an example. Many credit unions wish to empower their members by offering links featuring vehicle reviews, trade-in values, and more. Thank you for looking out for me. Like most, I despise over-paying. But there is another side to those links…they make money! In the early days of the internet, sites like NADA, Cars.com, and Kelley Blue Book were funded by the sale of their print resources, commissions from vehicle sales, and memberships. Nothing the credit union could lose, anyway.

Times have changed. Paper catalogs have transitioned to online databases, and informational sites have morphed into loan generation engines. Take a look for yourself. NADA Guides has their own Finance Center, which ends in offers for financing…not from your credit union. Cars.com has a financing calculator with offers called RoadLoans. Even Kelley Blue Book has LightStream, a division of SunTrust Bank, powering their financing program.

If you link to these sites, you are sending your members to your competition. It is no different than hanging banners for Bank of America mortgages inside your branch. Is that the service you want to provide?

Take a look at your site. Strategic partnerships where you both benefit are valued and should be featured; links where you can only lose need to go!

Disclosure: Our company helps credit unions grow their auto lending.  By following the advice presented above, our own clients may improve results, thereby improving our own success.

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