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The Credit Union Website Launch Checklist

You’re ready to launch your credit union’s new website—congratulations! Before going live, be sure to review details that are simple to overlook to ensure the site looks great, meets visitor needs and is engaging. The following checklist items are not always included in standard lists, but are vital to the site succeeding in the financial industry.

The Checklist: Check, Check and Check Again

1. Optimized pages for each credit union branch

Enhance the website’s search engine optimization (SEO) by having a separate page for each of the credit union’s branch locations, complete with optimized title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs. An added bonus is to add a Google Map on each page using a JavaScript API or plug-in.  Adding city-specific information helps the credit union’s website rank better in its target markets and increases its chances of showing up in local online search results. With the addition of a map and hours of operation, you help your site’s visitors locate your branch and boost the SEO because Google likes pages that are specific, interactive and helpful.

1st Financial Locations Page

2. Check ADA compliance

At the time of publication, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 on a credit union’s website is not required by law. The Department of Justice, however, is receiving an increasing number of complaints regarding cyber accessibility claims. Before launching the new site, it’s worth the time to ensure that it meets ADA standards so all the credit union’s customers and the website’s visitors benefit from the information presented. Otherwise, you risk state or federal regulatory interventions in the form of hefty fines and costly corrective plans, as well as lawsuits from advocacy groups.

To make the credit union’s website ADA-compliant, add features that improve the user experience for those who are disabled. The Web Accessibility Initiative provides a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to help make sites accessible to all. Examples of these guidelines include providing text for non-text content, using content that does not cause seizures, using readable text, and ensuring that copy is easy to understand.

Bank of America is no stranger to ADA-related complaints in regards to its website. Though Bank of America added accessibility options to its site in 2000, the bank continues to deal with numerous complaints. They settled two cases in 2013 involving visually impaired clients who had trouble with the security features on the bank’s website and mobile application.

The single easiest way to improve your website’s accessibility? Make sure that you are in the habit of always adding a short description of each photo in the alt tag field when you create new content. As a bonus, it will help your search engine results too.

3. Responsiveness across all browsers and devices

In today’s web design world, it goes without saying that it should be responsive. If you are not familiar with this term, it simply means that webpages always look great, regardless of the device you are using or the screen’s size. The design maintains the readability of text, adjusts image sizes accordingly, and allows menu functions to work properly so customers always get the full experience. Responsive design is especially essential if the site offers online services, such as the ability to access account information and pay bills online. Before launching the credit union’s site, make sure all of its features look good and function properly on every major browser and on popular mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

St. Helens Credit Union - Mobile, Tablet, and Laptop Layouts

St. Helens Community Credit Union showcases this feature beautifully. The site provides a good example of content hierarchy and makes links obvious and simple to click on any screen size. The key pages for a mobile visitor – online banking login, locations & ATMs, and custom icons for the mobile banking app – have been specially called out for visitors to have easy access to.

4. Browser testing for SEGs and other key audiences

A quick check of Google Analytics can yield valuable insights into audience. We have found that many credit unions will have lots of traffic coming from outdated browsers (like Internet Explorer 8) because they have a SEG that requires it for their internal company software. Make sure to quickly test your new website in all browsers that have significant amounts of traffic. It’s okay if not all the fancy bells and whistles are there, but the site has to be usable and—most importantly—online banking has to be easy to find and access.

Google Analytics Browser Stats

5. Test 3rd-party tools and forms to make sure they work

While your website is your primary point of engagement for most of your members, the key actions you want people to perform are often your 3rd-party tools. Make sure to completely test key actions such as filling out a loan application, online banking login, signing up for a checking account, finding an ATM, and using any financial calculators you offer.

Additionally, you need to test any forms you have and make sure that the completed submission is received by the right people in your credit union. A contact form or loan application doesn’t do any good if it is getting lost in someone’s spam folder or is getting sent to a misspelled email address.

6. Check for good search engine hygiene

With search engines often sending up to 50% of the traffic your website receives, you want to be very careful that you are following best practices. While the full list is too long to include here, the most important areas to focus on are:

  • Redirects: make sure that every page on your old site has a forwarding address to a similar page on your new site (a 301 redirect, in nerd talk)
  • Google Analytics: make sure that you have it installed on your new site so that you can both see how it performs AND can compare results to your old site
  • Staging Site: make sure that the staging site you used to test your new site before going live is fully archived and not accessible by search engines or humans
  • Search Engine Visibility: often new sites are built with settings that hide them from search engines to avoid getting penalized for duplicate content; make sure to turn this setting off when your new site launches

7. Have security and data backups

The security of the credit union’s website is vital to protecting members’ personal information and the financial institution’s reputation. This issue has received even more prominence with the hacking of a Montana credit union’s website in March. Before launching the site, protect against malware and prevent data losses by:

  • Installing 24-hour-a-day monitoring scripts
  • Making a backup copy of the final website
  • Saving updated copies of the website files and database on a regular schedule
  • Ensuring that your website partner is automatically installing any security patches, and has a clear policy for managing any 3rd-party plugins to keep them secure
  • Using a hosting provider with a secure location, a system with multiple layers of protection, round-the-clock monitoring and communications, daily malware scans, and vulnerability assessments
  • Using a secure database for storing website credentials and passwords

A financial institution has less than 10 seconds to make a great first impression when an individual visits its website. Making sure the site works as expected is important to establishing a lasting positive impression, which (in the end) is more valuable.