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A blog by InetSolution about programming, security, design and marketing for banks, credit unions and e-commerce.

Top 10 Essential Website Features Every Bank and Credit Union Should Have in 2020

Technology continues to evolve rapidly with many consumers now primarily using mobile devices and voice assistants to interact with digital content on a daily basis. Banks should evaluate their websites to ensure they’re positioning themselves to provide an exceptional experience (or at least a better experience than their competitors) for consumers on today’s devices. There are 10 essential website features banks and credit unions should ensure are in place in 2020.

  1. Optimize Website Speed
  2. Clear inquiry methods for every product
  3. Mobile first UI design strategy
  4. Structured data markup for key data elements
  5. Easy online banking access
  6. Online account opening (or initiation)
  7. ADA Accessible UI and content
  8. Predictive analytics & content personalization
  9. Instant Live Chat support
  10. Advanced analytics integration

Optimize Your Website for Speed

Fast looking phone device

We provided a simple tip that can dramatically improve your website's speed a few months ago, and also shared some insight into why website speed is now so important for banks and credit unions. Every bank and credit union should routinely assess its website speed performance to ensure the website is always serving content as quickly as it reasonably can. Website speed impacts:

  • user experience
  • search engine rankings
  • website hosting costs
  • customers' cellular data charges (many customers have capped data plans)
  • website security (yes, really!)
  • brand reputation and customer confidence in online services

If it's been more than a month since you've assessed the speed of your website, you should schedule time next week for an assessment. If you're not sure how to do this, ask your website developers. There are many methods and metrics to assess website speed, so it's best to work with your web developers to determine a reasonable and cost-effective approach to improving website speed, but in many cases banks will be able to achieve noticeable improvements with very little investment.

To get an initial assessment, you can use tools like Google's Page Speed Insights as a starting point; however, we highly recommend reviewing results with your web developers before making any changes, especially changes that involve programming or changing image types and file formats. 

Clear Inquiry Methods for Every Product

Prospective customers visit credit union and bank websites to not only learn about products and services, but also, in many cases, consumers want to start the purchase process. Many websites fail to provide a clear next step for customers on their product and service information pages. Every product and service page should offer customers an obvious and easy next step, such as an online inquiry form, a direct phone number to call, live chat, or, best of all, a complete online enrollment, purchase, or activation process for applicable products and services.

Online inquiry forms are often the easiest for customers since most smart phones and web browsers today can automatically prefill a form with their contact information and submitting the data requires just a single tap or click. Website programmers can add routing logic to the forms to ensure the inquiry goes directly to the person or team most capable of handling the inquiry. Bottom line -- if a product or service is listed on your website, make sure you’ve given the customer a clear path to buy the product or service.

Mobile First Design Strategy

Phone and Desktop with same design

Nearly every bank and credit union website we manage across the United States now reports that half or more visits are from customers using a mobile device. Conversely, most websites built earlier than 2017 were designed primarily for desktop browsers with responsive mobile views as a secondary concern. This means that while many of these websites are mobile friendly, they are not mobile optimized and do not deliver a first class experience to mobile visitors. Today, the mobile device is a first class concern and every bank and credit union should design their websites with an emphasis on delivering all functionality and content with the expectation that the visitor’s primary interaction will be on a mobile device.

Structured Data Markup

Since 2014, voice assisted devices, such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Apple Siri, have exploded in popularity. The programmers behind these devices have done an admirable job of deciphering website content to help answer inquiries about hours of operation, locations, product and service offerings, and thousands of other types of data consumers request. To make your website content easier for voice assisted devices to process, programmers can use special coding syntax and techniques to apply context to your content that helps machines accurately process certain types of data. We typically refer to this as “tagging” or “microdata tagging” content. For example, we can program your website to tell machines the organization is a bank or credit union, that a particular building is a branch or headquarters, its operating hours, its physical location, and even what services are available there.

Formatting your data with this type of special markup provides structure and context, which means technologies like Siri and Alexa can deliver accurate and abundant information to customers. Best of all, this programming typically adds little in the way of overall cost and it readies your organization for future advances in technology.

Easy Online Banking Access

Online Banking Login

On average, 85% of customers who visit a bank or credit union website do so to login to online banking. We recommend all banks make the online banking login instantly accessible on the home page, without requiring extra taps or clicks. In addition, online banking login should be accessible from the main navigation on every inside page without requiring users to return to the home page.

Online Account Opening

Potential new customers, especially those who are tech-savvy, typically want to conduct business online whenever possible. For banks and credit unions, this means online account opening and account funding. Many financial institutions turn to third-party services to facilitate this process, but online account opening can be cost prohibitive for small to midsize banks and credit unions.

Rather than leave prospective customers stranded with no online account opening option, financial institutions should still consider at least a secure online form to collect enough information for bank staff to start the account opening process. Companies like InetSolution offer secure forms that can safely collect sensitive information from customers for bank staff to retrieve. Staff can then start the process before a customer arrives in the branch so a customer can get in and out of the branch quickly when finalizing the account opening procedure.

Banks and credit unions should use their websites to offer as much convenience and simplicity as possible. Secure forms can be a cost-effective way for banks to help customers and project a more modern online service channel.

ADA Accessible Design and Content

Website being read by screen reader

We first wrote about making websites accessible for visually impaired users in 2001 (https://www.inetsolution.com/blog/october-2001/designing-websites-for-the-blind-and-other-disable), but ADA accessibility for websites did not become a hot topic until about 2016 for banks and credit unions. Around this time, plaintiffs began initiating threats of lawsuits against financial institutions whose websites did not work properly with assistive technologies. Today, it is essential that credit unions and banks design their websites to work well with assistive technologies, such as screen readers or speech-to-text technologies. At a minimum, this means websites should meet the W3C WCAG 2.1 (AA) website accessibility standards.

Banks and credit unions building new websites should ensure their website designers, copywriters, and programmers understand how to make websites accessible. In addition, the testing protocol for a new website should include WCAG validation assessments based both on automated testing tools, as well as human testing (InetSolution offers a validation service performed by blind and visually impaired testers who use assistive technologies professionally and personally).

Banks and credit unions whose current websites are not yet optimized for accessibility should plan to bring them into compliance as soon as possible. This typically will require design, copywriting, and programming changes to become fully compliant with current standards. While there are assistive overlay tools designed to be dropped into a website, these tools often fall short of delivering on their promise of making a website accessible with just a few lines of code.

Best next steps? Work with your web developers to bring all of your code, content, and design into compliance.

Predictive Analytics and Content Personalization

With the ability to easily identify and track individual customers and members on financial institution websites, banks and credit unions can more easily personalize the website experience uniquely for each visitor. For example, by leveraging application programming interfaces (API) to connect customer relationship management (CRM) databases, your website can display personalized content, advertising, and product information uniquely targeted to each individual customer. For example, you might program the large advertising space on your home page to show an auto refinancing offer only to visitors to who you know have a current loan at higher interest rates. Likewise, the same page would show a mortgage refi offer to visitors who have current mortgage loans at interest rates higher than your current rates.

Modern websites should also use predictive analytics to target both advertising and content on websites. By leveraging CRM and transactional data, website content and information architecture can dynamically adjust to “if X, then Y” scenarios as visitors navigate a website or proceed through transactional steps.

Instant Live Chat Support

Chat Widget

Nearly all major consumer websites today, especially those in the ecommerce realm, provide website visitors with the option to use live chat for customer service. Live chat is typically a real-time, text-based conversation between a customer and a customer service representative. Live chat usually requires specialized software installed on the customer service agents computer, but website visitors need only their regular web browser to interact with the customer service agents.

Live chat is an excellent way for banks and credit unions to assist prospective customers in finding products and services that best meet their needs, as well as assisting existing customers. Tech-savvy customers often prefer live chat over the telephone, citing that it’s faster and more convenient.

Live chat implementation and training costs are usually quite affordable for even small financial institutions, and many services can be implemented without complex website programming changes.

Advanced Analytics Integration

Nearly all website owners today use at least one website analytics system to track visitor activity and website performance data. Google Analytics, the most popular website analytics tool, provides pretty good data in its default mode, but very few banks and credit unions have fully tapped the value of Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is incredibly customizable to allow website owners and digital marketers to capture very specific and precise types of actions and outcomes. Every website owner likely has certain key performance indicators that help measure how well the website and the organization is accomplishing key objectives.

For example, if a bank has a key objective to increase its mortgage servicing portfolio by 10%, then measuring mortgage lead inquiries could be a key performance indicator. Google Analytics can be configured to track inquiries submitted, which then allows website owners to identify attribution-related data, such as which PPC campaigns, web pages, email campaigns, and other digital marketing efforts helped to generate the inquiry.

Next Steps

Review your planned digital channel strategic marketing and service objectives and assess how the tactics and trends you’ve just read about could apply. Involve your technical experts early in the process since they will often be able to help determine which technologies would work best in your environment. In addition, your technical experts can help to inform decisions about budget and timeline requirements to ensure successful implementations.

InetSolution has expertise in all of these technologies and processes, so if you’re seeking expert guidance, consider starting a conversation with us.

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