Sound CU Is A Round CU After Website Redesign

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Seeking to better connect with younger members and potential members, Sound Credit Union has made changes to its website.

Robyn LaChance, Sound CU's vice president of marketing, said the credit union, with some outside help, has created a site that is more conversational, less formal and is easier to navigate.

The Sound website at www.soundcu.com uses round shapes not only to look different from the traditional financial institution layout, but also to match its existing marketing materials, she explained.

LaChance said management had been discussing modifying the 36,000-member, $280-million credit union's website for months. "It was a need for some time," she declared.

The credit union brought in JayRay, a communications consultancy based here and in nearby Seattle, early in the process. In addition to the work the company did on Sound CU's print collateral for a recent branch opening, JayRay has worked with several CUs in the Seattle/Tacoma area, including one where LaChance formerly was employed.

Kathryn Schwarz, an account executive at JayRay, said the reworking of the site was "really collaborative."

"We had meetings with people from Sound's marketing department, web designers and others," she recalled. "Everyone was putting ideas on the table. The finished product was a group effort."

Easier To Navigate

LaChance said the No. 1 goal of the revamped site was to make it easier to navigate for members. "Our previous site was not intuitive. If a member was in the middle of a topic, such as auto loans, and that made him or her want to check our other rates, it was difficult to jump to, say, our page on home equity loans."

The new site has "bread crumb" features along the top-outline headings that tell the user exactly which page he or she is on, and which pages came before. LaChance said this feature is common in retail shopping sites.

"Our other objective was to make the site more conversational, less corporate, and more about the member; less about the credit union," she continued. "We created a navigation bar on the left side. The categories are 'Me Centered.' They include 'Tell me about Sound,' and 'So what is a credit union?' We wanted to get a conversation started."

Sound CU also wanted feedback, so it built in several polls and surveys, LaChance said. For example, members were asked if the rising price of gasoline will affect the purchase of their next car. And: are they undertaking home improvement projects to increase the value of their house.

"We have read that younger audiences want to participate," she said. "These surveys are not necessarily marketing centric, but they might help shape our policies. We expect this area will evolve. Some sites have message boards with ongoing conversations. We haven't yet figured out how to manage something like that for a financial institution."

Much of Sound's marketing materials work off the curve of the credit union's stylized "S" in its name, LaChance said. For printed materials, this means people in the marketing department have been hand-trimming photos to make them round. When redesigning the website, however, the difficulty factor increased.

Profound & Round

"We wanted to have round shapes and pictures because we wanted to be visually distinctive," she said. "Most websites are built in blocks."

Interjected Schwarz: "Sound's brand look was very different from boxes."

LaChance continued: "Our web designer was pulling his hair out trying to make things curved or circles. But when it was all done, he was so proud. The site matches all of our marketing materials."

The result of all these changes? LaChance said the feedback from members has been very positive. The "new look" Website made its debut Dec. 19. Since that date, 95% of 1,800 survey respondents have said the site is easier to use, and 94% said the overall look was better.

"We were extremely pleased with that. We have heard words like 'friendliness.' People especially liked the printer-friendly pages, and the ability to change font size to larger to make it easier to read."

LaChance said the site is in full compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

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