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First Option launches new responsive website


In late 2014, First Option Credit Union found itself with a website that was first built in 2009. To put things in perspective, 2009 was when ‘tweeting’ superseded ‘texting’, Android was just hitting the mainstream, and the first iPad was still a year away from launch.

Since 2009, smartphone penetration in Australia has more than tripled. Finding someone without a smartphone or tablet, especially in the younger demographic, is a mythical experience akin to discovering that a unicorn is prancing about in your backyard.

With this new and unrecognisable digital landscape comes the need for websites to adapt for the multitude of different screen sizes. Consider this: what solution do you have in place to meet the mobile era? When our clients at First Option asked themselves that question, the answer blazed back at them like a giant, flashing red warning sign: ‘Not enough’.

In order to meet these ever-changing demands from our progressive online culture, First Option needed a high-impact new website strategically cultivated for all seasons.

Breaking out of the cocoon

“In 2014, we identified a strong need to update our website,” said Piers Kennealy, Operations Manager at First Option Credit Union. “It has served its purpose well over the years, but it was time for a refresh.”

As a long-term channels partner, Vermilian was engaged by First Option to tackle the challenge of bringing its website into the ‘mobile first’ design age. One of key questions to answer from the outset was; to be responsive or not to be responsive?

According to First Option’s Vermilian account manager Kristina Poposka, a responsive website carries with it a lot of benefits.

“It’s extremely important for mutual banking organisations to keep up with technological trends that are occurring around Australia and the world,” explained Poposka. “All these different devices available nowadays mean that it is an imperative to service the customer on the device and in the way they wish to be serviced.”

“A responsive website is a one-size-fits-all solution to suit devices of all screen dimensions, allowing for consistency of branding, theme and user experience for members young and old.”

“It also is an invaluable component of any SEO program. For a start Google now discounts non-mobile-optimised sites in natural search results. But responsive websites are also the simplest way for clients to deploy campaign landing pages that can be universally accessed across all devices.”

Lessons Learned

Before and after image of First Option CU website

First Option, taking all these positives into account, elected to build a responsive website. However, a responsive website development project has a number of unique and mission-critical considerations and questions:

Menu Infrastructure

Whilst not the most exciting of features, the structural organisation of menus is one of the most overlooked areas in a responsive website design. Unfortunately, what works on a PC isn’t what will work on smaller devices.

Which menu items should we keep and how many levels of submenu can we employ? What does the ideal user journey for your customers look like? How should the main navigation display on desktop, tablet and mobile?

Content infrastructure

What should an individual content page look like? How much content should it include? Where should we place the CTA on desktop, tablet, and mobile screen views? Which page and content elements (including banners and promos) can we include given the technical requirements of a responsive website? What is the optimal infrastructure to maximise conversions for mobile?

Long-term maintenance

Launching a website with perfect structure is one challenge, but maintaining optimal user experience in the months and years ahead while under the limitations of a responsive design is perhaps even more difficult.

Now, discipline is necessary to keep content concise.

Now, technical expertise is required to ensure that every page is responsive and maintains its design under the pressure of numerous future changes.

First Option has used Vermilian’s enterprise-level Content Management System, Byond, for many years and it has been enhanced to support responsive content administration.

With Byond, First Option are able to:

  • Create and manage pages with a flexible system to ensure that content remains conducive to responsive design.
  • Publish edited or newly created pages instantly, or set a date for them to go live to the world
  • Use Byond’s integrated infrastructure as a ‘single source of truth’; make a content or asset change once and it’ll automatically update on multiple platforms – website, app and mobile website.
  • Quickly and easily manage interest rates from Byond’s centralised manager. Update the interest rate once and the new information will be reflected everywhere that matters (within platforms tied to Byond)

Consistency of experience

One of the key underlying assumptions of a responsive website is that your brand and user experience can now be communicated with a consistent look and feel.

All current tools, minisites and online forms need to be responsive, or risk breaking the thematic solidarity of the design.

Of particular importance is the design and user experience of online forms. For many financial institutions, the online forms suite represents a vital cog in the sales funnel and deserves significant strategic attention.

If a customer begins an application on a beautifully designed responsive website but is then taken to a basic non-responsive online form, it may leave an undesirable impression and the experience can be jarring. The sad truth is that users don’t often notice the user interface design unless it’s poor.

Recognising the importance and incongruity of this brand presentation mismatch, First Option elected to revamp their online forms so that they too employ the responsive mobile-first dogma.

With their new responsive forms template, First Option has taken a vital step towards developing a consistency of experience across all their customer touchpoints.

We invite you to explore the transformed First Option General Enquiry Form yourself.

Before and after image of new First Option CU forms

"The end result is stunning"

The answers and responses to all these questions and ideas are not simple and will vary depending on your goals. Regardless of your infrastructure decisions, the key element is to keep asking yourself: “is this optimal for mobile devices?”

“Once we had made some key decisions around the theme and menu structure, everything seemed to fall into place,” said Kennealy. “Vermilian was able to guide us through the whole process seamlessly.”

After several months of painstaking work, First Option’s new look debuted in April 2015. The feedback since the launch was all we could’ve hoped for.

“First Option first approached us with a request to substantially refresh and update their online presence,” Poposka recalled. “It was a challenging project but the benefits were worth the cost.”

Piers Kennealy concurred. “The end result is stunning.”

“Our members (and prospective members) now have a beautiful, clean user experience, no matter what their choice of device is. We love our new website!”

We welcome you to delve into First Option's new responsive website and examine the final results for yourself.

Can we help you with a responsive website? If so, please contact us for a consultation.


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