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Dynamic and frequently updated.

Last July, Pacific Continental bank (assets $1.8 billion), Eugene, Ore., launched a new website that we believe more closely aligns with our identity as an experienced, knowledgeable bank for businesses.

To say that our previous online presence was in need of renovation would be an understatement. At the time of the bank's last site update in the spring of 2009, the iPhone was only in its third iteration, personal tablets were still a year away from release and mobile banking was an amenity offered by a select group of national banks.

Even then, the old site was better suited for the decade we were leaving instead of the one we were entering. It offered visitors access to essential information but was organized in a content-heavy layout. You could say that it was like a static brochure that had been placed online. Navigation was cumbersome and not intuitive. We had no way of highlighting important material or of engaging customers in anything beyond online transactional banking.

Although we had resources for our business clients to use--tools, white papers, educational material--it was not spotlighted. You had to search for it.

The old site was made for desktop-first access. But today, customers are rapidly embracing mobile browsing and banking. As time went on, it became increasingly clear that we needed to upgrade the site to keep up with advancing technology as well as clients' growing expectations.

Positioned as a collaborative partner

Pacific Continental is a 43-year-old bank. We have 12 locations in Oregon and three in Washington State. The brand says that we are the "right bank"--a premier business bank in the Pacific Northwest. We position ourselves as a collaborative partner that has both experience and expertise. We tailor our services to meet the needs of specific business-market niches, including community-based businesses, nonprofit organizations, professional service and health-care providers.

We strive to build relationships with the people we serve and help them to achieve their goals by sharing our knowledge of business and finance.

When embarking on the redesign, our goal was to more adequately represent our image and mission online and to have our website presence reflect our institutional standard of excellence. While some banks have attempted to drive customers away from the physical branches and toward Web-based amenities, our goal remained to sustain strong face-to-face relationships while supplementing these with a host of valuable online services.

The redesign

The redesign process began with a select group of staff members who sat down with the bank's creative service agency to identify a guiding vision. The overriding principle was that the new site should serve as a modern tool with a host of applications.

One of the first things that we did was to look at and research the websites of both local and national financial institutions. Every website has an identity. To our surprise, we discovered that many of banks' websites had, more or less, a similar look and feel. We decided that we wanted our site to be different, in order to convey a sense of our unique brand.

Our team was drawn to sites that used a more dynamic approach--unusual layouts with bold or rotating photographs. We decided to go this route to help make us stand out and to reflect our "right bank" brand. We also wanted it to convey the idea that we are a business bank.

We decided to adopt a "block" or "tile" format, similar to those used on a tablet computer. Also, we planned to have lots of content that would be updated frequently so that it had a dynamic feel--and also improved the site's search engine optimization (SEO).

We wanted it to be clean, clear and easy to use.

Other essential elements included: (1) an intuitive navigation system to allow for easy access to our online options, business niche services and library of digital resources, including white papers, e-newsletters, publications--as well as a forthcoming blog authored by our executive leadership team; (2) responsiveness, that is, with the ability to adapt to desktop, tablet and mobile devices for user-friendly viewing across all platforms; (3) its on-site analytics would be updated to allow for more specified assessments of on-site effectiveness. For example, rather than just tracking basic traffic, say, from an email blast back to our website, we would be able to track the movements of the viewer from one Web page to another.

One noteworthy advantage of the new website is its elasticity. Unlike the previous website, which remained static, this new version is fully adaptive and ready to evolve with changing technology, market trends, site analytics and client needs.

When we designed the site, we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of a client who was visiting the site. What kind of an experience did he or she want to have there?

A balance of creative and technical

For other banks looking to refurbish their own online presence, I strongly recommend beginning the process with the input of a carefully chosen Web developer. Your design firm may construct a number of impressive perspective options, but if a Web developer is unable to put these visions into practice, you may find yourself back at square one. By working with both sides in tandem from onset, you're able to balance the creative and technical sides of the equation to ensure the best possible end-product.

Another challenge is to keep your patience during the long development process. We originally anticipated that the redesign would take from six to nine months. However, we ended up needing to change our website host, which required us to send out requests for proposals for a new Web developer. That extended the project for a number of months. The secret, however, is not to allow yourself to lose focus on your original goals. By being patient, we ultimately ended up with what we wanted.

After nearly two years of planning, building, testing and refining, the new site was launched with positive feedback from clients. Employees gave it the supreme compliment when they observed that, while they rarely accessed the old site, they have been actively using the new one--both as a tool to assist clients as well as a way to gather information for themselves.

AMY DELANEY is the vice president and marketing director at Pacific Continental Bank, Eugene, Ore. Website:
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Author:Delaney, Amy
Publication:ABA Bank Marketing
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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