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<p>ARLINGTON, Va. – It took about a year and approximately $150,000 for NAFCU to get its new Web face up and running. NAFCU recently launched a revamped version of its Web site at www.nafcu.org. It contracted with Active Matter, a Fairfax, Virginia-based Web development firm to bring the new site to life. In a lot of ways a Web site has become like the storefront window for trade associations which can use the online presence to display to its members – the lifeblood of any association – how it is serving them, and sell its wares while it’s at it. The old NAFCU site was averaging between 12,000 to 13,000 hits a day. It’s too soon to tell if the new version is going to increase traffic. NAFCU says this effort was about more than creating a pretty new face – it was about adding functionality for the benefit of its members and NAFCU staff. To do that, some new back-end technology had to be implemented. NAFCU’s membership database, which is run by iMIS software, a popular product among trade associations, is now integrated with the Web site so members can update their CU profiles online. Prior to this, NAFCU staff had to key in the updated info that came in by either mail, e-mail, fax or phone. With the new site, the member essentially maintains its own profile. This functionality is going to cut down on the time staff will need in keeping records current and credit unions have an easier time getting their trade the most accurate information. This updated member info isn’t just for NAFCU’s internal use. The new site will have an online member directory that NAFCU members can use to search to find and contact fellow credit unions. Before this, NAFCU only had a paper-based member directory available. The new site is updated and administered differently than the old site. NAFCU used to utilize Microsoft’s FrontPage to administer the site – the new site is all Web-based administration. NAFCU staffers can now use a back-end administration site, not visible to the public and members, to make changes to their site. When it’s ready to go, they publish the new version with a few clicks, and the public site is updated. NAFCU Vice President of Communications Jay Morris said this new Web-based administration is important because eventually a number of NAFCU staffers will be responsible for the content of the site. Bringing it Web-based sort of “decentralizes” who can do what and from where they can do it, said Morris. Better navigation was another goal. They’ve incorporated Macromedia’s ColdFusion to ease navigation and maintain a consistent front-end template throughout the site, said Morris. “It’s like a framework for us to put the content in. The advantage is that a lot of the pages can load dynamically. Instead of creating everything over and over again as a new HTML page, you can devise it so that you can tag certain information to be loaded each time,” said Morris. The consistency also makes the search engine more efficient in picking out information. People can now register for NAFCU conferences and events and pay at the site with a credit card, something that more and more trade associations are doing, including CUNA. Other NAFCU products can also be purchased, and a virtual trade show, another existing CUNA site feature, has been added. Online discussion forums are also new to the site, and Morris said NAFCU wants to build up these forums and create list serves that can help the association find members with specific expertise. “That fits in with the changes that have occurred recently with streamlining the committee structure. We’re going to be relying more on ad hoc task forces and hopefully we can use the site to find the experts out there,” said Morris. Morris said NAFCU looked at the sites of trade associations from many industries, companies, news organizations, and others to get ideas. Credit union and NAFCU news is a focal point of the new site. It is updated daily with a handful of small stories. “I think it’s a vast improvement over our old site, and provides a lot of new features that will be helpful to our members,” said Morris. But of course it can get better. Morris wants to add a lot more consumer education content. “Personal finance, savings. This is an area we need to focus on.” [email protected]</p>

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