Today, a website is the front door to your association, and every effort must be made to deliver a powerful user experience for current and prospective members. Your digital platform must be modern and intuitive. Beyond a great design, it is important to make sure your website is addressing all of your association key performance indicators around member services, member retention, communications, activism, and engagement.
To this end, when thinking about your association’s website, a great design is not necessarily where you should begin. The first question you should ask yourself is, “Is our website working as hard for our association as it can to help us achieve our association goals in the most efficient manner.” Understanding where your members are coming from, how are they accessing the site, and what tools they need to be successful all must be asked up front through a discovery process in order to maximize the impact of a new website.
With that thought process in mind, here are some recommendations to consider when undertaking a new website design for your association:
- Provide the tools and resources to help your members do their jobs more effectively. They are paying you to be their advocates, and they need your help in taking action, remaining relevant, and proving the impact and rationale for their membership. For one membership organization, we built a tool that enabled human resources professionals to directly send a presentation to their bosses to show the value and impact of their membership in that organization. It was a very effective tool for ensuring membership dues.
- Clearly communicate the value and impact you provide. Make sure your messaging and value is clear right up front. We have worked with many associations who are going through an identity crisis and don’t understand why membership may be down or why they are less relevant than in the past. It may be time to audit your messaging and positioning, both internally and externally, to ensure it is relevant to your members and the communities you serve.
- Don’t be afraid to brand with impact. Changing colors or changing logos can go a long way toward sending a powerful signal to your constituencies. And make sure that the design direction you take aligns with that of the industry you serve. If you that’s the tech community, make sure your brand feels techy. If you serve the healthcare community, make sure your brand aligns. You get the picture. Modern, fresh and engaging can really make an impact in the perception of your association as you go to market with a new website.
- Content. Content. Content. Being a thought leader and delivering authoritative content is critical for success. Keep your content fresh and engaging, update it regularly, and address the current and emerging topics that are of importance to you members. Association content marketing is becoming a must for the most advanced associations.
- Make sure your content is Search Engine Optimized and your architecture is designed for SEO best practices. There is so much talk about SEO that people get confused. But that should not be the case. Go analyze what people are searching for and align your content around that. Ranking high with Google and Bing can be very effective.
- Go mobile. Look at your stats. People are accessing the web from mobile devices more than ever and the stats continue to rise. A responsive site is a must in today’s digital environment. If a user does not have a great experience with your association on a mobile device it can impact your value immensely.