October 21, 2014
Is your association’s website smart? (Or is it time to tackle an upgrade?)
By Bob Alves | 09/21/2011
Association TRENDS

Upgrading your association’s website is a process that can be stressful, costly and time-intensive. If you’re considering a redesign because you don’t like the look and feel of your current website, it’s important to first take a step back. Determine exactly how you want to engage your members and what services you want to provide to them online. By doing so, you will be in a much better position to tackle the project - and build better member relationships and drive revenue upon its completion.

So, what does a smart website even look like for an association? Every organization is going to have its own vision, but they should all focus on engagement and not just design, content and convenience. Members want to feel connected to your organization, which is why it’s essential to offer personalized, online functions based on demographics, behaviors and preferences. Empower members with self-service capabilities; your audience will feel closer to your organization if they can self-manage their profiles and community relationships. E-commerce functions are another critical component; members should be able to purchase products, register for events and pay dues online at their convenience.

But online transactions do not lead to more member engagement, it’s the other way around. Engage members on your website first to drive revenue (whether from member renewals, product sales or event registrations). To accomplish this, it is important that your site be able to access to your membership data. This will in turn allow the website to recognize and gather information on visitors, and present tailored pages to them. If your current data system is incapable of allowing this type of access, it might be time to review your membership database system instead of your website.

For an even more personal and interactive feel, share links to your organization’s blog and public social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, and also offer private social networking capabilities. Tying a private social network directly into your website can help your association maintain branding, while deepening interactions with members. Private social networks can serve as a venue for them to express ideas and, in turn, gain recognition for their expertise and feel a closer connection to the association. In addition, these communities appeal to younger members who are already active on public social networks, and will show them that your organization is keeping up online.

Finally, aim for a website that is user-friendly and accessible. Keep in mind that a website will not look the same on a mobile device as it will on a PC. It will also appear differently when viewed on an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android device. By optimizing your website for all of these devices, as well as different browsers, you can ensure that all members have the best possible web experience.

It might be helpful to have discussions with your stakeholders, including staff and board members, about how they use the current website and what they would like to see come out of the upgrade. Also consider who your association’s audiences are (members, volunteers, etc.) and gauge their thoughts on your website and what they’d like it to offer. Once you’ve collected feedback, document a list of all of the recommendations. Even if you can’t immediately fit some of them into the project, you can always go back and make additional updates later on. Details: www.advsol.com.


Association TRENDS