Written by Russell Franks, CEO Ifinity
In an era where digital presence is paramount, associations and not-for-profit organizations
regularly find themselves at a crucial juncture but this time it is different!
Many are old diehards who have seen countless web projects come and go but when embarking on a new web project there are now ways to create success for the whole association simply by thinking bigger, wider, holistically and not as simply a marketing and communications project.
The online landscape evolves rapidly, and the shelf life of websites is often shorter than
expected and in many ways the benefits are the easiest to obtain now than at any time before.
In this blog, we'll explore what makes a brilliant association web site, and present some of the
essential factors associations need to consider when undertaking a new web project
New Website Considerations: Key Factors for Associations
If you already have an award-winning web site you may not need advice but for others the essence of
creating a brilliant website for an association usually involved hard work and dedication but also a
holistic approach that prioritizes functionality, user experience, and a strong reflection of the
organization's values.Key elements include intuitive navigation, ensuring members can easily access relevant information.
Responsive design is essential for providing a seamless experience across various devices, and a
compelling visual design, aligned with the association's brand, enhances the site's aesthetic appeal.
Member-focused content and engagement features, such as personalized profiles and interactive
forums interest areas and communities contribute to a dynamic user experience, fostering
collaboration within the professional community.
Integration with CRM and database systems ensures members have access to personalized resources, while efficient event management systems facilitate easy registration for conferences and webinars. Prioritizing search engine optimization (SEO) enhances the website's visibility, making it easier for members and potential stakeholders to find relevant information.
Security, privacy, and accessibility are paramount considerations to protect member data, ensure inclusivity, and comply with industry standards. Regular updates and maintenance, combined with feedback mechanisms, demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement based on user input.
By incorporating these elements and with the right partner, a professional association can create a brilliant website that not only serves its members effectively but also reinforces the organization's professionalism and value.
The Perils of Aging Websites
Associations must acknowledge the inevitability of website obsolescence. Technological advancements, changing user expectations, and evolving design trends contribute to the rapid aging of websites. Regular updates, both in terms of content and design, are crucial to keeping the site relevant and engaging for members. The prevailing wisdom is that every 18 months or so the design zeitgeist changes noticeably and the design language can benefit from a refresh. The key objective is usually to keep just ahead of member needs and to deliver the expected user experience at about the same time or just ahead of demand from members.
Fresh and Topical Design
The visual appeal of a website plays a pivotal role in retaining visitor interest. Associations need to
prioritize a design that not only reflects the organization's identity but also stays current with industry
trends. A fresh and topical design not only enhances user experience but also communicates the
association's commitment to staying current in its field.
Sometimes design can be “evolved” from the current design and other times it needs a total refresh
and for an alternate branding and design language to be created that is in keeping with association
objectives going forward. Where this process has not been carried out for some time then it is also
possible that even the logo and core identity need to be recreated or evolved from the present.
In an era dominated by smartphones and tablets, mobile responsiveness is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Associations must ensure that their websites are optimized for various devices to provide a seamless experience for members who access information on the go. We recommend using platforms that “test” the new site on the widest possible number of mobile platforms.
Integration with CRM and EMS Databases
Associations often make the mistake of treating their websites as a marketing project and this
sometimes a separate entity from their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Engagement
Management System (EMS) databases. It is much more the case that the public facing website
information is just a small element within a much broader framework. Focus on what is behind the
login and the content before the login will be much easier to achieve.
Elevating the User Experience and Branding
A new web project provides associations with a unique opportunity to not only refresh the site's design but also to review and enhance overall branding. The user experience (UX) is a critical aspect that encompasses design language, navigation, and search optimization.
As design trends evolve, it's essential to ensure that the association's visual identity remains modern and aligned with its mission. A fresh design language communicates vitality and relevance to members. Consider incorporating elements that resonate with the target audience, reinforcing the brand's values and identity. You may already have content, design and colour guidelines but if you do not this may in fact be your first job.
Navigation and Search Optimization
The navigation structure of a website is its roadmap. Associations should evaluate the intuitiveness of
their site's navigation, ensuring that members can easily find the information they seek. Additionally,
optimizing the search functionality enhances user accessibility. A robust search engine and intuitive
navigation contribute significantly to a positive user experience. The capability of Google Analytics has
been updated recently and we can help to ensure that this is working optimally within your
User Experience (UX) Design
Delving into the intricacies of UX design is crucial for member satisfaction. Evaluate the user journey,
identify pain points, and streamline processes. Ensure that the website not only looks appealing but
also functions seamlessly, offering a user-centric experience. Member engagement often hinges on the
ease with which they can access relevant information and interact with the site.
Before diving into a new web project there are some important initial first steps. Associations must
clearly define their requirements and ideally gain consensus internally. To make this happen painlessly,
engage stakeholders, including members, to identify needs and expectations. Think about what you
are trying to achieve from the project. Is it to increase member engagement, facilitate event registrations, sell training places, disseminate information or perhaps to allow members to personalise
and control their relationship with you?
Selecting a Web Supplier
Choosing the right web supplier is a critical decision that can significantly impact the success of the
project. Associations should consider suppliers with both web design and development experience and also and importantly with sector database (CRM and EMS) experience and who have a proven track record of delivering user-friendly, responsive websites that are fully database integrated. Some questions to ask potential suppliers include:
• What is your approach to using websites to increase our productivity?
• Can your technology be rolled out at a reasonable cost and updated easily?
• Can you support multiple websites connected to our membership system?
• Can you provide examples of websites with successful navigation and search optimization?
By strategically using the web project as an opportunity to review and enhance branding, design
language, navigation, search optimization, and UX design, associations can not only meet the
functional needs of their members but also create a visually compelling and user-friendly digital
About the author
iFINITY are a vetted Partner to Membership World and Russell Franks is the CEO