As an association professional, you know the importance of providing a valuable member experience and proving your worth to prospects. Through membership, constituents gain access to networking opportunities, training, events, and more. But how do you share these valuable resources and opportunities with your members?
Most likely, your website is a key piece of your association’s engagement strategy. Especially in today’s digital-first and socially-distanced world, your association website is not only the core of your online presence but one of your main lines of communication with members.
A well-designed website ensures your members always have access to key information. Additionally, your site is the first stop when an individual is looking to learn more about your work and deciding whether to get involved.
As such, you want your association’s website to be both well-designed and fully functional. A beautiful website means nothing if your members and prospects can’t find their way around and accomplish key activities.
We’ve gathered a few of our favorite best practices for designing association websites so that you can take yours to the next level. As you get started revamping your association’s website, make sure you:
- Ensure it’s mobile-responsive
- Feature valuable content
- Be vigilant in checking for errors
- Prioritize smooth navigation
By following these suggestions, your members will have a smooth and positive experience every time they visit your site. Let’s jump in!
1. Ensure it’s mobile-responsive
Even the most beautifully designed website will struggle to drive engagement if it only functions well in a desktop environment.
In recent years, smartphones have outpaced traditional computers across many areas of interest. Some people are even forgoing computers completely in favor of the convenience of tablets and smartphones. Today, over 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices.
To account for this, meet your members (and prospective members) where they are by providing a well-designed mobile-friendly experience.
Mobile responsiveness is the concept that web content should adapt—or respond—to the size of the display. With a mobile-responsive website, elements including text size, navigation, layout, and images will automatically shift to look nice and function properly on any device.
According to Morweb’s guide to association websites, a lack of mobile responsiveness results in users having to constantly zoom in and out or rotate the device to view content. You don’t want to risk your members and prospects having such a negative experience.
To avoid these, be sure to implement best practices for mobile web design. Be sure to consider elements including:
- Load time. Especially on mobile, today’s web visitors expect lightning-fast page speeds. In fact, up to 40% of your visitors could leave if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- Layout and size. Make sure elements appear at a size that makes sense for a small screen. This applies to font size, images, and overall layout.
- Menus and navigation. Reformat the menu on your website for convenient mobile navigation. Often, this means converting to a hamburger-style menu that conceals itself when not in use.
- App-like design. Draw inspiration from native applications for an enticing visual experience. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Mobile responsive design elements will give it an app-like feel.
- Form functionality. From event registration to new member applications, your association website will house numerous forms. Ensure they’re fully functional on mobile devices, or users may grow frustrated while trying to fill them out. You don’t want to miss a question from a member or a potential lead.
These tips will help you get started on your quest to provide an optimized mobile experience for your association’s website. Many CMS platforms even provide automatic mobile responsiveness to simplify the design process.
See This Tip In Action: Thanks to a mobile-responsive design, the American Friends of Covent Garden website looks superb on a variety of screen sizes.
2. Feature valuable content
Your success in leading an association is defined by the value you provide your members. By sharing useful information and opportunities, you can improve member retention and experiences.
As this guide discusses, it’s important to leverage tech tools for association member engagement, and your website is a crucial part of this. Considering it’s one of the main touchpoints for members (especially in a remote world), your website should prominently feature all the valuable resources your organization offers.
Be sure to include features such as:
- A member portal. Members should have easy access to key tasks like dues tracking, payments, and members-only content. Further, your portal should send them reminders about upcoming events and allow them to adjust their communication preferences.
- Event information. Enable members to locate upcoming event details and register to attend. You may even choose to host your entire event online! Virtual association events are especially common right now, but as Web Courseworks notes, they’re more accessible than in-person events in any circumstance.
- Discussion boards. Networking and a strong community are key to a positive experience for your members. Provide opportunities for virtual connection and conversation with forums and discussion boards.
- Career resources. If relevant to your association, you’ll want to include key information such as job listings, mentorship programs, or details about any upcoming networking events.
Backed by the right membership website builder, you’ll be able to easily offer these features to your members. In turn, you’ll develop a strong online community and provide a seamless experience to your generous supporters.
See This Tip In Action: The Elbow Park Residents Association’s website is a great example of this: they provide information about events, programs, volunteer opportunities, and offer a member-only login area.
3. Be vigilant in checking for errors
Even once your association website is up and running, your work isn’t over.
For your website to be successful in the long run, you need to continue making improvements, creating content, and checking for problems.
Depending on how you create your website, you may have to make updates to your theme, system, and plugins to minimize cybersecurity risks. Using a maintenance-free association website building platform that handles these updates can save time and ensure you’re always up to date.
Once any system updates are out of the way, you can focus your efforts on checking for other issues. While it’s always important to proofread your content, we recommend consistently screening for errors beyond grammar and spelling mistakes.
Set up a plan of action for regular website maintenance tasks, including:
- Checking for 404 errors
- Ensuring forms are working properly
- Archiving old and expired content
- Updating time-sensitive information
- Confirming correct contact information
- Fixing broken links
By remaining vigilant about these common issues, you’ll be able to keep your membership website in mint condition. You won’t need to worry about prospects getting a bad impression from outdated content or your members getting frustrated by functional issues.
See This Tip In Action: While you want to minimize 404 errors on your website, it’s also a smart idea to put a design in place for when they inevitably occur. The Marketing Alliance’s 404 page is a good example of how an error page can be on-brand and drive continued engagement.
4. Prioritize smooth navigation
If you’ve followed the above tips, you should have a mobile-responsive website that’s packed full of valuable content and free of errors. The final — and arguably most important — consideration is a navigable and user-friendly design.
With poor navigation, time spent on your website will go to waste since visitors won’t be able to find the information that they need.
Prioritizing intuitive navigation will boost overall usability and create a more positive experience for everyone who visits your website.
You’ll especially want to put thought into:
- A well-designed navigation menu. Your menu will most likely be located at the top of your website or in a sidebar. Whatever the placement, it should be clear, easy to read, and accessible on every page of your website. If you need to include a lot of links, make sure to use a mega menu with dropdowns based on a clear and thoughtful hierarchy. You can also include additional links in the page’s footer for items that still need to be highlighted but not as prominently.
- Strategic CTA placement. Your website should streamline the conversion process and make it simple for visitors to join your association. Include calls to action in your menu, at the end of informational articles, and on all forms. Prioritizing these elements will drive further engagement and valuable conversions.
- A search feature. Although members should be able to access critical information from your main menu, some individuals prefer to find what they need by searching. This can also help older content like blog posts to provide continued value to members, since it will be more easily accessible.
Navigation is a make-or-break feature that heavily impacts visitors’ experiences on your association’s website. By paying close attention to these elements, you’ll ensure your association’s innovative content can be easily accessed.
See This Tip In Action: A great example of this is the Canadian Tamil Medical Association website: they have a functional header, their homepage is easy to navigate and the top of the page features an important call to action.
Your association’s website is the cornerstone of your online presence. As such, it’s worth investing the appropriate time and resources into making it shine. With a functional and attractive website, you’ll be better equipped to attract new members and engage with your current community.