In the modern association world, merely hosting in-person meetings and live events isn't enough to keep members renewing their membership.
It’s imperative that you carefully think about your own association website experience and how you can make it better for other users. Having a thriving, stable, and collaborative online community can help promote member engagement, retention, and acquisition.
What is an association website experience?
Let’s first discuss what encompasses a user’s experience on the web. According to Usability.gov, in order for a website to have a meaningful and valuable user experience, the website content must take into account the user’s needs, values, abilities, and limitations, while also accurately expressing the hosting organization’s mission and goals.
Consider how your website can urge potential members to learn more about your association’s mission and what it can offer. At the same time, your website should also provide space for current members to engage with each other and continue to discover unique experiences your association offers.
In this article, you will learn about various web design essentials that will affect your association website’s user experience. Hopefully, with the following site elements, you can engage website visitors in a more productive way:
Easy navigation system
Accessible online member portal
You don’t have to be a master coder to optimize your association website experience. Are you ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
1. Provide an easy navigation system
You might not consider your website’s navigation system as a high priority, but think about it as a visual map of your entire online presence. Without an accessible and clearly organized website menu, users won’t know how to get from one page to another. How will potential members find out about your upcoming events if they don’t even know how to get there?
As soon as a user enters your site, the navigation system should be prominent without overpowering the entire page. This first impression is extremely important, especially for these two reasons.
Your website is the gateway for potential new association members. As soon as a person hears about your association, the first place they’re looking is online. Ensure that your website’s branding is aligned with your organization and presents all necessary information a prospective member might be seeking. For instance, the navigation bar can include links to the mission statement, current member testimonials, upcoming opportunities, and member guidelines.
Your website is a resource for current members. Your website should serve as a hub for your current members and host all necessary information, such as an event calendar or FAQs. This is also a great place to encourage online engagement, whether that’s through connections to social media platforms or an accessible online portal where members can easily interact with each other.
Don’t risk users entering your website and immediately exiting because they don’t know how to navigate it. Preemptively eliminate any confusion by offering all essentials up front.
2. Host an accessible online member portal
Members often join associations to meet others in their field and learn from each other, so it’s a huge mistake to not have any type of online opportunity for members to engage. With 90% of Americans using the internet regularly and your association membership constantly growing, a dedicated place for online engagement becomes a necessity.
It’s important to go the extra mile to exceed modern members’ expectations. Your best bet is to host an online member portal that can be accessed from your main organization’s website.
Within the online portal, your association’s members can:
Get to know each otherby scrolling through a member directory. It’s a good idea to create a profile for each member with a photo, basic personal details, and even official professional accreditations.
Self-edit their profile. Ensure the information is accurate and let members choose how they present themselves to others. If one of your members needs an address change, they can skip the typical back-and-forth communication they would have with a staff member and make the switch themselves. This saves everyone’s time and reduces the risk of inaccuracies or duplicates.
Interact with each other through online message boards or forums. It’s great when your members can get to know each other and engage outside of the events your association hosts. This not only sets a foundation for community-building, but also provides a space for members to give feedback.
Providing this online community is a great way to encourage members to renew their membership. Members are less likely to leave when you engage with them on a consistent basis and form meaningful bonds.
3. Offer eLearning opportunities
One of the biggest perks of a successful, modern association is the learning experiences it offers. This can range from hosting an event with an influential speaker to offering multiple sessions where members can gain official accreditations. These unique experiences keep members renewing while also attracting new ones.
If you’re brainstorming ways to boost member engagement, online learning opportunities can help. For starters, many members might want to take advantage of your in-person experiences but can’t because they’re busy that day or don’t live in the same area.
This additional outlet of member engagement and education can help those members accomplish more and remind them of the value that comes with being a part of your association.
Post these eLearning courses on your event calendar so users on your website can get a sense of all that your association offers. This is also a great way to attract potential members. Perhaps they’ll see an opportunity they want to partake in and then make the effort to become a part of the community.
Ensure your association management software can integrate with a capable learning management system (LMS) so that eLearning opportunities are accessible right on your website.
This way, members can:
Browse upcoming online courses and opportunities
Register for classes they’re interested in, as well as cancel if needed
Gain important certifications on their own time
Continue to advance in their field
eLearning courses can take your association to a whole new level. The more unique experiences and educational opportunities that you offer, the more interest your members will have in continuing to be a part of your association.
4. Use event microsites
The most popular way associations engage their members is through events. Whether you’re hosting a conference for industry professionals to come together or a gala to celebrate a recent accomplishment, you need to consider how to facilitate registration and collect tickets.
Often, organizations will register attendees for their events by providing an online registration form on their website. Associations do this as well, whether it’s accessible through a form embedded on their main site or hosted on a third-party platform like Eventbrite.
To better promote your association’s event and attract more attendees, consider hosting an event microsite for all of your event details and online registration. A microsite is still associated with your main website, but also a distinct entity all on its own. Once your event is over, the microsite can be removed.
Consider these reasons why an event microsite might be beneficial for your association:
Attract attendees who aren’t members of your association. Without the clutter of other association information on the website, potential guests can get a better sense of the event. If your event is open to the general public, an event microsite might lead to more non-member registrants. After your event, they might even want to officially become members!
Capture lead metrics to better understand how people are finding out about your event. This way, you’re equipped with better insight into how to promote your next event. For example, if they clicked on the link from a social media post, prioritize your social media activity.
Create more targeted marketing efforts and advertisements. It’s easier to lead all potential guests to your event microsite. It will serve as the hub for everything related to your event, whether users are seeking the schedule or the registration form.
Ensure your event microsite is reflecting unique event details while also staying branded to your main site. Building an effective landing page for your event doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply make sure it includes the registration form, event details, social sharing options, and contact information for whenever a registrant has questions.
If you’re feeling intimidated by the concept of improving your website’s user experience, don’t worry. With following the tips in this guide, you will know how to meet your visitors’ needs before they even voice them. By engaging your members and encouraging community building, you will set yourself up for success.
Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.