Association Websites: 3 Ways to Engage Your Base

Your association’s team works hard to attract, engage, and retain its members. With a number of other responsibilities, it can be easy to overlook a simple, yet powerful tool for connecting with members: your website.

With social distancing guidelines keeping organizations and members physically apart, a strong web presence is more important than ever. For instance, a modern, well-designed website will help your association:

  • Boost brand awareness. With a website that’s wholly representative of your association, you can build a strong online identity as well as strengthen brand recognition within your industry.
  • Improve member engagement. With helpful tools and information about your work, your website can help cultivate relationships with existing members and position you as a respected leader in the space.
  • Enhance the member experience. The best association websites go beyond visuals and prioritize content. By balancing form and function, your website can meet members’ needs and drive organizational goals.

Remember, your association’s website is typically an individual’s first stop when looking to learn more about your work and get involved. Since it only takes a few seconds to form a first impression, your website should be optimized to attract visitors’ interest and provide a great experience. 

To ensure your team is equipped with the necessary knowledge for building a strong member website, let’s cover three key components:

  1. Valuable Content
  2. A Great Mobile Experience
  3. An Engaging Visual Design

Walking through this checklist will ensure you’re optimizing the member experience on your website. Let’s get started!

1. Valuable Content

Members are the lifeblood of associations, so you’ll want to prioritize their experience by featuring valuable content and tools pertaining to their needs. After all, nonprofit marketing experts claim that effective content is a fundamental part of organizational growth.

While the type of content varies from association to association, there are a few primary components that prospects and members will find particularly useful, including:

  • Information on your program. Your association’s website is a prime opportunity for converting prospects into members. In fact, providing helpful resources enables them to learn more about your program and deepen interest, according to this article. Capitalize on this by clearly telling visitors how and why they should join. Then, give them direct access to your application, so they can take action the moment they make their decision.
  • Member directory. When selecting your content management system (CMS), make sure you can add, edit, and categorize members into an easy-to-use directory. With interactive mapping capabilities, members can conveniently search and connect with others. According to Fonteva’s association member engagement guide, members should feel like they’re part of a growing community, and encouraging interactivity is an important consideration.
  • Members portal. Upon joining your association, members should gain access to an exclusive members portal, where they can pay dues and access member-specific resources. Further, your portal should remind them of upcoming events and allow them to update their personal details. Plus, according to this membership program guide, you’ll want to make sure to send automated notifications about membership renewal, which is simplified with the right membership website.

In today’s crowded online market, you need to go the extra mile to ensure your association stands out. Overall, attracting and retaining association members should be the primary purpose of your association’s website, so choose your content accordingly. By offering the above helpful features, you can create an immersive and valuable member experience through your website.

To further simplify the process, invest in professional membership website builder tools that are built specifically for associations. Otherwise, you might overlook vital functionality that your members may find useful.

2. A Great Mobile Experience

These days, many of your members are likely accessing your association’s website on their smartphones. In fact, mobile devices have consistently accounted for more than half of all web traffic since 2017. In the second quarter of 2020, mobile devices generated 51.53% of global web traffic, according to Statista. In other words, mobile usage is a vital consideration when it comes to association web design.

Whether your members are simply browsing your work or updating personal details on their member profile, they should be able to interact with your content regardless of the device they’re using. By ensuring that your association’s website is built for mobile use, you can easily avoid negative user experiences, such as:

  • Zooming in and out to read and interact with content
  • Rotating the device to view the page

Remember, every page, form, and pop-up on your website should scale for mobile devices. Otherwise, visitors may abandon your website altogether, according to this nonprofit web design guide.

To create a positive mobile experience for members, ensure your CMS offers mobile responsiveness so that your website will automatically restructure itself for mobile screens. Otherwise, your visitors will be greeted with a condensed version of your association website’s desktop view, which will make it difficult to navigate. With automatic responsiveness, your association’s team won’t have to worry about developing multiple versions of your website for mobile devices, tablets, and desktops.

3. An Engaging Visual Design

When you develop informative content, it’s important that you present this information in a visually appealing way. Otherwise, your association’s website may turn visitors away and prevent you from reaching your membership goals.

As you organize your content, keep these best practices in mind to make it easy for visitors to interact with your association’s website:

  • Scannability: Each member likely visits your website with a very specific goal in mind. Making your website easy to scan will help them quickly locate the information they need. Start by developing a visual hierarchy, which is how you present elements to imply importance. For instance, many web designers opt for a “Z” pattern, which considers where your eyes focus first, second, and third (i.e. a “Z” formation).
  • White Space: Simply put, white space refers to the empty space between page elements (e.g. images, text, and so on). While it may be compelling to take up all usable space on your association’s website, white space will help to break up content and ensure it’s fully digestible. For the best results, aim for a balance between white space and content.
  • Smooth Navigation: Navigation is a cornerstone of website usability. Ensure your navigation bar features pages your members will find useful. Take it a step further with strategically-incorporated calls to action, where you direct prospects toward your desired course of action. For instance, Morweb’s association website best practices guide states that many associations feature buttons in the top right corner of their navigation menu, linking to the membership login page and registration page.

These are just a few primary visual components to keep in mind. There are many other elements to consider, but these will serve as a solid starting point in developing a user-centric design.

With a limited staff juggling many responsibilities, your association may be hesitant to take on a website redesign project. However, learning what goes into a well-designed association website plays a key role in developing an effective member experience. By pairing these best practices with an intuitive website builder, you’ll be well-equipped to create an engaging web experience for your members.


Murad Bushnaq

Murad Bushnaq is the Founder and CEO of Morweb. Since its inception in 2014, Murad has acted as Creative Director and Chief Technologist to help nonprofits spread their vision online through engaging design, intuitive software and strategic communication.

September 10, 2020

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