The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

7 Must-Haves for Your Association Website in 2018

Posted by Chris Bonney on Fri, Jan 12, 2018



You probably came across some really awful websites in 2017. Maybe they had bad design or maybe they had terrible functionality. Whatever it was, you’re probably not likely to return to them anytime soon. The very best websites are pleasing to the eye while also having essential behind-the-scenes features to make them functional and effective.

Will your site measure up in 2018?

With the start of the new year, Vanguard has seven important must-haves to ensure your association website is regarded as one of the best. 

1. Robust site search

Robust search capability is what sets a great site apart from a good site. We are a “search” culture which means if you don’t have a powerful search box providing highly relevant results, your site’s reputation could be diminished.  

There are two types of site search: faceted and federated. Faceted search means users can filter the results to make it easier to view what they most want to see. Federated allows the simultaneous search of multiple systems - like your AMS, LMS and CMS - all at once.

Making certain your site is easily searchable is one of the most important ways for members to leave your website feeling informed. Your association website should at least include up-to-date faceted search capabilities as you consider enhancements for 2018

2. Web accessibility

Website accessibility, or creating websites that are easily accessed by people with disabilities, is a topic that Vanguard has been championing for a while now. And more recently the trend towards accessibility within the association world has become more and more prevalent.  

Website accessibility can be confusing due to three standards that are commonly referenced:

  • ADA Compliance
  • WCAG 2.0
  • 508 Compliance

For more information on this topic, download our Practical Guide to Web Accessibility which highlights the best ways to make sure your website is hitting the mark. Also, check out AudioEye -- a company we’ve partnered with that provides the technology to make interfaces more usable.

3. Responsive web design

Did you know that over 60% of online searches are now done via a mobile device?

Having a responsive website means that users will never have to zoom on their phones to see your content. Instead, the responsive website will adjust to the pixel-width of the screen you are using. So, whether your members opens your website on their desktop, tablet, or smartphone, the experience will be flawless and all content will be easily seen and accessed.

4. Personalization

Remember that time you bought a book on Amazon and during your next visit it recommended three more books based on your past purchase? That’s personalization. It’s not just knowing your name, it’s knowing what you like and what information you most need to see.

Amazon isn’t the only website that uses that technology, nor should it be. There are easy ways to make your website personalized. Some examples include pulling up the weather in your region, or offering up new information about the geographic areas your members are coming from.

5. Tight integration

How is your single sign-on? Do you have seamless login between your website content, your online community and your publications, for example? Your users shouldn't have to login twice. And the look and feel should be seamless, too.

6. SEO-friendly content

A Search Engine Optimized or SEO-friendly website is essential to remaining competitive. When adding content to your website, you need to be thinking about title tags, headers, and alt tags. Additionally, your home page needs a keyword.

By staying on top of SEO -- and having a website that is built for continual SEO updates -- your site will go from a place that hosts information to a powerful business tool.

7. A quality CMS

If you haven’t already, 2018 is the year to implement a CMS. A Content Management System takes difficult and complex behind-the-scenes functionality and makes it easy for marketers and staff to update your site.

The right CMS program means your site will be more easily managed and will be flexible and scalable for the future.

At Vanguard, we use Sitefinity CMS as it provides the agility to experiment with different tactics and approaches. Additionally, it optimizes customer engagement across many channels. We recommend it to all our clients.

Now Is the Time

The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of what is working with your website and what can be done better. Don’t let another year pass you by without making the updates that will take your association website from good to great.

Topics: web strategy, association websites, personalization, 2018

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