The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Digital & Mental Spring Cleaning

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Mar 28, 2012

Spring Cleaning for your Association Website

It’s that time of year to open the windows, grab the cleaning supplies and wipe away the stale air and grime of winter occupying our homes as we look forward to days spent outdoors.

So it is only appropriate that over the past few days, I’ve taken on some “Digital Spring Cleaning” of my own.  As I synced my iPhone I got a notice I had 70 app updates.  I didn’t even know I owned that many apps!! So I took a quick look to see what could go away to make room for the next round of digital innovation.

The whistle has blown Virtual Vuvuzela, the World Cup is over. Fork it over Urbanspoon, Yelp has taken my order. And it’s time to fly Angry Birds, I’ve migrated to “intellectual pursuits” such as Words with Friends.

Next up came my browser bookmarks which had become the junk drawer of my web browsing. (Sorry, too many embarrassing websites to recount here.)

“So what!” you say. At first glance these are meaningless pursuits irrelevant to my professional life, right?


These are products and services someone paid money to develop, that engaged me and I paid my own money for.  And when they didn’t keep up or maintain my interest – I moved on.

So, what is the implication for your association website.

We do a good bit of audience analysis as part of our discovery process at Vanguard Technology.  An eye opener for clients is the response from the question “How often do you visit X association’s website” and they see how many responses are “a few times a year.

Really? An organization you paid good money to join? That sends you a glossy magazine every month? That put on that fun-filled, educational conference you attended a few years ago?  So what happened?

The most common answer?  “I forget about it.

You might as well have opened up the mental junk drawer and throw your association website into it.  And the next time your member is doing their own “mental spring cleaning” they might empty out that drawer.

So what can you do to make sure that your site stays top of mind for your members and users?

    • Fresh Content – Websites are living, evolving platforms. Make sure you have both the functionality and process in place to publish new information that matters to your members. Go beyond association press releases or early registration announcements and give your members news they can use to make their jobs/lives easier.

    • Promote. Promote. Promote. – If members are forgetting about your website, then tell them about it. Links in email newsletters, a section in your journal/magazine of “what’s new on the web,” a unique link in your email signatures, whatever.  Just take every opportunity to tell your members that this great resource for them.

    • Expand your Digital Footprint – Your website is more than just the content sitting in your .org domain. Become your own digital publisher and make sure to leverage “off-site” exposure through social platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter), sharing and search engine optimization.

    • Mix things up – Experiment a bit and try new things. Make the experience on your site unique so if someone hasn’t been there a while they say “whoa!”  A Vanguard client recently celebrated their 50th anniversary by changing all the colors on their site templates to gold. It was a striking change that kept users engaged.

Of course these are only a few ideas to keep things fresh and fun so your members remember you.  What are your favorite ideas? What has worked for you? Add a comment below and let’s find more ways to make sure that your association website doesn’t end up in the dustbin of that spring cleaning.

Topics: web strategy, Ray van Hilst, association website design, Websites, content strategy

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