At Vanguard Technology we’ve done over 100 redesigns over the past 10 years. The majority of those have been for associations. And the one thing we’ve continued to be amazed at year after year, whether it’s been 1998 or 2008 is the lack of the three most important elements we feel every association website must have.
This is the most common mind-bogglingly missing button from association websites.. “How do people join your organization through your website,” we innocently ask? “Well, you have to click the membership button then go to the membership benefits page then there is a link at the bottom of that page called ‘membership application.’ You click that button.”
We then, of course, ask how important membership acquisition is to their organization. “It’s very important,” is the answer.
Takeaway: Have a join button on your website. Make it big and bright and easy to see. Make it part of your template, not just your home page. And, lastly, assume when someone clicks the button they actually want to join. Send them right to the online application. No middle pages with copy, no explanations.
Okay, so now you have a person who clicked your join button on their last visit and are now returning to your site to check out all their online member benefits, including your social networking community (you do have one, right?).
So, how does this member get in? How do you ensure you’re not frustrating them right off the bat?
The second most neglected button on association websites is the login button. Many have one but it’s small and lodged in the upper right corner of the site. Many have the actual login and password boxes available so that you don’t have to click to login, which is fantastic as long as it’s part of your site template and is accessible from anywhere. Many have that option only on the home page, abandoning members if they wish to login from anywhere else on the site.
Takeaway: Have a login button on the template of your site. Make it large and bright. Guide your members, especially your new ones, to the access they desire. Of course, also build in the functionality that once a person is logged in they no longer see the login button but a personalized greeting like, “Hello John.” Provide a different button now that they’re logged in called…drum roll, please…logout.
This is where things get a little sticky. “We have a renew button,” is what you’re thinking. “It shows up when a member’s payment is coming due. We’re not stupid. Of course, we tell people when they need to renew. We don’t want them to lapse.”
So, here’s the follow up question. What about former members who have lapsed that, for whatever reason, have come back a year, two years, three years later and want to renew? Are they joining or renewing? What are their options? Clicking the join button is not their best one. “You should have my information,” is what they’re thinking. Let’s make it easy for former members to renew.
Takeaway: Show a renew button to everyone that is not logged in.
How It's Done
If you go to the NACE website, you’ll see an organization that embraces this concept. The National Association of Catering Executives has grouped these three buttons and displayed them prominently on the template of their site. No doubt for users, old or new, where to click for these most vital actions.
How many members do you acquire through your website today? Would you like that number to be higher? Could a well placed Join or Renew button be the answer? Is there a fourth button to consider?