The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Inconsistent Website Experiences = Confused Members

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Feb 07, 2013


What to DoHave you ever stepped out of the elevator in an unfamiliar building and spun around a couple of times looking for the exit? Remember that feeling of not knowing what direction is what?

That’s how web users have when they land on a website that is totally different from what they experience across the web as they use a number of website. 

In the audience analysis phase of a website redesign project, I always explore the sites and sources that users use for their work. Every just about about person is able to rattle off at least 4 or 5 other websites that they use for work whether it is their company website, an online tool like Salesforce, or industry news sites.  Add to that list online banking, personal hobbies and Facebook time (which we can all agree sucks up too much time) and just about any potential visitor to your site is looking at anywhere from 10 to 12 different websites on a daily basis.

The reality is that your website is not a daily destination for your members like CNN or Facebook.  In fact, data analysis from 10 Vanguard Technology website design projects shows that members visit your association’s website at best “a few times a month” (40.7%) and more like “a few times a year” (44.7%).

That’s way a consistent web experience is critical to how successful users will be when they navigate through your association’s website.

Every now and then we have a client look at a wireframe and say, “It looks just like every other site.” That’s the point. 

Because for the few times someone comes to your website, we want the site to follow web standards so your users:

  • Know what features to expect
  • Know what certain page elements do
  • Know where to find these features on your site (and use them)
  • Don’t have to think too much to use your site

 A few important standards to follow include:

  • Setting your logo in the top left cornerwhere the eye first lands on the page
    • Another best practice is to always have it linked back to the homepage so wherever the user is, they can return home.
  • Placing the member login in top right corner. Consistent logins across the web from Google to Amazon have their login in the top right corner.
  • Inserting a search box near the top of the page for users who are looking for specific content and know exactly what they are looking for.
  • Putting subpage navigation in a sidebar to help users find your deeper content.
  • Using footer navigation so users have options of somewhere to navigate to next when they scroll to the bottom of your page.

As Jakob Nielsen says, “users spend most of their time on other websites.” By following these principles, you ensure that when your members get to your site they are able to navigate and read your content.

So take a hard look at your association website and compare it to the other sites you use on a daily basis. Compare it to the other sites your members and potential members use. How does it stack up? Are you following these best practices? 


Looking for an expert opinion? Sign up for our complimentary association website review from Vanguard Technology and we'll tell you how your site performs from your member's perspective. Click the button below for more information.

Topics: members, user experience, usability, association website design, associations

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