The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

New Years Resolutions for Association Websites

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Jan 05, 2015



The new year's fresh start gives us an opportunity to regroup, refresh and recommit. Many create personal resolutions such as being healthy or making time for family. But what about professional resolutions?

For web managers, the new year is also a chance to take a fresh look at their website and make resolutions to better their organization’s most visible asset. So with an eye on the future, here are our top resolutions for every staffer managing or working with their association’s website.

Commit to Steady, Incremental Content Improvements

Association websites are big. Huge. Colossal. Ginormous. Small association websites start at 300 pages and I’ve worked on some with 15,000+ pages and documents.

So if you want to improve your website how do you possibly start? Well, it’s like the old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…” (Not that I encourage eating elephants).  Or in the case of a website – one page at a time.

Make a commitment to incremental improvements every time you edit a page or document in the site. Clean up the layout, add SEO meta data, edit the content for better web writing, or just add some relevant links. The goal is to spend 5 minutes improving each page, and over time the entire site will be improved. For some tips getting started, check out my Ebook 5 Website Improvements to Make in 5 Minutes (or less).

Make a resolution to improve every page or document every time you touch it and over the course of the year, you will make your entire website better.

Get More Staff to Create Web Content

All of your association's staff create content of some sort whether it is a press release, announcement or industry report. Whether they like it or not, they are content marketers (hence the first rule of Monica Bussolati’s Content Marketing Manifesto  – “If you are creating content, even editorial content, you are engaged in marketing.”)

But how many of these other staff members consider themselves “web writers?” Make this the year you get more staff creating content for your website and online channels.

Start by getting them to create web friendly content that is written for scanning and quick reading. Then encourage them to build out their skills as a modern website manager and focus on content and quality over technology.

Make a resolution to get help managing your association’s web content and turn it into your most powerful tool.

Make Members the Central Mission of Your Association Website

Every association executive says their mission is “to serve members.” Unfortunately, too many websites lack this same commitment and are built to serve the structure of the organization rather than members’ needs.

Start by understanding that members (and potential members) visit your association website to answer questions or solve a problem. Deliver a member-focused experience that meets their needs first and engages them throughout the site.  Get started by create personas for your audiences and then publish content addressing these personas.

Then reinforce your commitment by including images and stories about members in the site. Capture case studies like the American Telemedicine Association or highlight profiles like the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. If possible, use photos of members since studies show that photos of real people engage users.

Make a resolution to put your members needs first and engage them through your content.

Create a Governance Plan

There are 3 types of association websites:

  • The “let’s put everything on it” website with lots of buttons, links and every PDF ever published
  • The “forgotten” or “we don’t have time” website which hasn’t seen an update in months
  • The smooth running, regularly updated, easy to navigate website with fresh, relevant content and an easy to follow navigation

What’s the difference? The 3rd version has a Web Governance plan defining the website’s strategy, when content will be published and how those decisions are made.

There are many articles to learn from as you build your strategy including sources like A List Apart and this infographic from Diffily.  Either way, the key is to make a plan for managing your website. (If you’re not ready to take on governance with the entire website, start with a governance plan for just the homepage with these 7 tips.)

Make a resolution to put structures and policies in place so your association can have a smooth running, regularly updated website.


What are your resolutions? What will you do differently in the new year? Now is the time to take a fresh look and commit to making a difference in your association’s website’s content, experience and management.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Ed Donahue

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Topics: web governance, web operations, association websites

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