The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

The 5 Things All Association Websites Must Have

Posted by Chris Bonney on Tue, Feb 21, 2017



As you consider the state of your web presence for 2017 and beyond, take a moment to consider these 5 things that we believe every association website should have…as of today.



We at Vanguard Technology define web personalization like this:

Presenting Web content based on what we know about a user with the intent to optimize their online experience.

You’ve seen it in action on when the site recommends a book based on a previous purchase or on Netflix when, based on a recently watched TV show, they display a couple more you may like. Truth is, though, that these examples are only the tip of the ice berg of what’s possible.

Imagine being able to present a page like this screenshot below to a user (named Sheryl) based on information you have stored in your AMS:


The benefits of personalization are many, but a few include:

  • Relevant, modern experience
  • Increases conversions
  • Improves efficiencies
  • More return visitors
  • Bond with your brand

There is even data from Forbes that says people are more than willing to provide additional personal information if they feel it will lead to a more personalized experience.

Additional Resources:

Find out more about website personalization through this quick 30-minute webinar replay on YouTube. Great over a lunch break.

Watch personalization webinar

Or check out this blog post on the 5 pitfalls of personalization.

Read personalization blog post

Responsive Web Design

Your members have expectations when it comes to how your website will render on their mobile device.

Responsive web design ensures that your website displays in an appropriate and useful way regardless of what device (smartphone, tablet, laptop or independent monitor) your members may be using.

It’s imperative starting immediately that responsive web design is part of your website, but there is also a way for those that already have responsive web design to kick it up a notch.

Consider context. Why might your members be accessing your site on their mobile phone? Where might they be when they are doing it? Consider our client ASTS. As you can see from the screenshot below, their mobile home page looks different than their tablet home page. Why? Because they asked their members what would be important to see on a mobile phone and their members responded with some insights that led ASTS to hide and show content based on actual user needs.  


Additional Resources

Article: Responsive Web Design Defined

Faceted Search

Site search is an integral part of any association website. It’s important that the search displays relevant results, but equally important is that users can filter the results to make it easier to view what they want to see most. We call this faceted search.

Many times a site’s taxonomy can be the driver of your site’s facets. So facets could be by topic, tag or type of file, for example.  The screenshot below shows a very robust, faceted approach for one our client’s search results page.


Web Accessibility

"Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality."

- Wikipedia

According to W3C: "Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photo-sensitivity and combinations of these.

There are 3 standards that are commonly referenced when it comes to web accessibility.

  • ADA Compliance
  • 508 Compliance
  • WCAG 2.0 Compliance

WCAG 2.0 is the recognized international standard and what Vanguard Technology uses for reference when optimizing client sites. And while there are no international laws requiring organizations to follow these standards, a website optimized to WCAG 2.0 is likely to be an improved experience for all and will keep your organization's site up to expected standards. offers a quick checklist of WCAG technical guidelines that translates what constitutes WCAG compliance into easy-to-understand terms:

There are several online tools you can use for testing your association’s website for compliance. Here are a few:

It can’t be overstated how important web accessibility is becoming in today’s world.

Content Strategy

Last and certainly not least, content strategy.

According to "Content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content.  Content not only includes the words on the page but also the images and multimedia that are used. Ensuring that you have useful and usable content, that is well structured, and easily found is vital to improving the user experience of a website."

This is not something for associations to put off or feel like maybe their website isn’t worth this extra effort. If you’re serious about increasing membership, meeting registration and non-dues revenue then you must at least explore the possibilities.

Additional Resources


Webinar replay:



In Closing

While there are other best practices to surely follow with your website, if you’re looking for the things that will make you competitive and keep you up with modern conventions, then start with this list of 5 things your association cannot live without.

Topics: content strategy, association websites, personalization

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