The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

6 Warning Signs Your Association’s Website Copy Needs Help

Posted by Chris Bonney on Wed, Aug 30, 2017

In a world where the Web can make you feel as vulnerable as it does powerful, your association's website copy – the words on the page – is gratefully something you can control with ease. So why is it that so many associations still have challenges creating Web pages that generate interest and engagement?

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Topics: copywriting, association website design, content management system, content

Does Your Association Website Need a Remodel Or a Redesign?

Posted by Chris Bonney on Fri, Jul 08, 2016

We fielded a survey a few months ago to find out how often associations redesign their website and how they manage their sites.  One of the most amazing things we found was this:

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Topics: association website design, best practices, content management system, content strategy

Should You Tell Your Website Vendor Your Budget?

Posted by Chris Bonney on Tue, Sep 29, 2015


As a technology provider for associations for over 15 years, we've seen quite a few RFPs in our day. Some written well, some not so much. Some with a very clearly articulated purpose, some rambling with little sense of what they are really asking for. And to be honest, these things are not deal-breakers by any stretch. 

What is a huge help, however, in the RFP process is to know what your budget is for the website redesign project you're requesting. 

Ha! You're saying. Of course, you want the budget so that you can bid right up to the penny and squeeze every dollar out of our organization for the least amount of work. Okay....maybe you're not saying that exactly, but you may still feel it's prudent and a best practice to get the best price from all vendors before sharing your budget. Or maybe even still not sharing the budget at that point. 

And we totally understand your reasoning. But...

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Topics: RFP, association website design, budget

Engage and Convert: Ensure Visual Hierarchy on your Association Website

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Tue, Jul 08, 2014

This is the first in a series of blog posts based on the “5 Website Improvements to Make in 5 Minutes (or Less)” session I co-presented with Maggie McGary at the ASAE Membership, Marketing and Communications Conference in June 2014.  Each post will cover one of the elements we discussed in more detail with today’s post covering Visual Hierarchy.  To get a sneak peek of future posts, view the slides from our session on Slideshare.

Key Elements of Visual Hierarchy

Never underestimate the importance of your association website's visual layout. Whatever your target audience, whatever your sector, all websites need to follow some basic design rules to ensure maximum engagement with visitors.

Here are three important elements to remember:

  • The more important an item is, the more prominent it should be - You can think of your site's layout the way a journalist creates news articles: the more important a piece of information, the higher up in the article it appears. So, when designing each page, you need to be sure that the most important elements are the most prominent – the bigger they are, the better the chance your visitors will get a fast understanding of your page's unique message. This is your hook.
  • Items related logically should also relate visually - Any aspects on your website which are connected by theme or type should share a visual design. So, for example, if your site offers webinars, conferences and online learning, these could be grouped as “education,” and therefore be placed within the same box: neat, tidy, simple.
  • Items are nested visually to show what's part of what  - In other words, each group of products or services should be clearly separated to allow users to see the individual components of the respective group. This is basic navigation sense, allowing users of all levels to find what they need, exactly when they need to. 

F-shaped Reading Patterns

Users read websites in the same F-shaped pattern: they start at the upper part of the content area –  typically where the titles and essential information sits – in a horizontal movement, before proceeding down the page a little bit. They will then read across the screen again, in a second horizontal pattern, shorter than the first – this covers the F's lower bar. Lastly, users will then scan the left side, in a vertical pattern, completing the F. 

Designing your page to follow this pattern ensures a smoother reading experience for the user, offering more comfort and ease than a simple block of scrollable text, or a stream of text in a poorly erratic layout.

The image below from the Nielsen-Norman Group shows this pattern in action.  For more information about how readers follow this F-shape pattern, check out this article.

Layout Considerations

To maximise user engagement, then, you need to create a visual hierarchy within this viewing pattern. You also need to communicate user value: base your navigation and layout on the user's key actions.

How do you do that? Place yourself in your visitor's shoes. What do you want or need to see within the first two seconds of landing on your homepage? Does your current layout present who you are & what you do in a clear, engaging way? Are the visuals attractive? You need to keep the user and let them explore the site based on their needs – they must be able to get from one page to another with a minimum of fuss. You need to engage your user enough to convert them into a customer.

The Call to Action

This is a key feature of your content – you must provide the user with a 'next step' in order to complete their experience. Whether this means filling out a form, registering for an event, or connecting with you on social media, the CTA needs to be clear, persuasive and unmissable.

For example, you could use something along the lines of:

“For more information about applying to cooking school, download the Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Restaurateur.”

This is fast, easy to understand and clearly explains what the user will click through to.

Other quick calls to action include:

  • “If you found this helpful, share it on Facebook or Twitter”
  • “Connect with fellow members on LinkedIn”
  • “Stay informed of this and other important policy issues by signing up for our Action Alerts” 

So, take a look at your website and compare it to these best practices. Does it feature the F-shaped pattern? Are the visuals eye-catching, clear and engaging? Does it make you want to stay on the site or click back out as fast as you can?

If the answer is no, give us a call – we'll revamp your site and boost user engagement for maximum results.

Free eBook - 10 Things Members Want from Your Association Website

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Topics: usability, association website design, best practices, association websites

The #Tech13 Top 10 List – It really is "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Dec 02, 2013

This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year as it is time for the 2013 ASAE Technology Conference and Expo.  And this year is a bit more exciting for us at Vanguard Technology because we’ve put together an exciting booth and will be participating in the expo portion of the conference (Hint: Stop by Booth 1132 to say “Hi!” or pick up a giveaway like a tee shirt with the cool design you see to the right).

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Topics: web strategy, ASAE, association website design, association technology, content management system, association websites

How long does it take to design an association website?

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Sep 23, 2013

It seems like I have this conversation about once a week: 

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Topics: web development, association website design, project management

Your new website isn’t ready for launch. And that’s OK.

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Jul 11, 2013

You’ve toiled for months. Your team has scoured every nook and cranny of your old website and spent hours making every pixel perfect for your new online home.

So, are you ready to launch?

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Topics: web development, web strategy, checklist, association website design, association websites

5 Web Design Trends for Your Association Website

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Jun 06, 2013

This guest post is by Sharon Bending, President and Creative Director of Bending Design

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Topics: association website design

Website Redesigns: What to Know Before You Start

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, May 30, 2013

I wish had known about X…

If only I had thought about Y…

If I had done Z we would have launched on time…

It is natural to look back at the end of a website redesign project and realize there were things you hadn’t thought of or didn’t know before you started the project. But as the saying goes, “there are things we don’t know and then there are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

While some of our clients are seasoned web redesign pros, we also have many that have never been through a web project (much less one as complex as the redesign of an association website).

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Topics: mmcc, ASAE, website redesign, association website design, association websites

Alternatives to Cliché Photos for Your Association Website

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Apr 18, 2013

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Topics: association website design, emotional design, best practices

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