The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

5 Easy Content Hacks For Your Association Website

Posted by Chris Bonney on Wed, Jul 15, 2015

Content is king on your association website. We just established that last month

So, then if that's true, how do we keep content churning online for your organization?

How do we make sure search engines find you relevant and your members find you indispensable?

If you're a large organization with a content team, you may have a handle on this, but if you're a strapping smaller staffed organization who wants some ideas on how to publish great content fast, check out this list of 5 great ways to creatively re-purpose existing content and/or re-think where your content can come from.

The effect? Dazzle your members instantly!

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Topics: content strategy, association websites

Content is King! Make it Regal with 3 Questions for Your Association Website.

Posted by Chris Bonney on Tue, Jun 16, 2015

While some say that content is King (and we agree), there are questions your content needs to answer before it can wear the crown.

Don’t be confused by thinking just any ol’ content can be considered King - or even Prince. Convert pauper content to instant royalty by applying these 3 questions to every word, image, feed or video on your association website today.

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Topics: web governance, content strategy, association websites

How To Work With Your Website Vendor For A Winning Association Website

Posted by Chris Bonney on Wed, May 20, 2015

Websites, email marketing, membership software, and online event registration are the bricks that pave the road to Internet success for most associations. Members expect to be served online, and your staff relies on being connected to headquarters from virtually anywhere.

Of course, as your technology needs grow, so does the reliance on your technology vendor. And if your technology vendor isn't responsive or isn't speaking your language, that road to success can go from smooth to bumpy in a hurry.

If you've found your organization struggling to sync up with your technology supplier, fear not: There is good news. Below are five key success factors to help you build or renew a positive relationship with your technology vendor.

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Topics: Vendor Relations, association technology, association websites

The Homepage Is Dead. Make Every Website Page a Homepage.

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Mar 11, 2015

One of my favorite Google Analytics stats is the “Landing Pages” report which shows what pages visitors see first when they come to your site. It’s tucked in there under Behavior>Site Content. Go ahead and take a look.

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Topics: best practices, 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

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Topics: web governance, web operations, association websites

7 Tips for Managing Your Association Website’s Homepage

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

This guest post is by Kim Howard CAE from Write Communications, LLC. Connect with Kim on Twitter at @kimhowarddc or by email.

Let’s be honest: associations are filled with fiefdoms.

Everyone is in charge of an area they believe is crucial to the association’s mission, and it all collides when each department wants to be represented in one place: the homepage of your association’s website. Whether the approach is subtle or obvious — everyone is screaming for attention and the desire to be big and bold on the website homepage.

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Topics: web governance, best practices, association websites

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

Skills of the Modern Association Website Manager

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Oct 28, 2013


Webmaster - a person responsible for the creation or maintenance of a Web site especially for a company or organization.

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Topics: web strategy, Google Analytics, content strategy, association websites

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

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