The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

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

Implementing Website Governance for Associations

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Apr 08, 2015

Today’s guest post is by Shane Diffily. Shane has over 15 years' experience in Web Governance & online operations. As author of the first practical guide to Web Governance ("The Website Manager's Handbook"), Shane has also been published by A List Apart, Smartinsights & Forrester Research. For free Web Governance downloads and resources, visit www.diffily.com.

 


Web Governance is a discipline that describes how to manage an online presence in a controlled and orderly way.  Put simply, web governance describes:

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Topics: web governance, best practices

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

Taxonomy, Categories and Sitefinity – Organization Meets Presentation

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

“Taxonomy – a scheme of classification”

One of the most powerful features of the Sitefinity Content Management System is the ability to assign a taxonomy to content, allowing website managers to filter, sort and display content based on a set of defined categories.

However while most of our clients are excited about the potential of using the CMS taxonomy, we typically first hear “What’s a taxonomy? And how will the CMS use it?”

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Topics: best practices, content strategy

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

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Aug 07, 2014

Today's guest post is written by Susan Young, CEO at Get In Front Communications. Connect with Susan on Twitter at @sueyoungmedia or by email.

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Topics: best practices, content strategy

Engage and Convert: Add Links to Other Pages in Your Association’s Website

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

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

Everyone struggles on a daily basis to find the best possible solution for each situation in the least amount of time. Whether looking for training, dealing with technical issues or just trying to keep up with a growing information tsunami, web searchers often find themselves going for the “satisfice” option when it comes to linking.

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Topics: best practices

Engage and Convert: Make Your Association’s Website Content “Web Friendly”

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Jul 16, 2014

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

Words Matter

Visitors to your association website don't want to exhaust themselves wading through an endless chunk of text just to find out who you are and what you offer. By filling your pages with great portions of text –  without images, videos, or any way to interact – you will send your potential users away.

Of course, you need words.

But you don't need as many as you may think.

In his essay 'A Storyteller's Shoptalk', the great, late short story writer, Raymond Carver, once said: “That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones.” Carver was known for his succinct style, and for crafting deceptively simple sentences almost any reader could engage with. Now, Carver never wrote for websites, true enough, but we can learn valuable lessons from his quote.

Research by the Nielsen Normal Group shows that you can achieve a 58% increase in usability by cutting half the words on your page. Furthermore, in his book Don't Make Me Think, Steve Krug explains his 3rd Law of Usability by telling us: “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half what's left.” This may sound extreme, but it really will work. Users will not be impressed by a wall of text on every page, no matter how eloquent it may be.

Try focusing on shorter paragraphs, and get rid of what Krug calls:

  • 'Happy talk' with too much salesy waffle
  • Pointless instructions
  • Unnecessary adjectives (e.g. that)

Once you begin to remove certain words and phrases, you may just be amazed by how much more engaging your content becomes.

Take a look at the following example from Don’t Make Me Think. Both pieces share the same goal, yet their structure is very different:

The following questionnaire is designed to provide us with information that will help us improve the site and make it more relevant to your needs. Please select your answers from the drop-down menus and radio buttons below.
The questionnaire should only take you 2 to 3 minutes to complete. At the bottom of the form you can choose to leave your name, address, and telephone number. If you leave your name and number, you may be contacted in the future to participate in a survey to help us improve the site.
If you have comments or concerns that require a response please contact Customer Service.

This is written well, and clear enough, but it's far too wordy. Let's see the smarter choice:

Please help us improve the site by answering these questions. It should only take you 2-3 minutes to complete the survey.
NOTE: If you have comments or concerns that require a response, don't use the form. Instead, please contact Customer Service.

As you can see, the above version is much better: it takes less time to read, it features more white space, and it tells the reader exactly what they need to know. By using “customer service” as anchor text linking to the company's customer contact page, the reader also has a call to action for a clear next step.

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Topics: web governance, best practices

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

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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