The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

10 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right CMS for Your Association.

Posted by Chris Bonney on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

It could be argued that the content management system (CMS) is the most important element of your site.

Sure, having a credible and professional association website is paramount, too, but an efficient CMS is a bedrock upon which you can build stellar digital experiences. Unless your users get a consistent experience across sites, channels, and devices, any attempt to engage them will likely fail.

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Topics: CMS, content management system, association websites

Website Redesign Project Lessons: Inside the Brilliant Mind of a Project Manager

Posted by Chris Bonney on Thu, Aug 11, 2016

 

This is a guest post from our senior project manager, Denise Pace. It's great advice for any association about to embark on a website redesign. 

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Topics: process, project management, CMS, association websites

If Content Marketing is the new black, why are associations wearing plaid?

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Apr 10, 2013

Content Marketing is the “hot new thing” as for-profit marketers rush to create infographics, whitepapers, newsletters, checklists and anything else that will generate inbound traffic.  SEO agencies change overnight into “Content Marketing Agencies.”  And every marketing expert out there is declaring, “Content marketing is the new black.”

The more we read, associations should be relieved because they are already on the leading edge of this trend.  Searchengineland.com points out the key elements to successful content marketing: content, distribution and trust.

  • Content – Associations have journals, magazines, newsletters, industry reports, seminars, continuing education and more.
  • Distribution – Associations already have established publication distribution, websites, annual conferences, social media channels, grassroots advocacy, evangelist members and other channels.
  • Trust – Associations are the recognized, unbiased leaders for their industry with these same for profit marketers paying dues as members of the association.
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Topics: web strategy, CMS, content management system, content strategy, association websites

Encouraging “Play” for Association Websites and Technology

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Mar 13, 2013

My third grade son is doing a school project that requires a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation. No big deal, right? Except that the teacher isn’t going to teach them how to use Powerpoint

As his teacher said:

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Topics: association website design, CMS, association technology, content management system

5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Website

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Oct 04, 2012

“I always make sure that when my team touches a piece of content or collateral, they make it better than it was before. No matter how small the requested change is.”

I was inspired by this comment from Bennie Johnson, Global Chief Marketing Officer at the HR Certification Institute.

It’s a liberating concept.  We website managers look at the Herculean task of updating thousands of website pages and making the whole thing better.  Then throw our hands up in frustration.

But here’s a better approach… make a series of small improvements and over time you will change the whole thing.

Maybe all you’ve been asked to do is update a date or add a paragraph.  You only have 5 minutes and need to move on to the next task.  How can you possibly make an improvement on the page without this turning into a big deal?

Here are 5 quick fixes to can make while editing each page that over the long term will gradually improve the quality of your website.

1) Make Sure There Is a Visual Hierarchy

As you look at the page, are you SURE you know what the most important thing is on the page?  Or is all content given the same weight? Make sure the most important content or message is the most prominent, that related content is grouped together, and there is a flow through the page.

2) Clean up the Content to Make it “Web Friendly”

Web users only read 25% of the text on a page and scan pages rather than actually read them.  Take a few minutes to shorten the content, break into shorter paragraphs and highlight key content with bullets and/or bolding for emphasis.

3) Add Relevant Links to Other Pages in Your Site

The origin of the web was text documents that linked to each other. Look at the content on the page and find opportunities to embed text links to other relevant pages in your site.

4) Add SEO Meta Data and Plain English So the Page Can Be Found

Make sure the page has an appropriate description and keywords in the meta data.  Keep the description brief (under 160 characters) and write it from an outsider’s perspective.  Also make sure the content is free of insider jargon and uses plain English based on how external audiences would refer to the subject.

5) Add a Graphic or Photo to keep Users Engaged

Pages with graphics and photos grab users interest and keep them on the page.  Add a small photo or graphic to illustrate the content on the page.  Keep it under 200 pixels wide so it is noticeable but doesn’t detract too much.

Lastly, decide if the page needs more work than you can do right now. Every now and then you’ll come across a page that needs more attention than you can give it in 5 minutes. Decide if this is one of those pages and notify the page owner or subject matter expert that it needs a bigger review and update.

By making these small improvements in each site page as you update your content, you’ll find that over time you have improved the entire site.  If each journey begins with a first step, the path to a better website can be filled with many small improvements.

Additional Resources:


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Topics: Communications, Ray van Hilst, usability, Tactics, seo, messaging, Uncategorized, CMS, Websites

Using Sitefinity: A First Time User's Perspective

Posted by Chris Bonney on Thu, Sep 13, 2012

This guest post is by Alicia Leonard, Vanguard’s Online Community Specialist, who we recently drafted to migrate a few client websites.  Since this was the first time she had ever used the Sitefinity Content Management System (CMS), we asked her to write about her impressions as a new user and former association manager.


In today’s day and age, you’re nobody without a website.  People can’t find you, don’t know what you do, or why you do it.  Without it, you just don’t rank against competitors with an established, robust internet presence.  Associations and non-profits used to be immune to this phenomenon, but this has begun to apply to them as well.

What to do?  Associations are strapped for cash, time and people.  Websites are expensive.  They take people and man-hours, and both are already spread thin. In my short time using Sitefinity, I see how its simplicity and user-friendliness makes it a perfect solution for associations. This product is so easy to use, it enables an organization to have a first class, dynamic and professional website without specialized, technical staff.

Sure, I know this sounds like a well-practiced sales pitch. But let me assure you, I have seen other website content management solutions out there. It’s not pretty.  In my previous life working in one of those short-staffed, small budget associations, one of my many tasks was to maintain the association website.  Through various stages of the site’s life, I used a few CMS products.  None of them were good.  Those tools are the main reason behind my rapid acquisition of HTML – the user interface was that bad.

My role at Vanguard was at first related to different aspects of the web redesign process and I was using other products and tools to assist our clients with their projects.  But with some looming deadlines, I got thrown into working with the Sitefinity CMS – without much training since everyone else was so busy.  (Don’t worry. We provide great training for our clients.)

And let me tell you, this CMS is definitely a thing of beauty.

The shortage of Sitefinity training proved to be a non-issue.  It is so intuitive, it truly is as easy as breathing.

Want to link to a document right here?  No problem, type the text, click a button, pick your file and bam – you’re done!  Want to have one of those menu items actually go to another website?  Simple.  Just label it a redirecting page.  Next time you click on that item, you’ll be at your new destination.

Getting content into the site is a breeze and styling it even easier!  Yes, I know HTML now, but I almost never need it, that’s how easy to use the interface is.  The styling buttons are so easy to interpret and create very attractive results.

When I first came to Vanguard, I said I was getting to keep all the parts of my association job that I loved like client interaction and working with websites, without any of the stuff that I don’t miss.

I had no idea that I could fall in love with web design all over again.  Thanks Sitefinity.

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Topics: vanguard technology, usability, Uncategorized, sitefinity, CMS, Websites

5 Tips for a Successful Association Website Redesign and CMS Migration

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Dec 01, 2011

Next week is the ASAE 2011 Technology Conference and Expo.  On Wednesday, I will co-present a session on Web Redesign and CMS Migration Best Practices with Tobin Conley from Delcor and Kathryn Hamilton from NAIOP.

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Topics: Ray van Hilst, Tactics, CMS, Websites

Your Association IS a Business. And the Website is Your Store.

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Tue, Mar 01, 2011

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Topics: web strategy, association management software, Ray van Hilst, association e-commerce, association website design, CMS, Websites

Webinar: Why Integration Matters

Posted by Chris Bonney on Mon, Jun 21, 2010

This webinar has passed. Click link below to listen to recording.

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Topics: ams integration, association management software, webinar, DAXKO, CMS, Websites

5 Things Every Association Website Should Have In 2010

Posted by Chris Bonney on Mon, Apr 05, 2010

As you consider a new website for your association this year, keep the following 5 things in mind. They are in our experience the components that make a new website viable, meaningful, sticky, scalable, member-focused, modern and relevant in 2010.

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Topics: web strategy, web 2.0, social media, website redesign, mobile, CMS, association technology, Websites

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