The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

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

The Conference-Klout Experiment: The Results Show

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Sep 06, 2012

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Topics: web strategy, ASAE, Ray van Hilst, Uncategorized, twitter, Klout, Experiment, social media

The Klout-Conference Connection

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Fri, Aug 03, 2012

I know. I know. I whined in an earlier post about my Klout score going down. But then I realized…

I’m going to #asae12 next week!

(also known as “ASAE 2012 Annual Meeting” for the hashtag impaired)


When I attend conferences or education events, I’m one of those people with the iPhone/iPad/computer busy tweeting away comments, asking questions, and nodding my head in agreement up at one of my fellow attendees’ Tweets.

So I wondered… “What is this going to do to my Klout score? What is the cumulative effect on Klout scores for all of the Tweeps actively participating?”

Which leads us to the Conference/Klout Connection Experiment.

    • Capture pre-meeting Klout scores and Twitter Profiles

    • Follow-up after the meeting to collect Klout scores and other data

    • Analyze and see if there are patterns in the changes (or if there even are any changes)

If you are curious and want to participate, fill out this quick survey.


Then Tweet away and have fun. After the meeting, I’ll email everyone with the link to the post-meeting survey.

And if you would like to discuss or take a look at some of the preliminary results – Tweet me (@rvanhilst) or come by the Higher Logic booth (booth #617) where I will be hanging out.

Oh…. And thanks for participating in my experiment.


Disclaimers:

    • This experiment is for fun, curiosity and information only. Unless you request it, I will only email you to follow-up or share the results. 

    • Vanguard Technology is a Higher Logic Solutions Partner and will be participating in their booth.

Ray van Hilst is Director of Client Strategy and Marketing at Vanguard Technology. Connect with him @rvanhilst or rvanhilst(at)vtcus.com.


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Topics: ASAE, Ray van Hilst, Uncategorized, twitter, Klout, Experiment, social media

Take Charge and Define Your Metrics

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Jul 30, 2012

With giddy anticipation, I recently opened an email from the social influence site Klout hoping for a new Klout perk (What would it be? A magnet, a new sticker, or offer for some hipster clothing line my 42-year-old body doesn’t fit into??)

However, hopes were dashed as I noticed it was my “Weekly Influence Summary”:

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Topics: web strategy, Ray van Hilst, Uncategorized, Klout, Metrics, web operations, Authors, analysis, Google Analytics, Websites

Informz Users Conference Big Idea - Email Really IS Social

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Tue, Sep 20, 2011

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Topics: Communications, Ray van Hilst, Uncategorized, social media, informz, email marketing, social media guidelines

A Tale of Two Tweets - Part I

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Mar 23, 2011

It was the best of tweets. It was the worst of tweets.  With respect to Charles Dickens, tweets aren’t classic literature.  But the emotions, plots and aftermath of tweets often make for great stories… and important lessons.

Obviously, two of the most talked about tweets (at least in social media “expert” circles) in the past months are in this realm – the mistweets by @redcross and @chryslerautos.

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Topics: web strategy, Ray van Hilst, Uncategorized, twitter, social media, crisis communications, red cross, Vendor Relations

Free "Must See" Webinar: Mobile for Associations - What You Need To Know Today

Posted by Chris Bonney on Sun, Oct 11, 2009

Find Out Why Mobile Matters Today

Tuesday, October 13th, Noon Central

In this 45-minute webinar, learn why mobile could be the most important technology for your association to consider in 2010.

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Topics: Uncategorized

Site of the Week: Twitter Tools

Posted by Chris Bonney on Fri, Feb 27, 2009

Okay, so you've heard of Twitter already, right? But did you know about all the other applications that people have built as a complement to Twitter? Here's a list to get you started.

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Topics: Uncategorized

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