The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

How Much Does It Cost to Design An Association Website?

Posted by Chris Bonney on Tue, Jan 19, 2016

After “how long will it take” the other question we most often hear is “how much does a website design project cost?”  Well, the short answer is... it depends.

Just like building a new house, you can design and build a townhouse, a ranch-style rambler… or a McMansion. It depends on how much “stuff” you have, how many rooms you need and how you plan to use it. 

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Topics: web governance, web strategy, website redesign, budget

2016’s New Years Resolutions for Association Websites

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Jan 04, 2016

It’s time for cookies hit the trash, fresh bodies to swarm the gym and for us all to take a reboot to make ourselves better.  But instead of wading through the (temporary) crush of bodies at the gym… let’s make some different resolutions. 

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Topics: web governance, web strategy, Google Analytics, 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

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


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

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: 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

Moving Day: Is Your Association Website Content Ready for Its New Home?

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, May 21, 2014

Drive down any street at this time of year and a brief glance at all the real estate signs tells us a new season is approaching. Moving season.

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Topics: web governance, web operations, content strategy

Disappearing passwords. Who can access your web based tools?

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Nov 04, 2013

This is a updated version of a post from my personal blog. This situation came up with a client last week and I realized that this reminder is still relevant.  Yes, people (and associations) lose passwords.

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Topics: online tools, web governance, association technology

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