Your Association Website is Never a Finished Product
Would you be alright with the idea that, from this point forward, your association will not grow or evolve in any way? I’m sure you wouldn’t be. Reality is, we establish these communities for the express purpose of expanding them and bringing more people into the fold. Each association wants to influence their target market and evolve with its applicable industry. So, in order to go with the times, organizational change is inevitable.
If your association needs to change, so too does its website. Establishing a web presence without the intention of ensuring it reflects your association’s current identity is pointless. You might as well not have a website, and we all know that’s not an option.
Once you have your website up and running, you need to look at it like a piece of equipment – it will help you achieve specific outcomes, but only if it is properly maintained. There are short-term and long-term changes that need to be made to your website to ensure it performs for you as it should. We have highlighted a few of those changes below. The most important thing to remember is that for as long as your association continues to evolve, your website will need to follow suit. We wish, for your association and its membership, never-ending development and growth.
Most of the short-term changes that will need to be made to your website will be content-based. This means they can typically be completed by in-house personnel and can be executed with great expediency. These actions will constitute the lion’s share of changes that will need to be made throughout the lifecycle of your website. They also may be the most important since it shows your visitors that your association is alive and well – that you’re not idle and you have things going on.
- News / Events
- Sharing or commenting on news that is currently trending within your industry on your association website is a great way to stimulate traffic. If you can make your association the best central source of information within your market, your site will be people’s first stop when looking to read-up on what’s been going on lately. You’ll also want to keep people informed on what is happening with your association in particular. For example, if your association is hosting an event in the coming weeks or months, you’ll certainly want to keep site visitors up to date on that. These quick hits of industry or association information can be added to your site without much effort and are a great way to publish content without having to craft up a lengthy article. Keeping this section of your site fresh is quite important. If the last piece of news you shared is from a year ago or you’re currently promoting an event that has already gone by, visitors will assume your association isn’t very active because your website isn’t. Make sure to keep things current.
- This one needs no explanation. The more you write about the theme and focus of your association, the more optimized your website will be – thus allowing your association to be found much easier by your target audience. Not only that, blogs can be a great resource for your site visitors. Being so intimately involved in the industry through your association experience, there’s most likely quite a great deal of insight that can be shared with readers that they will find worthwhile investing time into. Blogs, if written well and done properly, can serve as a value add that your association can hype. Your content creators should publish a mix of short and long-form articles, so they are able to maintain a steady pace when posting while delivering more in-depth pieces here and there. Much like news updates, blog content is simple to add to your website and does a lot to show your visitors that your association is alive and well.
- Whether it’s a job opportunity within your association or the sharing of an opportunity that exists within your industry, you’ll want to draw attention to these roles when they arise. When searching for the right person to fill a role within your association, you want to advertise the skillset you’re looking for on as many platforms as possible – so you maximize the amount of applicants. Having the posting on your website is also beneficial because the potential applicant can get a favour of your organization by looking at all of your content in one central location, strengthening your odds of finding a person that shares the same passions put forth by your association. Sharing career opportunities outside your association but within your industry is also a great move, for two reasons. One, you’re helping both an individual and an organization fill a meaningful role. And two, you’re telegraphing to website visitors that your association cares about and contributes to the success of your industry. Posts regarding career opportunities will, by nature, be infrequent as they will only be shared when they arise. However, whenever an opportunity does pop up, it’s nice that you can get it up on your association website for all to see.
- Maybe your association has a new collaboration on the go, or has changed its strategic approach. Maybe you’ve added new resources (like e-learning), or had a changing of the guard. Whatever exciting updates occur within your association, you don’t want them to go unnoticed. Publishing these exciting advances to your website will allow visitors to better understand what your association offers and the direction you are headed in. These content additions usually come in the form of bullet points or short blurbs / announcements – so, the effort required to display them on your site is all but negligible. However, despite their seemingly insignificant stature in the grander scheme of your site, these brief additions provide a lot of insight to visitors and can even contribute to an affirmative decision to register for prospective members.
Along with short-term changes, your association will want to consider larger more laborious revisions to your website every few years. These changes are usually site infrastructure overhauls. Staying relevant doesn’t just happen – especially if your plan is to just continue on as you always have. Everyone knows meaningful change is uncomfortable and unpleasant (during the transition phase). You need to show you aren’t resistant to change every so often – just to remind your audience that your association isn’t here to get by, but intends to push forward.
- Maybe some time has gone by and your once cutting-edge site is now looking a tiny bit outdated. It’s inevitable. Web design trends in different directions just like everything. However, if you aren’t on-trend in the online world, the consequences can be dire. Reason being, we’re all pretty fickle when it comes to what we will tolerate while browsing the internet. Clunky or outdated design is not something many of us have much sympathy for. So, with that in mind, ensure you do a refresh of your website’s design every now and again. You don’t always need to be on the leading edge of design trends. Constantly shifting the function and finish of your website would be too costly and would confuse the visitor. However, you don’t want to fall too far behind either. Reviewing your design every 3 years is a healthy and reasonable interval. Ask yourself what is working and what isn’t. A complete overhaul of your design isn’t always necessary. You’re just looking to stay aesthetically appealing to the current day’s web-surfer and improve certain elements that may be lagging.
- You’ll need a very supportive and competent webhosting provider to successfully conduct this revision. Your association may see the need to transition your website from one CMS (content management system) to another. Maybe a certain functionality you are looking to achieve is more easily instituted through a totally new platform. The key is that you evaluate whether your current CMS platform is empowering your association to showcase their content in the most intuitive and impactful manner possible. You’ll want to stick with your chosen CMS for a good stint since transitioning from one to the next is a process that doesn’t happen over night. However, if every 5 or 6 years you evaluate your current platform and decide it’s not allowing your association to accomplish its desired vision, it’s most likely time to move on.
- A rebrand (whether provisional or total) is something you need to be very strategic about and it can only be done very sparingly in the longevity of your association. It should also mark a specific event. For example, maybe your association has transitioned into a new industry because of a shift in the market or maybe you’re celebrating a significant anniversary. Whatever the case may be, the rebrand should have some purpose behind it. You’re certainly going to want to think long and hard about the direction the rebrand should take you in, since you’re going to need to live with its design for some time to come.
- As the make-up of your association changes (membership growth and expansion), you may need to consider moving from one AMS to another that is more accommodating of your growth. This means that you will need to integrate that new AMS with your website. You always want a streamlined experience for your members when navigating from your association website, to the member login portal, to the AMS. Since you won’t be changing from one AMS to another frequently, this is probably a website revision you won’t need to think about all that often. However, when you do transition to a new AMS, it’s best to select a provider that is experienced in not only the provision of that solution, but also its integration into a CMS. Ensuring your AMS and website are cohesive is terribly important in both retaining existing members and attracting new ones.
Never treat your association website like a finished product. It needs constant upkeep. Whether it’s a short-term or long-term revision, they all play key roles in presenting your website in the most beneficial and impactful way. Ensure you are maintaining a consistent effort with the short-term changes and invest in a trustworthy and experienced provider for the long-term changes.
If you’d like to find out more about how Guild can support you in providing a world-class AMS that is perfectly integrated into an appealing association website, please click here.