Did you know that it takes just 50 milliseconds for online users to form an opinion about your website, which ultimately determines whether or not they like it and if they’ll stick around? In half the time it takes most websites to even load, your online visitors have already made snap judgments about the value of your website and – by extension – your association or member organization.
Every one of those curious scrollers who winces and clicks away is a potential new member, you’ve just lost to something as easily-solvable as simple web design changes.
So, how do you start tackling poor association website design and determining which design elements will turn casual visitors into happy new members? If you’re at a loss for where to start, never fear—we’ve prepared these tried-and-true association website best practices to boost your online member acquisition:
- Optimize accessibility for any user, on any device.
- Use visual storytelling to capture the member experience.
- Tease users with sample content, previews, and perks.
- Leverage the promotional power of your member directory.
- Test, test, and test again.
With digital engagement on the rise, it’s more important than ever to use your website as an attractive, interactive hub to enhance the member experience and entice visitors to hit the registration button.
Optimize accessibility for any user, on any device.
First things first: your top priority is making sure that your website actually works when users click through it.
This sounds easy enough—if every site visitor were a digital native with a fiber optic internet connection and a desktop computer. Unfortunately, the reality is a lot messier, and many potential and current members aren’t going to fit that mold.
To ensure that every site visitor has the same smooth, seamless online experience no matter when, where, or how in the world they’re navigating your site, take a look at these UX best practices:
- Optimize your website for all devices, especially for mobile users.
- Cut down on load speeds by compressing images, minimizing redirects, and removing unused code.
- Use high-contrast colors for text and graphics, allowing visually-impaired site visitors to see your content.
- Include alt-text with all images, which describes visual content for users who might have a poor internet connection or use screen readers.
There are many small but important steps you can take to open up your website to a vast new audience of online users. However, there’s a limit to how much you’ll be able to tweak your website without some serious technical experience.
For best results, consider investing in a dedicated association website builder. A user-friendly CMS allows even the most technically-challenged association professionals to make effective changes to your website. Use drag-and-drop features, customizable templates, and member-specific design toolkits to make an association website that will blow users away—and encourage them to head straight to your membership registration page.
Use visual storytelling to capture the member experience.
Once users have successfully loaded your site, you’ll want to make the most of that precious half of a second where they’ll be judging whether to explore further or run away screaming.
This is where visual storytelling becomes your best friend. To immediately capture visitors’ attention and draw them into the narrative of your association, incorporate vibrant, professional images across your major web pages.
From Pulitzer-worthy candids of your event guest speakers in action to Instagramable snapshots of members, these snackable images instantly convey what your association stands for (and what you can offer users if they join).
Of course, pictures aren’t the only visual element to pay attention to. Don’t forget to build your membership website with:
- The tactical use of white space
- Concise, action-oriented text
- Complimentary color palettes
- Clean, striking typography
When you bring all of these pleasing elements together, you’ll have created an irresistible feast for the eyes that not only wows new site users but also engages current members.
Tease users with sample content, previews, and perks.
Now that you’ve survived that roller coaster of the first minute visitors spend on your website, you have to continue feeding their interest to successfully attract new members.
Remember that actions speak louder than words. So, rather than writing some long-winded appeal for users to give your association a chance, give them a taste of what they’re missing out on!
Take a page from the MemberClicks guide to building a membership website and strategically organize your association website for the public (including prospective members) so that they can access and sample enticing content. In particular, you’ll want to allow anyone to view your:
- Event calendars and promotional materials
- Key webpages, such as landing, about, and event pages
- Surface-level versions of your member directory
- Engaging resources that are useful to your members, such as informative podcasts
You could even offer tastes of event content, downloadable resources, educational materials and other small samples of everything your association has to offer. If users want more, all they need to do is sign up.
Leverage the promotional power of your member directory.
At first glance, your directory may just seem like a glorified list. But in reality, it can be a critical tool for member networking, digital engagement and (you guessed it!) public promotion.
Think of it as an online pamphlet that prospective members can flip through to see just how many passionate members have taken the dive to join your association. And for a small price, they, too, can access the full high-powered network of fellow professionals.
Be sure to invest in an association management system that can integrate seamlessly with your website. This will allow you to upload your directory directly into your CMS and automatically update member information as new members join and existing members tweak their profiles.
For inspiration on how to create and customize your own online member directory, check out Wild Apricot’s member directory templates.
Test, test, and test again.
When in doubt, test, test, and test again.
There’s no such thing as a perfect association website, and there will always be room for you to improve, adjust, and revamp elements of your site to maximize engagement and push individuals toward your registration page.
Use regular A/B testing to see how different versions and elements of your website perform and what steps you can take to constantly improve the online user experience.
This is especially important as web technologies continue to evolve and user expectations get higher and higher for what they want to see from your association web platform.
There are many moving parts to consider to build out a truly awe-inspiring, member-acquiring association website. To guarantee that you end up with a beautiful, functional web platform rather than Frankenstein’s monster, use these key tips and tools to guide you through the creative and technical process.
From investing in the right website builder and AMS solution to mindfully organizing your site’s visual elements, these insights should give you the confidence and power to create a membership website for the ages.