Your Website – The Center of Your Association

What is the first thing you do after learning about a new association, product, or company? Google it! Then you look for their website to find out more information. What does your association’s website say about you?

Websites are especially important for associations. Most association members never set foot in their association office, but they are on their website constantly, looking for resources, renewing their membership, finding out when and where the next conference is, looking up their local representative – the list goes on and on. While brick and mortar store owners find it very important to keep their shop clean and updated, associations need to turn toward their websites.

Here are some things to think about when developing or maintaining your website. Some of these may seem obvious, but we have all seen (and probably owned) websites that don’t meet these requirements. If you realize your association’s website is breaking some of these rules – don’t be embarrassed! That just means that it is time to have a talk with your Board and your webmaster to make things better. You will be amazed what a fresh start can bring.

Your website must be current.

Did your Annual Conference just take place? Then take down this year’s information and put up a Save-the-Date for your next Annual Conference. Make sure all of your information is as up-to-date as possible, especially when it comes to events and your leadership information.

Your site must be mobile.

Here are some statistics for you: 87% of smartphone owners check the Internet or email on their phones, including 68% who do so generally every day, and 25% say they “mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer”, according to a report from the Pew  Internet Project.

Think about this: you send out a blast email to your membership about your new conference, member benefit, etc. and tell them to go to your website for more information. Chances are that over half of them are checking that email from a smartphone. If it interested them, what is the first thing they are going to do? Click the link to your website.

I challenge you to pull out your smartphone and type in your association’s website URL. Most likely, you will pull up a smaller version of the website you see on your computer screen. Try to click through the links. Can you get where you want to go? Do things look normal? If so, good job! If not – maybe you should have a talk with your webmaster and see what options are out there.

If you are looking to update or remodel your website, look into a “responsive layout” or one that will convert automatically to smartphones or tablet. If you decide not to go with a responsive layout, at least consider smartphone users when developing your site.

Take your website off your server.

In today’s day in age, there are too many security risks hidden in having a server-hosted website. There are so many web hosting options out there, I am not even going to try to get into them all, but a few to get you started are WordPress (where this site is hosted) and Weebly (a comparable site). They both have plenty of standard themes, website hosting, and very reasonably priced domain name mapping so that yourassociation.org will go directly to your new site.

Have your contact information everywhere.

I cannot tell you how many sites I have visited in the past year where I have spent more time looking for contact information than I spent waiting in line at the Motor Vehicle Department. Okay – that might be an exaggeration, but the point is, that sometimes your members just need to contact someone.

For associations, this can be a bit tricky since there are so many people coordinating so many different projects it is hard to keep things straight. If you have an association management company or headquarters office, post their address, phone number, fax and email (usually a generic office email) where ever you can – this works especially well in headers, footers, or sidebars that show up on every page. Then create a detailed contact page with all of the contact information someone may need.

Another good way to list contact information is to put the person to contact on the webpage where the project content is located. For example, if Mary Jo is the lead on the ABC project, make a separate webpage about the ABC project and include “For more information about the ABC project, contact Mary Jo at (123) 456-7890 or maryjo@yourassociation.org”. This is not only great for your members, but also very helpful for your association’s staff or management company to direct member questions.

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