For a membership-based organization, your website is arguably your most valuable real estate. It’s where you members spend the most time interacting with your organization, and often where they spend time interacting with each other. Since your website is the real headquarters of your organization, it’s important that your website be member-friendly. What your members want in a site is not difficult to determine. They want a site that they can navigate easily and where they can find important, useful information. In other words, your member’s love of your website is bought with two elements: ease and value. Let’s take a look at how you can include both of these elements to create a website your members will love.
Ease of Use
Remember how frustrating it is to make your way through a website that loads slowly, is clogged with information, and that you have no idea how to navigate? We’ve all been there. What you don’t want is for that to be your member experience on your organization’s site. There are a number of web design elements that go into ease of use, but the major ones are intuitive navigation, easily comprehensible content, a structure that makes sense, and page speeds that don’t leave you tearing your hair out.
Intuitive navigation may sound complicated, but all it really means is that visitors come to your site already knowing how to navigate it. Don’t be tempted to do something fancy with the navigation. Clearly defined, easily accessibly links to pages within the site or an obvious way to access members-only sections are what visitors want. On a similar note, it helps to keep your site structure simple as well. A should lead to B should easily lead to C, and the more you clog up your site with extra pages, the less your members will be able to determine what’s actually important.
One final thought on ease of use for websites – many of your members may be accessing your site through their phones or mobile devices. Make sure that your website is mobile responsive, so that visitors have a positive experience no matter what they’re viewing it on.
Though ease of use may make visitors happy, what really draws your members to your website will be the value it offers. Your website can provide value through the content it offers, the questions it answers, and the resources it provides. For example, the American Medical Association offers access to online versions of its journal through its website, and the Air Line Pilots Association, International has a list of resources that members can access through its website that range from an incident hotline to information on airspace restrictions. Both of these organizations do an excellent job of providing value that members need or find useful to further their association involvement and careers.
When you’re building a website that your members will love, don’t forget to make it user-friendly for you, too. Ease of use doesn’t just apply to the member experience, it also applies to maintenance and any issues that you’ll have to deal with on the back end. In order to end up with a website that keeps all parties happy, partner with a software developer that offers training and one-on-one support for website issues. When your site is user-friendly and valuable for everyone involved, your members will rave and your life will be significantly easier.