Weblinx, Incorporated

Association Web Design

From the outside, it might be easy to assume that association website design projects are like most others. After all, every client needs good visuals, user-friendly layouts, and an online marketing plan that includes elements like search engine optimization.

But when you start to drill down into the details, you find that association website design is actually a unique category all on its own. That’s because associations function in a space where they aren’t quite businesses or nonprofits (at least not in the traditional sense) and have many different groups to please. They need to tackle recruitment, education, advocacy, and a number of other roles all at the same time.

An association website will be the hub of this activity, and the most visible marketing piece the group can deploy. For that reason it needs to be something better than ordinary. Connect with us today to see what we can do to help your professional organization grow, communicate, and hold successful events.

Our Work

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The Best Association Websites

At Weblinx, we have worked on hundreds of association website design projects – from the smallest to the largest. Through many years of work, analytics, and creativity we have discovered there are a handful of ways you can level up a lot of your online presence and make it stand out. If you want to level up your association’s next website, then follow these simple tips...

Look for Clean and Simple Layouts

In most cases, an association is going to be more complex (in terms of its mission, leadership structure, and organizational goals) than a business will. That’s why we always advise associations to keep their web designs relatively simple. You want visitors focused on what you’re doing, not a complicated animation or a quirky design.

This isn’t to say that your pages shouldn’t be beautiful. They absolutely should be. The point is simply to acknowledge that every animation, pre-loaded video, or other element you stick on your association website makes it harder for a first-time visitor to understand who you are and what you do. The last thing you want is for a potential member or supporter to click away because they can’t find the information they were searching for.

Naturally, organizing content is a challenge on any web design project. Association executives simply have a smaller margin for error. You can get away with having something offbeat when you’re selling energy drinks, but if your site needs to appeal to business owners, executives, or politicians (as simple examples), it’s better to be clear and direct.

You certainly will want your association website design to be impressive. First impressions always matter and your group’s credibility should be a big consideration. Never choose glitz over substance, though, or you could end up doing more harm than good when you launch your new website.

Create Content for Each Visitor Group

It’s easy to forget just how many different groups of people could visit an association website on a given day… and how different each of their needs could be. For your online presence to be effective in helping your group reach its goals, it needs to fulfill a lot of different purposes.

For an easy way to understand this imagine for a moment that your website was a single person who worked as a receptionist, and that every online visitor was coming to meet them at the front desk. On any afternoon that employee could encounter:

  • Dozens of people who are thinking of becoming association members
  • Current association members who are looking for calendars, industry news, or educational programs
  • Media members who are looking for quotes or background information for a story
  • Students considering careers in the field your association serves
  • Politicians who might be drafting legislation that affects your industry
  • Vendors who would like to do business with your organization or its members

There may be several (or dozens) more additions to the list based on the size of your organization and the type of members it serves. However, the point is easy to understand: you need to have content in your website that speaks to each of these audiences and addresses their questions or concerns.

Accomplishing that can take a bit of planning and effort, particularly when it comes to generating content. However, once you fill out your association website with the right information and resources, you have something that can help your group advance its mission 24/7. It can help you meet new people, tell them about your group, and steer them toward the outcomes you’re working for.

Go With the Right CMS for Future Updates

You don’t only need to have lots of targeted content on your association website, but also to have the ability to update it regularly. After all, your organization’s goals might be consistent over time, but leadership, training programs, and monthly schedules are all likely to change (to name just a few of the obvious items).

To put this another way, you shouldn’t expect to finish your association website design and then never think about it again. That’s just not realistic. A much better tactic is to work with a web design team that will give you the right content management system (or CMS) and then learn how to use it.

There are several considerations when choosing the right CMS. Cost is always going to be a factor, of course, but you should also think about things like online security and ease of use. You’ll certainly want to keep confidential information on members away from prying eyes, and to have the ability to update buyers, event descriptions, etc., in a matter of moments.

Most associations will choose WordPress as a platform to manage content, but it’s worth talking through the various options with your creative partner. What matters most isn’t the specific solution you choose, but rather that you have the tools and skills needed to keep your website current and updated after it has launched in the future.

Add Features That Increase Engagement

Never forget that the point of building an association website isn’t to end up with a website – it’s to increase membership, improve the visibility of your industry, and meet other tangible goals. If you can keep that focus in mind, you’ll have an easier time choosing the right apps, plugins, and features for your website.

Far too many web design clients, whether they are tied to associations or not, spend a great deal of time thinking about layouts and photos while ignoring other impactful elements. For instance, you should think carefully about how you might be able to use online calendars, web-based membership registrations and renewals, or interactive learning guides. Any of these could provide value to your members while also saving time for your staff.

None of these web features is difficult to build into a new website, but they’re much easier to design and install when you’re thinking ahead. The last thing you want is to prioritize the aesthetics of your website so heavily that you’re picking out backend tools at the very last minute as an afterthought.

A good web design partner will walk you through the desired results of your project before they have drawn a single pixel. Make sure you devote a bit of time and energy to this step in the process because it will help you figure out what sort of functionality you need to make your association website design a success.

Do More With Programming and Development

While we are on the topic of association website functionality, we shouldn’t wrap up this article without mentioning the benefits of custom web programming.

In many cases, a new website will only need ready-made apps that can be licensed and applied to a certain CMS. For example, there are dozens of good systems you can use to sign up new subscribers to your online newsletter. There are also others that can help with scheduling meetings across time zones, converting currencies, and so on.

Sometimes, however, a client will come to us with an idea for a feature that hasn’t been developed before. It could be because they have a novel idea, or because the proposed solution is so unique to their organization that it wouldn’t apply elsewhere. In fact, they might not want to share with others.

When that happens we explore custom programming. That can involve developing new web-based software that organizes data, automates certain tasks, or even facilitates the flow of money or personnel based on demand. Naturally, custom programming is more time intensive and increases the cost of association website design. But it can occasionally make the difference between a good website and the perfect solution.

Most associations don’t need custom web programming, but it is worth discussing with your creative team at the start of the process. You never know when you might come up with something that will revolutionize the way your association operates.

Does Your Association Need an Upgraded Website?

Whether you have a brand-new association or just need to bring your web design up to date, we can help. Even better, you don’t have to make any big commitments to get started. Just contact us directly and schedule a complimentary consultation and brainstorming session.

In just an hour you will see how we help associations like yours grow to the next level – and why so many leading industry groups won’t work with anyone else.

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