Is Your Association Website Stuck in Neutral?

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One choice will get it in gear. One choice will move you forward.

By Mike Steckel

MikeSteckelWhen association leaders consider a web design project, there are usually two problems they want to solve:

  • How do we attract new members to our organization?
  • How do we inform and keep our existing members happy?

To create an effective website, you may need to decide which one has higher priority. That’s the problem: How do you pick one?

One strategy is to consider your membership opportunity. Are more than 50 percent of your total potential members signed on with your association? Plot your organization on this continuum:


If a high percentage of your total potential members are already on board, you fall far to the right end and should devote most of your homepage to making sure those existing members are happy and see the value in what you provide.

But if very few of your total potential members are signed up, your homepage should (primarily) make your case for joining. Here are association web design ideas when you need more members:

  • Place the membership form where it’s quick and easy to find
  • Share your (well written and concise) mission statement — i.e., why you exist
  • Make the case for why someone should join your association
  • Link to more detailed “Why Join?” pages.
  • Establish your credibility by using member testimonials, years of service, awards, etc.
  • Concisely list the benefits of membership

You want your homepage design to instantly convey this simple message: You should join.

What about association web design ideas when you need to retain current members? On the right end of the continuum, when you need to keep your membership churn low and demonstrate your value, you should create a homepage that displays features like:

  • Educational opportunities with easy sign-up
  • Helpful reports and publications
  • High-level lobbying successes (e.g., “We killed this bad bill. We passed this good bill.”)
  • Upcoming events with easy sign-up (and fun photos from previous events)
  • Services and benefits that members may not be aware of
  • Quick links to member services pages (which might do the work of a “Why Join?” page)

The quick and obvious takeaway your homepage should offer: We are working to make you successful. Use your homepage to make sure those members continue to see value. Choose to display issues of current concern to members, publications, member profiles, and other links.

Remember, we’re talking about balancing both new members and existing members. While it is unlikely that you should divide your resources exactly 50/50, you should never ignore the secondary audience.

You may be thinking: “I am not sure where I fall on the continuum.” The first step is to calculate what percentage of your total addressable market are your members today. How you do this may depend on your industry or population. Settle on a number, and then find your place on the continuum, which will, in turn, influence how you design your website.

Mike Steckel is director of user experience at Mighty Citizen, a digital branding and marketing agency for associations.