The Basics For An Association Web Site

If a brand new statewide association came to me and asked me:

“What are the basics we should want in our web site release?”

The first thing I would do is refocus their attention. Don’t just focus on your web site release, but your organization’s web presence, and they are different things. A web site is a server location and the information that can be found and the things that can be done at that location. Web Presence involves how your organization can be seen and resourced on the web. Web Presence is social media, search engines, site plug-ins hosted elsewhere, web references, analytics, online advertising, email distribution options, maps, etc. It’s not just how your site looks on the web, it’s how your organization exists on the web.

The web site, of course, can be (and for most associations should be) seen as the hub of and for this activity, but as web presence efforts evolve this can become less true, as activity for an association can take place elsewhere and never reach their web site. But one step at a time, and we’ll deal with the original question.

Does your association plan to be around in 10 years? If so, your first effort ought to be something that can get you through the next 3-4 years with the ability to evolve, and hopefully longer. Evolution means easily changing content, being able to be seen on various platforms, trying to integrate offline processes that can be done more efficiently online, measuring and monitoring results to apply to the web site, etc.

Of course, your association’s membership and marketplace, technology capabilities and expectations will determine this more specifically. But notice where the emphasis is. Ability to Evolve/Current Content/Integration of the offline to online – this means ease of use for the association to work with, and ease of use of members and marketplace to use.

So, for starters, we’d say the new association’s website should be able to do the following:

  • Be accessible and useful at varying viewing resolutions – from smartphone to wide screen monitor.
  • Provide for the online content provision capabilities an association should have for providing news, event information, photos, etc.
  • If an association has dues and/or event registrations, accomodate that process online.
  • Allow for integration with social media efforts.
  • Allow for email provision and audience customization of emails.
  • Allow for members-only benefit on the site.

What does this mean?

  • It means that the site should have a content management system.
  • It means that the site should have a transaction/event management system.
  • It probably means that the site should have a contact/member management system – or at least have the ability to plug one in at some point in the future.

Obviously, if we’re willing to say this about a new association, we’d definitely recommend this for an association that has existed for years and is looking at a potential redesign. The new web site shouldn’t be just about what you can do today, but what you will need to do next year and following years. There will be a learning curve for both your administrative organization and the members that you support, and poking along with an old web site design with none of the items we list above isn’t going to help your association at all in the long term.

Time to get going.