We work with a lot of associations on the web, and have for over 20 years. No firm can be everything to everyone, so one area we are focused on are the needs of smaller associations. By smaller associations, we mean staffing, this is not about size of membership and not service delivery, because we recognize that there are many associations out there that provide quite a value to their membership with a staff that is surprisingly small relative to their work product. We tend to work with state and regional associations, and they may be a one-person office or they may have twenty-plus employees, but they usually don’t have a full-time IT department.
What this means is that they usually don’t have expertise across the board in such things as web design, in content management systems, in hosting options, in custom DNS setup, in secure online purchasing possibilities for their web site. They do not necessarily have experience in monitoring web site and email viewing and traffic, they cannot be expected to keep up with the growing issues and options of online security, and they haven’t had the chance to research what other associations do to reduce costs and generate revenue successfully with their online presence. And then there are the issues of how to coordinate the web site with back-end office processes and other online options.
There are so many things that go into a successful online presence for an association, and they take resources and time and experiential knowledge to do them right. We try to bring our strengths in these areas to our clients as a partner in their efforts. This is a sweet spot for us – we like doing this. Sometimes, we also have to be the voice of caution. We’ve all heard about associations that have wasted money and opportunity on social media campaigns that weren’t moored to a specific outcome. And today we see associations building mobile apps that are essentially just mobile versions of their web sites – again, a use of technology without the strategy of why it should be used. We never advocate for such things. Technology serves a purpose, and the purpose needs to be determined and investigated before investing in the technology. We insist on that for our clients.
Some associations look at a redesign as an image builder for their organization, and some people see it as an image builder for themselves. There is nothing wrong with that – as long as that is not all there is to it. Some of the plainest web sites you can find are the most popular because of what they do for their visitors, not because of how they appear. Design isn’t just about look, it is also about the greatest functionality to the audience specified, and the easiest access of content by that audience.
Most smaller associations do not have the money to redesign their site every couple of years, nor should they spend it that way. At least to this point, a good design/structure should last an association 4 or 5 years, minimum, unless the organization goes through extreme changes which are then reflected in the web site. But going much longer than that is likely to get you behind in some standards that should become key to the web site’s design. For example, a site built 5 years ago might not have a mobile version unless redesigned since then, because mobile really wasn’t a factor most associations were invested in 5 years ago. An older site than that might not have a content management system, but still exist in some version of HTML pages. It could have a simple PayPal payment link, it might not have a site map, it might not have any analytics measurement tools… and so on.
If your association’s web site design is 4-5 years old or older, you should be looking for what you need going forward. We’d be happy to discuss it with you. And take a look around at the work we’ve done. We work in WordPress and Wild Apricot, and occasionally Drupal.