The Incoming Association President and the Web Site Redesign

I’m probably not going to make that many friends with my thoughts about this reason for a redesign:  The Incoming Association President wants a different look or a different vendor.

I’m not going to say that it is doomed to fail. I am going to say that this can’t be the sole reason for doing a redesign. At least, not if that President hasn’t been responsible for several association web site redesigns before.

Why do I say this? Because “a different look” and “a different vendor” doesn’t address the reasons for a redesign. This is often what people say when they have a “preference” rather than a reason.  The reasons for an association web site redesign are quite simply, improving the usefulness and functionality for the users of the site (members, prospective members, vendors, and other interested parties) and YOUR association management (content promotion and focus, ease of updating, flexibility of layout, new features, etc.).

Neither of those things are defined adequately by “a different look” or “a different vendor” in terms of describing the need. Specifics are required.

Here’s another thing – people think that redesigning a web site is easy, and it can be. Doing it well, for organizational purposes, for integration of what is to be included, for value of the users, is a different story. It takes thought, planning, consideration of who will be there, what they will actually do online, and consideration of time and financial budgeting, both for the immediate future and the long-term development. All while addressing the key question: How can you make it better and easier for the association?

Without wasting money redoing it in 2 years?

If you had hired somebody new to redesign your website, they should be able to explain with precision why they would want to change your web site’s design, both externally and internally.

There’s no reason why that same expectation shouldn’t be applied to an Incoming President focusing on changing the web site. I get that associations have to harness the energy of highly active volunteers for the betterment of the association. But giving an Incoming President unfettered reign on the web site isn’t doing that. If you want to harness that energy, you will impose the expectation for detailed consideration for web site redesign.

Your association has had a web site for a while, that is why a redesign is being discussed. The most important voices you can listen to about this redesign are the people that use it (members, vendors, etc.) and the people that maintain it (either in house staff or the folks you pay to keep it current).

Please note: I used plural terminology. I do mean it. Your incoming President is just one of those voices.

It really helps to find somebody who is in the business of building association web sites and understands association needs, the software marketplace, the environment of changing web standards, and the realities of what can be accomplished. Perhaps with the benefit of comparing it to the experiences of many other associations and their web sites.

The combination of those three resources provide experience with vision and preference. Anything short of that is not going to be as successful as it should be.

So, if that Incoming President wants a different vendor, that may be okay, but vet their experience. Look at what they’ve done, look who they call a client, look at what kind of stuff that client does online, and think through the ramifications of all of that. If that Incoming President has a URL of a site they like for your association’s redesign, take a look at it for content deliverability. Do you need daily messages, and if so can you get them to a prominent place on the front page? Do you have fixed information reporting needs? Is the navigation layout befitting of your content structure? What is public and what is members-only? How do we make it easier for members to use? Does that design work for these needs and others?

And get a sense of CMS functionality and design. Content is often limited by content providers feeling uncomfortable with the tools. Listen to those admin voices.

The web has grown considerably in terms of organizational importance and technological diversity in the last 20 years and will continue to dynamically do so. It is best to treat it as such, and do your diligence when considering redesign, and consider multiple voices. Thinking long-term goes beyond the 1 or 2 year term of an incoming President.


Next Post In This Series Deals With “Old site is stale and needs freshened up with modern look.”