This blog post originally appeared on the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives blog.
Websites. We all have them. We all use them. But that’s not to say that all websites are winners. In fact, some websites actually seem to do more harm than good. They drive people away and even cause bad feelings – which is the last thing we want to do as associations.
So what exactly are the qualities that drive members and prospects away? Behold, the seven deadly sins of association web design:
Too many associations forget about the importance of white space. They often get so caught up in their own design aesthetic that they forget it isn’t about them. It’s about the user’s personal experience, and that means having a clean and simple web design. Cut back on the heavy text that’s likely to scare users away and focus on simplicity instead.
Sure, website navigation can be tough, but this is one area you don’t want to skimp on. The majority of users will leave a site if they can’t find what they’re looking for in three clicks or less, so a seamless structure is imperative.
Now there’s no formal rule for how navigation should be organized, but in general, it’s best to have vertical navigation down the left side of your site or horizontal navigation across the top. These are the most common design techniques and users will feel more comfortable if your organization follows suit. Additionally, it’s best to use textual descriptions for all of your links so that users know exactly where a page is about to take them.
Missing contact information
You’d be amazed at how many associations hide their contact information online. But members can’t reach you if they don’t know how! Be sure to include your phone number as well as email address in the Contact Us section. Yes, you may attract some spam, but it’s better than losing members because they can’t reach you.
One extra note here: Some organizations prefer to use a Contact Us form rather than listing their contact information outright. But beware, this can often backfire as users don’t typically want to wait for a response.
This one can’t be emphasized enough. How many times have you been to a website and clicked on a link that can’t be opened? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? That’s why website testing is so important. Even if you’ve tested a link before, check it again every so often to make sure it still works.
Slow load times
Nothing makes people leave a website faster than slow load times. Not to mention, search engines penalize slower loading websites, leading to less traffic and overall page views. To avoid this, make sure your images are optimized. That means resizing your images and reducing the quality. Don’t worry though – a lower quality won’t show any significant changes from the original version.
Did you know that more than half of all web access comes from mobile devices? That means it’s imperative to have a mobile-friendly site. Now a lot of organizations tend to put this one off, but mobile isn’t going anywhere, so it’s crucial you adapt. We highly recommend using responsive web templates that adapt to all platforms and devices, including mobile phones and tablets. That way, you can appeal to all users to matter where they’re coming from.
This is by far the worst offender. Yes, you may get a few new email subscribers, but is it really worth all of the traffic you lose due to pure annoyance? Now we will say, associations are pretty good about not utilizing these, but there are enough fans that we felt it was worth mentioning.
If you do want to use pop-up ads, we recommend using a time delay. Don’t show your ads unless someone has been on your site for say 30 seconds or longer. The longer they’ve been on your site, the more likely they are to click on the ad. That being said, we still recommend using strong calls-to-action, such as “call today” or “register here,” rather than interruptive pop-up ads.
There you have it, folks. The seven deadly sins of association web design. Is your association guilty of any of these? If so and you need help improving your website presence, check out our membership website guide below.