Association Websites: Choosing and Using the Best Builder

Deep Dives,

Association Websites: Choosing and Using the Best Builder

When your association’s members want to login to update their information, register for conferences and other events, or explore new offerings available to them, they know just where to look—your website! 

Your association’s website serves as the hub for news and professional development opportunities available to your members.

The most effective association websites direct your members exactly where they want to go, but they also encourage site visitors to explore more of what you have to offer. To accomplish these goals, your association needs a website that provides your members with plenty of features and tools while remaining easy for your team to keep updated.

Creating an excellent website begins with choosing the right content management system (CMS) on which to build your site. When you select a CMS designed with the needs of association members and staff in mind, you'll be able to make the most of the features that best address your members' interests while saving your team time and energy.

Let's take a look at the most important features to consider when choosing the CMS that will become your association website’s new home. Then, we'll show you how some of the best association websites make the most of these essential features to benefit their members and your staff. 

We'll cover these topics:

  1. What are the key features of the best association website builders?
  2. Great Association Websites: 3 Tips to Remember

When your association is searching for the right CMS to host your website, it's worthwhile to research all of the options available to you so that you can choose the platform that best addresses the specific needs of your association and your members. As you conduct this research, there are a few key features that you should make sure to look out for.

1. What are the key features of the best association website builders?

Your association is looking for a CMS designed for association professionals that will encourage member engagement and make your team's workdays easier and more efficient. While this may sound like a tall order, you can make the research process easier by determining the key features to look for before you begin comparing potential solutions.

The best association websites encourage members and other site visitors to explore content beyond that which they initially came to access. They're more likely to do this when your website is branded to your organization rather than your CMS platform, a feature known as white labeling. White labeling helps ensure visitors that they've found your association's official website and makes your site trustworthy for them.

In addition to white labeling and other incorporations of your association's familiar branding, there are a few CMS features that your association website is certain to benefit from. 

Associations of all types will want to make sure the solutions they choose include these aspects:

An AMS-CMS Package Deal

Your website can be as gorgeous as they come, but the true value of this facet of your online presence comes from how it allows your members and staff to engage with the other people in the association's community. Your members want to be able to search for other members in your directory, and your staff needs to be able to contact your members with important information.

Instead of trying to figure out a workaround to make your AMS and CMS communicate effectively, search for an association management software that provides your staff with the capability to build a functional and attractive website for your members. 

When your AMS allows your staff to effectively create and manage your website, which is a crucial part of your marketing and communication strategy, you'll be free from having to find (and pay for!) another vendor.

Now that you know you should be looking for an AMS that offers a CMS dedicated to the needs of associations, let's consider the most important features.

Responsive Design

It's no secret that most of us are spending increasing amounts of time on our smartphones, and this is almost certainly true of your members. Your association's website will facilitate communication with members and encourage engagement when it is responsive on all devices.

Choose a CMS that allows you to create a website that looks and functions equally well on desktop, mobile, and tablet devices. A fully responsive site is one on which:

  • Members can easily access important links, such as the login to their member portal, from any device.
  • Members can complete additional activities within your association management system, such as registering for events, from any device.
  • Multimedia content such as images and videos look and function just as well on smaller screens as on larger screens.

Fully responsive design can benefit even more individuals than your members and other site visitors. Look for a CMS that allows your team to edit site content from mobile as well as desktop devices. This way, your association can make sure that your site stays updated no matter where you may be.

Functional CMS

When your members arrive on your website, they should always be certain that the information on your homepage is accurate and up-to-date. Showcasing the opportunities available to them is an excellent strategy for encouraging participation and even turning new site visitors into future members. Choose a functional CMS that's easy for your team to keep updated, even with little or no coding experience.

Your team of association professionals brings a variety of experiences to the table and works hard to provide your members with the most meaningful opportunities possible for networking and professional growth. Some of your staff may have coding experience, but it's likely that most of them do not. 

With the right CMS, you won't need a full-time IT staff or a team with backgrounds in web development to keep your association's website functional, updated, and valuable for your members. Look for a platform that offers:

  • Click-to-edit capabilities, meaning that your team members can edit the front end of your site without having to access the source code.
  • Mobile editing capabilities that allow your team members to make changes to your website on-the-go.
  • Options to edit source code for your team members who may have some coding or development experience. 

When your team is able to update your website easily, members will be eager to check it regularly to see what's new. Your members should also be able to use your website to access their profiles through their member portals.

Member Portals

To ensure that your association's website is effective as a hub for all the information your members may want to access, your site should connect them to their member portals within your association management system. Members can visit your website to login to their portals, access communications, and update their information.

Your association website's member portals are most valuable to your members and your team when they're driven by the information members enter into your AMS. The member portals are an easy way for your members to help keep your database updated with accurate information by:

  • Providing them with an easily accessible place for making changes to their contact or professional information.
  • Informing them when their dues or other invoices are outstanding and guiding them through the completion of the payment process.
  • Showing them their event registration history and their order history on your eCommerce platform.

You can stay connected with each of your members by sending them communications, notifications, and alerts through their member portals. Just as member portals help members stay connected to your association, member directories—another essential feature of the best association website builders—help your members connect with one another.

Member Directories

Your association website functions best when its contents are informed and kept updated based on the information stored in your membership management software system. Your member directory helps members form valuable business and professional connections with one another.

Trade associations will want to choose a CMS that offers a member directory in which supplier members can promote their products and services to fellow member companies. Member directories with advertising and promotional features benefit your supplier members and your association as a whole by boosting revenue.

Additionally, associations will want to choose a CMS with a member directory that:

  • Members can search and use to reach out to fellow members in their fields or who are offering valuable products and services.
  • Your team can customize with different views to make it easier to find the information you need.
  • Your team can determine which groups or types of members see information in the directory.

Like member portals, member directories make your association website more valuable for the individuals already involved in your organization. Your site is also a great source of information about your association for individuals who aren't yet members. To better understand all of your website visitors, it's best to choose an association CMS that allows you to track your website traffic.

Google Analytics Tracking

Your association strives to be a leader in the industry that you serve and provide valuable information and opportunities for individuals working in that field. Since your website is such an important part of your work, you’ll need to make sure you have a way to measure its impact. Google Analytics provides tools that your association can use to learn more about the web traffic you're getting.

  • When you choose a CMS that has Google Analytics embedded into your association website, you'll be able to track.
  • Where your site's traffic is arriving from elsewhere online.
  • Which of your advertisements, newsletter links, or other marketing and outreach efforts are driving the most traffic to your site.

How your site visitors are interacting with the pages and other components of your site, from the length of time they stay on the pages to the links and other elements they're using.

The more accessible your website is to members and other online visitors, the more visible your association will become. Because increased web traffic can lead to your organization's growth, it's important to track the most-visited portions of your website as well as your most effective online outreach efforts. Additionally, a CMS with built-in search engine optimization tools can help increase traffic to your site.

Search Engine Optimization Tools

When internet users are searching for information related to the field or industry that your association serves, you want your website to appear high in their search results as a valuable resource on the subject. This can even help your association increase membership! Look for a CMS that offers search engine optimization (SEO) tools that anyone can use.

It's likely that your association's team doesn't include any SEO professionals, so you'll want to consider selecting a CMS with automated SEO tools that improve your website's visibility for users of Google and other popular search engines. 

Members of your team with a bit more technical experience should also have the opportunity to create:

  • Optimized page titles for each component of your site.
  • Meta descriptions for each page of your site.
  • Web-friendly file names in accordance with SEO best practices.
  • 301 redirects for changed URLs.

A CMS that offers a variety of SEO tools accessible to anyone on your team, from total beginners to more advanced users, can help your association stand out online and in your field. Should your team need assistance at any point in the process of creating your website or migrating your old site to your new CMS, your platform's customer service team will be ready to offer their help.

Excellent Customer Service

There's no getting around it: creating a new website or transferring yours to a new home is a major undertaking! Luckily, when you choose a CMS that offers excellent customer service, you'll have the help you need to make the project a successful one. As your association explores potential CMS options, make sure that you learn about the customer service resources that will be available to you.

Asking other associations in fields related to yours is a great way to expand your knowledge of CMS options and identify platforms with proven records of excellent customer service. You can also read reviews online and, of course, speak to customer service representatives during the process of researching your options and making your decision.

An association-focused CMS with excellent customer service is one that:

  • Understands the structure of your association and the specific needs of members or member companies within fields or industries like yours.
  • Responds to your inquiries within minutes.
  • Solves your problems within minutes or hours instead of days or weeks.
  • Forms a friendly relationship with the members of your team so that you can always be confident in seeking their help.

With the help of your customer service team alongside the other essential features of a top association website builder, you'll be ready to create or refresh an effective site, drive more engagement, and make your team's jobs much easier! For additional guidance and inspiration, have a look at a few key aspects of some of the best association websites around.

2. Great Association Websites: 3 Tips to Remember

Tell Your Story

Whether your primary goal is to attract new members, encourage deeper engagement among your current members, or both, using your website to tell your association's story is an important use of this public platform. 

The images, text, and links to other pages on your site should all contribute to sharing your association’s story with members and potential members.

Using your website to tell your association's story involves two primary components: creating visual interest and developing a compelling content structure.

To create visual interest, incorporate plenty of images on your website, especially on the homepage and other central locations. With the right CMS, these images will look great and serve their purpose effectively whether members are viewing them on their mobile, tablet, or desktop devices. High-resolution images are the most valuable, so be sure to choose a CMS that facilitates the incorporation of these images.

A compelling content structure balances those images with text and multimedia elements such as videos of your association's members in action. Because your association's website serves many different functions, it's important to create and maintain a clear website structure with links to the most-used portions of your site—including your event registration page and your member portal—so that members can find what they need quickly and easily.

With an effectively designed website that uses all of these elements to share your story with others, you're sure to find wider audiences for all that your association has to offer. 

Prioritize SEO and Your Online Presence

Your association's website is most effective when it serves as an accessible resource for your members as well as individuals or companies in your field who may be interested in becoming members. 

Make the most of the SEO and reporting features offered by your CMS to increase traffic to your association's site.

Improve your online strategy by using the SEO tools available to you to strengthen your association's presence in search engine results. Noticing that a particular component of your association's website is getting a lot of traffic? It's worthwhile to examine the likely reasons this page is doing well and apply some of those elements to other parts of your site.

Once visitors arrive on your site, your association should provide them with plenty of reasons to continue exploring and learning about all that you have to offer. Provide strong calls to action on each page of your website so that visitors know how they can get involved if they so choose.

Include Strong Calls to Action

To drive member engagement and help your association grow, calls to action are an essential component of an effective association website. Ensure that you include the appropriate calls to action on each page of your website so that members can stay connected to your association in a variety of ways.

  • For current members, calls to action can encourage them to upgrade their membership, register for events, or make purchases through your eCommerce platform.
  • For site visitors who aren't yet members, include calls to action on public-facing pages inviting them to learn more about the benefits of joining your association.

The best association websites are easy to find and access online, create engaging narratives for site visitors, and provide information to anyone who may be interested in getting involved. If your association is ready to find a web builder that provides all of these features and helps you create an amazing website, you may want to consider Novi AMS, a top-rated association management system and association CMS.

Novi AMS keeps your member database and your website on a single platform, providing a streamlined, all-in-one system that benefits both your members and your staff. This beginner-friendly, non-technical solution offers all of the features discussed above and facilitates the creation of entirely new sites as well as content migration from the platform you're currently using.

Whatever association CMS you choose, make sure that your team researches all the options available to you so that you can be confident that you’re choosing the best platform for your members, your staff, and all of your association's needs.

Looking for more information to help you choose the right association CMS? The following additional resources offer helpful information to guide you in your research process.

  • Membership Database Features – Your website works best in connection with an AMS or membership database containing plenty of organized and updated information. Learn what to look for when selecting a membership database for your association with the help of this list of key features from Novi AMS.
  • re:Charity's Top Association Management Software – Check out re:Charity's list of favorite association management software solutions to help your association provide more for your members while saving your team time and energy.
  • Membership Management Tools: 8 Software Features to Know – Want to learn more about how your association management tools can work together to create a more efficient process? Check out this helpful guide from Novi AMS.