Today’s members expect their membership body to provide a website with:
- a 360 degree view of everything members are doing
- tailor-made information relevant to them whatever their stage in the membership lifecycle, whether they are students, graduates, senior executives or retired.
- familiar social media-style home page layouts.
Your website should be ‘mobile friendly’. Your members will want to access it using mobile devices and post content to external social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Think about where your audiences are. Can they get the latest news on the train in the morning on the way to work for example?
The facility for members to set up their own invite-only closed groups for committees and private discussions is also important, as are privileged web access and different levels of permissions as a membership benefit and the option to upsell membership - for example, when limited information on white papers is available for free, but full access to documents is strictly for members.
Recording member interactions with your website
This involves ‘content tagging’, to analyse exactly how the site is being used: what are the most read documents and pages? What are the most popular activities? Who are the influencers? Who is writing the most blogs and articles and what content is most effective?
With good navigation and information architecture all relevant information, news, training opportunities, seminars and online discussions can be directed immediately to interested members. It’s a way of personalising content and understanding members’ interests, aspirations, motivations and emotions – finding out what journey they are on.
Good web design along with quality topical, member generated content and a thorough understanding of members’ interests can actually create a ‘barrier to exit’ from membership. It’s so good people don’t want to go! If your website is constantly providing members with personalised relevant and useful information that will help them do their jobs better and improve their knowledge, they are more likely to stay with you and renew their subscription. The way to keep hold of members and to recruit new members is to ensure that they are at the heart of everything your organisation does.
Case study - The General Optical Council (GOC)
The General Optical Council, the regulator for the optical professions in the UK, decided to refresh their website and keep it at the forefront of technology, to give their 25,000 members/registrants the best possible website user experience.
The new website was designed with mobile browsing in mind, so it is responsive, providing a website that easily adapts its layout according to the size of screen it is being viewed on.
“The key objective was to make the site more user friendly, especially for members of the public,” explains Simon Grier, Acting GOC Communications Manager. “We added drop-down menus to make it easier for people to find content and made it fully mobile compatible.”
When the GOC site was first launched in 2007, mobile technology was in its infancy. But today around 16% of visitors to the site use Smartphones or iPads and that figure is increasing fast. The updated website can be viewed on a PC, iPad or mobile phone, offering maximum usability to registrants and the public.
“The new website design also helps us direct traffic to relevant topical content,” says Simon. “Rotating banners ease member navigation and help draw their attention to the features we want to promote. And our core functions are clearly visible in the menus rather than being hidden under ‘Our Work’ as they were in the past. Registrants are now finding things easily.”
Five years is a long time in the online world; the old design stood up well but it was time for a fresh look at how the site works and the web developers designed responsive technology to provide the best experience no matter what device is being used. You only have to look around on the train or bus to see how many people are embracing mobile technology and GOC’s web statistics clearly show that a large user base is mobile so this was one of the key criteria for the refresh.
The result is a new online identity incorporating some of the superb imagery that the GOC have available which is modern and allows users to easily find what they are looking for on their desktop computer or on the move.
Have a look at the GOC website and see for yourself just how innovative the design really is.