How Digital Usability Makes for Happier Members

You don’t need to be a UX pro to understand the basic tenets of digital usability. By adopting a “don’t make me think” attitude, associations can add an element of ease to the member experience.

Next week, I will be reporting live from ASAE’s Technology Conference and Expo. While I’m excited to participate in two days of programming, there’s a session on digital usability that I’m looking forward to sitting in on.

That session—led by Layla Masri, cofounder of Bean Creative, a web, mobile, and interactive design firm that specializes in usability—will show association professionals that you don’t have to be a user experience (UX) pro to make beautiful and easy-to-comprehend web design.

In fact, there’s a book by Steve Krug that can help you to study up on usability principles. Its title—Don’t Make Me Think—speaks to a philosophy that association professionals should keep top of mind for web design.

“You’re really talking about knowing how the brain processes information, and how we view and understand written and visual information,” Masri says. “Besides the ‘don’t make me think’ concept, usability is like oxygen—you don’t notice it until it’s missing.”

When good usability is missing, it’s easy for your members to get angry. You’re essentially adding to their cognitive load, Masri says. That means members will shut down or sign off, and for the association, it potentially squanders goodwill or a digital transaction.

These days, web and mobile services are essential for all types of customer experiences. According to a 2016 Forrester research survey, more than half of U.S. adults (53 percent) said they were likely to abandon an online purchase if they couldn’t find an answer quick enough.

And something as simple as an FAQ page can be extremely important—81 percent of those surveyed said they referred to these pages, which shows a clear preference for self-service online rather than going the more traditional route (i.e., speaking to a customer agent by phone).

“Really it’s all about your process,” Masri says. “A lot of it is getting out of your own way and remembering that being persuasive takes practice.”

Here are four key elements to help improve digital usability for your members:

  1. Keep your audience in mind. First and foremost, associations must visualize digital experiences as their members would. While that may seem obvious, it’s often where Masri sees most associations go awry. Organizations often ask new members too many questions or require too many clicks to achieve a conversion or sale. By simply analyzing the digital membership experience with an audience-centric mindset, associations can quickly make changes to increase speed and ease.
  2. Remember content is still king. Your members will stick with you if the information you provide is useful and applicable. There’s research to back this up, and you should pay close attention to scroll rate. “It seems almost counterintuitive, but often long-form pages have more conversions,” Masri says. “You want to test long-form versus short-form content and see how it performs. People respond well to long-form, as long as you have it chunked into manageable pieces.”
  3. Always be testing. There are many inexpensive tools that you can invest in to see how and why your audience is engaging with you online. A/B testing is one of the most rudimentary tactics that your membership team can take to message test. Another option is to ask yourself: What would Amazon do? “When in doubt, go look at how Amazon does it. They’re usually running a hundred different tests on a daily basis about what works,” Masri says. Testing is an essential element of any membership campaign, because “you don’t want to second guess whether a headline or value proposition will work the best.”
  4. Marry design with copy. A “don’t make me think” attitude means you can quickly scan a page and get what you need. When effective design and copy come together, it can produce big gains. “It may just mean tweaking an image or a call-to-action for greater conversion,” Masri says. Making these changes might also require breaking down a few work silos [ASAE member login required] that separate a marketing and communications department from a web design and development team.

How did a digital change improve usability for your members? Please share your own “don’t make me think” examples in the comments below.

The easier, the better. (MissTuni/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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