Potential members often make first impressions about an association by visiting its website. A UX expert says that designing a homepage with head and heart appeal can help prospects feel welcome.
First impressions matter a lot, and if you’re like me, you spend a lot of time doing online research and sleuthing before meeting a new person, place, or thing.
In many ways, your association’s homepage is kind of like a welcome mat or doorway to a membership experience.
And, in analyzing the decision to join, User Experience (UX) Director Mike Steckel of Mighty Citizen, a branding, marketing, and digital communications firm, says it’s often a combination of head and heart appeals that’s most effective for prospects.
“Joining is both an emotional decision and rational decision,” he said. “You can start to connect your [acquisition] strategy by pulling on the heartstrings so that people feel compelled to join.”
He shared five tips for building a better homepage experience that can help drive new membership growth for associations.
Be clear about who you serve. Too often associations try to be all things to all people, and the homepage language can be opaque about mission and membership. With an association website, it’s OK to get specific. “Be sure when I land on your site that I can tell that this is for me,” Steckel said. “Potential members should be able to see themselves from the moment they enter the homepage.”
Don’t rely on stock art alone. Seeing membership clearly through strong and striking visuals will help paint a picture for prospects about what your community looks like and stands for. While associations obviously need to keep budget in mind, Steckel suggests occasionally hiring professional photographers to show the many different faces of members in action. He also sees value in “social proof” testimonials, including videos, to explain membership benefits and value.
Copy can help set the mood. A homepage requires strong call-to-action text that gets recruits and members excited. Steckel suggests putting a lot of thought into striking the right tone and speaking in your members’ voice to get prospects open and receptive to joining. “Talk about how people will benefit from becoming a part of the mission of the association,” Steckel said.
You might also consider analyzing how you currently talk about membership. For instance, the Society for Vascular Ultrasound intentionally talks about its member benefits, products, services, and events without using the words “I” or “we.” Instead, SVU talks directly to members with strong and compelling copy like this: “You can take your career to the next level. You can expand your knowledge to perform better in your job. And you can save money by taking advantage of member-only discounts.”
Beware of homepage sliders. Hero messages and images—the main image and tagline you first see on a homepage—play prominent roles in helping to anchor your website’s look and feel, however, not all homepages do this, Steckel said. Often associations use sliders or carousel treatments that rotate between various images and messages, which contributes to a cluttered and messy approach that doesn’t stand to benefit you from a UX standpoint. “It blunts the emotional impact of your homepage,” he said, and there are metrics which show user click-through rates drop after the first slide is presented.
Say thanks, and mean it. While many associations have a clear and consistent “join” button and sign-up process based on UX best practices, Steckel said it’s the thank you note, after the sign-up, that requires some closer scrutiny.
“Often times, the thank you page looks like a receipt, which is a very transactional metaphor for what should be a relational opportunity,” Steckel said. Instead, he encourages associations to get creative and have some fun with thank you notes. “Some celebratory images and language could be helpful. You want members to feel good, and you might even give them some next-step opportunities for membership engagement,” he said.