Apply UX Design to Ease Members’ Online Experience

Principles of user experience design can help associations help their members move easily around their websites and other digital properties. A UX strategist shares how some associations are applying a UX mindset to improve member services and experiences.

Your website is the doorway to your association, and if you’re providing good value to your members, they’ll visit you online frequently. What you don’t want is for them to walk in the door and face a confusing mess that makes them wish they’d never come.

If that’s happening to your site visitors, you probably have a user experience (UX) design problem, says Nicole Barbuto, a project strategist for LookThink, a consulting agency specializing in UX and human-centered design. She and her team work with a lot of associations, and she says there are some common UX issues that many membership-based organizations are focused on fixing.

“One common issue we’ve seen issue is that associations, from a website navigation standpoint, try to reach every single audience all at once,” Barbuto says. “It’s information overload. The navigation bar is one giant menu of options, and nobody really explores or engages further if they don’t see a clear path that resonates with them and their primary need.”

A better approach is to deliver digital experiences that meet the needs of specific membership subgroups. She points to three tactics that many associations are implementing make their websites more welcoming, useful, and easy to navigate.

Better Use of Templates

As they grow, associations often add secondary websites—whether for local chapters, conferences and events, or sub-brands. “Essentially what associations are doing is rebuilding the wheel every single time they build a new website,” Barbuto says. “However, when you build adjustable and adaptable microsite templates that work with the needs of your CMS,” the job gets a lot easier.

In addition to making site navigation more consistent, templates may make your marketing team happier. Templates help ensure that your websites and other digital properties reflect your organization’s branding guidelines.

And if microsites don’t work for your association, Barbuto suggests using templates to create audience-specific landing pages for your main website, like the ones her team developed for the American Pharmacists Association.

Better Digital Forms

A common UX issue also stems from digital forms that require too many clicks. “I always like to first ask: What is the primary task or goal you need that person to do,” Barbuto says. “You want to make sure that the task is clear cut, obvious, and achievable in as few clicks as possible.” For digital forms, she suggests keeping it to three clicks or less if possible.

Associations can also identify pain points in simple digital forms by analyzing site analytics, including bounce rates. “Another way is to actually have a conversation with one of your users,” she says. “Talk to them and actually ask the question: ‘What was difficult?’”

Better Accessibility

Another place that Barbuto says associations miss the mark is with accessibility for people with impaired vision and hearing. LookThink recently completed a project for the National Federation of the Blind that helped improve a legacy back-end system—its customer relationship management database. The project improved the CRM’s functionality for blind and low-vision people, and many of the outcomes were based on responsive design and screen-size options to better serve NFB’s staff.

My colleague Ernie Smith recently wrote about how to scope a project for improving website accessibility, which can produce some extra benefits too. “Even people who don’t have a disability benefit from accessible websites,” he wrote. “Closed captioning, for example, makes it possible to watch a video with the audio muted. And then, there’s the public relations benefit of providing accessibility wherever possible—especially when going beyond the letter of the law.”

Do you have specific UX projects underway this year? How will it help improve member service and engagement? Post any examples in the comment section below.

(Korrawin/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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