5 web design tips for membership websites

membership website designMembership websites or communities often need to perform two vital functions: attract and retain member engagement.

A member website must be useful, interesting, easy and vision-aligned with the member base it represents. This article provides 5 tips for improving the performance of membership websites and online communities.

Tip #1

Identify the needs of your members

membershipThis is the first and most important tip for designing better member websites. The web design process must begin with a clear understanding of the needs of the community. If an organization is redesigning their membership website, then documenting pain-points of the previous website will be important for everyone participating in the redesign process. We recommend creating customer personas to document the types of members, their needs, pain-points and opportunities. Personas can be vitally helpful in motivating members to take action within the website at the time of launch, as well as providing tools to help them engage.

Tip #2

Build less; observe; improve.

iterative web designRather than build every feature, tool and resource for the launch of the new member website, consider launching a minimum viable product. Integrate members within a simple, easy to understand platform, and then add features over time. This will provide opportunities to invite your members back, observe (and learn from) their activity, study analytics, and design cleaner, clearer and more accurate tools. Additionally, this will allow you to launch early, which may help prevent disenchanted members from abandoning your brand altogether.

Tip #3

Provide easy access

website accessMake sure your new member website is designed to provide very easy access to all key tools and resources. Don’t make members search and dig–they will only get frustrated and cease to use the website. Yes, there can be too much navigation. Keep navigation simple, paired-down and clearly labeled. Ensure that users don’t need to jump through a ton of steps to get to the most-sought-after pages or features of the website.

Tip #4

Explain and help

Website navigation for member designMember websites are often larger than brand brochureware websites. Member websites may support tools to help the community speak and engage with one another. There may be forums, videos, messages, dashboards, activities and photo galleries. Not all members will be comfortable their first time entering the new website. Consider helping them along. By offering explainer videos, site maps, tip windows, fancy tour overlays, feature tours, recommendations, help forums, customer support sections or education material, members may grow to become power users quickly. Also consider empowering older members to help newer members within the community. As with any community (virtual or otherwise), make sure that new members are met with some form of greeting as they first login.

Tip #5

Design engagement

membership website engagementEngagement tools help to keep a community coming back. In the early design stages of the project, make sure you are planning for proper engagement tools throughout the website and member journey. Remember that new members may engage with the website differently than older members. Use web analytics and event tracking to ensure that new tools and features are being used by members and activity is increasing. For member websites there should be engagement tools that drive internal recommendations between members–not just social sharing tools to other social media platforms (like Facebook Like and Twitter sharing). Do members want to engage by commenting on content, answering questions, planning or attending events, voting, private messaging or other forms of engagement. Remember to build analytics on the back of engagement tools to ensure that you can measure the activity over time.

See an example: US Japan Leadership website, healthcare social network website

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Ironpaper is a results-driven digital marketing agency. Ironpaper integrates design, technology and marketing for the web to drive meaningful results for clients. We are based in New York City and Charlotte, NC.