This is the first in a two part series of Blog articles about how to improve association website effectiveness. This article covers common Association website messaging challenges to avoid on your website.

1. Unclear messaging about your organization. You have 3-5 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. Is it crystal clear how you help your members and why they should join your association? I like to ask, “What’s the headline?” You want to present the one compelling headline that summarizes what you do and why the audience should care.

2. Overuse of font colors and styles. Most website visitors spend less than a minute on a website unless there is compelling content and images. Of course, this varies by industry and the level of problem the visitor is trying to solve. If your website has too many colors, font sizes, etc. it is hard for people to focus on reading the content.

3. Three columns of content. A common issue with Association and nonprofit websites is the use of the three-column format. They try to present so much information on the home page that reading the content is tough. There’s a reason that novels are pages of long sentences rather than two or three columns. In today’s online world people are used to scrolling and the use of panels for each topic is considered best practice.

4. Too much movement. If you want movement on the Home page I recommend only having the slideshow element rotate. Too many moving parts are confusing and draw attention away from your message. It’s like the children’s movie UP, when Dug the talking dog says “squirrel?” in the middle of talking to the old man. Dug is distracted by something moving nearby.

5. Home Page Slideshows

Speed – It’s hard to get the timing of slideshows right. Too fast and people can’t read the copy or absorb the message. Too slow and they may not stay on the page long enough to see all the slides.

Quantity of slides – Many organizations try to present too many slides. What is considered too many? I suggest a maximum of four slides, although three is better.

Copy – The copy in each slide should be as little as possible to get across the message. The more copy, the slower the slides need to turn. Slides should be reserved for main messaging. Details about events should go on an Events page or in a Blog post, or in a panel below the main messaging slides. Slides may be good for drawing attention to an event, but not for providing every detail.

6. Images

Common issues with images are those that are blurry, too small, or too large for the page, and images that don’t match the messaging on the page. I recently saw an About Us page for a company and the headshot was about the size of a 5×7 photograph on the page. Individual staff headshots should be an accent rather than the focus of the content.

Pages with a lot of copy and few or no images are hard to read and don’t create interest. Overused stock images can make the message a cliché, such as law firms who use the scales of justice.

Outdated team or staff photos take away from the professionalism of the presentation. If the clothes and haircuts in your website photos look like an episode of Magnum P.I, MacGyver, or One Day at a Time, then you know it’s time for an update.

The use of images with no people can be considered impersonal or boring. This is especially true for photos used to show building spaces, brick and mortar businesses, etc. For example, what is more compelling, a restaurant that shows an empty dining room versus one filled with smiling, happy patrons with plates of food on the tables?

Group shots – For group shots make sure people aren’t doing the fig leaf pose or are so far away that you can’t see faces.

Headshots – Photos of people not smiling, inconsistent styling from photo to photo, and varying backgrounds in a group of headshots are all distracting or unwelcoming. And those black silhouette placeholder figures are disturbing.

When headshots are missing from a page that speaks about the Association one wonders what they’re hiding, or whether the Association is really there to serve its members.

People with their arms crossed is uninviting, and is poor body language.

7. Copy
Website copy that fails to describe your unique selling proposition or that uses trite language will quickly lose website visitors. Speaking with copy that is all about you and not the problems of your audience and how you can help them solve the concerns will also turn away visitors.
Misspelled words or incorrect words used, even if correctly spelled, will erode confidence in your professionalism.

Light, or otherwise hard-to-read fonts (too small or too fancy a font) can be a problem for visitors to read.

8. Social Media feeds on the home page

With few exceptions, social media content should remain in those platforms and link back to the website. Including that content on your home page distracts from the main branding messages. We put the social media icons in the footer of a website because they are not the focus and placing them in the header takes away from where you need visitors to look on the page.

Our next article will describe user experience issues to avoid with your Association website.

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