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How to Know If Your Association Website Needs a Redesign or Strategic Optimization
Ashley DulaneyOct 13, 2023 12:00:00 AM9 min read

How to Know If Your Association Website Needs a Redesign or Strategic Optimization

A solid online presence is vital for thriving associations and member-based organizations in today's digital world. After all, your website is a gateway to your audience, providing valuable information, facilitating engagement, and driving conversions.

If you feel like your organization’s website isn’t as effective as it should be—in other words, you’re not receiving the ROI (return on investment) that you had hoped for—you’re in the right place.

In this blog post, we explore two methods for improving the performance of your website and how to determine which is the best fit for your member-based organization.

Let’s dive in.

Enhancing Website Performance with a Redesign

The first and most common method to improve the performance of an organization’s website is to give it a complete redesign. This process entails creating a new website from scratch or significantly changing the current site. A modern approach to website redesign typically includes the following 12 steps:

  1. Hire a knowledgeable and experienced vendor.
  2. Conduct a kick-off meeting to define project priorities and a strategy for constituent engagement.
  3. Gather constituent data using various methods (surveys, focus groups, card sorts, and interviews).
  4. Document personas and define constituent needs.
  5. Create and document a content strategy based on constituent feedback.
  6. Develop page layouts (wireframes) and user stories based on the constituent data.
  7. Leverage creative design to bring the user stories to life.
  8. Develop an implementation plan for your CMS.
  9. Implement the website according to data gathered from users, wireframes, and user stories based on the data, design that supports the content strategy, and functional requirements that meet administrative goals.
  10. Conduct QA from both administrative and user perspectives.
  11. Launch the website.
  12. Engage a model for continuous improvement and ongoing, data-driven updates.

Benefits of a Website Redesign

As you’d expect, a total website redesign is an all-encompassing undertaking that requires careful planning and execution. However, the results can be monumental depending on when you last updated your website. Significant benefits of opting to redesign your organization’s website can include:

  • Comprehensive overhaul. Restructuring a website from the ground up allows one to overhaul its structure, design, and functionality, addressing any fundamental issues upfront. 
  • Optimized user journey. A redesign allows an organization to rethink and optimize its members' and constituents' entire 360-degree user journey. This could include intuitive navigation, reorganization of content, dynamic call-to-action buttons, and more. 
  • Strategic content restructuring. How often is your website’s content evaluated and updated? It should be done regularly. A redesign enables you to strategically restructure your content to resonate with your target audience and align with current SEO practices. 
  • Mobile-first approach. When starting from scratch, you can adopt a responsive design approach, ensuring your website is accessible and provides a stellar user experience on mobile devices.
  • Incorporation of new technologies and modern design trends. If your site hasn’t been redesigned in a long time or is hosted on an antiquated CMS, it’s likely that newer features like chatbots and interactive content aren’t compatible. Redesigning provides the opportunity to include those technologies in your new site along with modern design trends to enhance your site’s visual appeal.
  • Alignment with business objectives. Whether your organization is focused on lead generation, brand awareness, community building, education, or event promotion, a redesign enables you to tailor your site to meet your objectives effectively—instead of as an afterthought. 
  • Competitive edge. A fresh and innovative site can help you stand out against your competitors and demonstrate your commitment to providing your constituents with the best online experience possible. 

Signs It's Time For a Complete Website Makeover

Is your association's website looking outdated and underwhelming? It may be time for a website redesign. Here are five foolproof signs that your organization would benefit from a redesign.

  1. Your site hasn’t been updated in a while. A website should never sit static. Just like your vehicle needs regular oil changes and maintenance, so does your website. While there is no strict timeline for how often you should redesign your website, you should consider how much technology and user preferences have changed since your last overhaul. For example, a site launched over five years ago without any cosmetic, functional, or UX updates will likely appear outdated and clunky to your users.
  2. Your site does not perform well in search. When was the last time you examined your site’s SEO power? If you’re considering redesigning, now is a good time to check in. Updated and optimized sites will perform better in organic search, meaning they will be placed higher on SERPs (search engine results pages).
  3. Your site is not optimized for mobile. A HubSpot survey found that 54% of consumers use their phones most when looking something up on a search engine. That percentage jumps to 80% and 60% for Gen Z and Millennials/Gen X, respectively. In other words, having a mobile-first website isn’t an option in today’s digital world.
  4. Your site has few or no conversions. If you can’t count on your website for quality conversions, such as event sign-ups, new member registrations, and resource downloads—you’re missing out on major revenue opportunities.
  5. Your content management system is a pain. If your CMS requires designer intervention every time something needs to be updated or is simply a pain to use, a website redesign should be in your near future. Your website is only as good as the CMS it lives on.

Improving Website Performance with Strategic Optimization

The second method an association can take to enhance the performance of its website is to implement a strategic plan for continuous optimization. 

Don't underestimate the power of making minor changes to your organization’s website! Optimization includes testing and tweaking your existing website based on data-driven insights to enhance its performance, usability, and user experience. Optimization is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring and analysis of your website data.

Benefits of Optimization

Regularly optimizing your website offers several significant benefits that can support your organization’s goals of enhancing member experience, increasing donor engagement, growing member networking, and more. Here’s how.

  • Improved user experience. Making updates to your site that decrease page loading speed, improve responsiveness across devices, and remove navigation bottlenecks, just to name a few, promote engagement with your content. As a result, visitors spend more time on your site, visit more pages, and have a more enjoyable experience. 
  • Higher conversion rates. A well-optimized website can regularly transform casual visitors into active participants and supporters of your organization’s mission. By refining your site's layout, optimizing call-to-action buttons, and strategically showcasing targeted content, you create a seamless user journey that encourages visitors to take desired actions, such as signing up for memberships, registering for events, or making donations. 
  • Increased traffic and visibility. Search engines favor optimized websites. Routinely updating your site with engaging content boosts visibility and attracts more visitors. With better search engine rankings and engaging content, your association can reach a broader audience and establish itself as a trusted source in your field.
  • Cost-efficiency. Optimization tactics are generally more budget-friendly than a complete redesign because they entail specific, targeted, and incremental improvements. Minor changes to website speed, layout, and functionality implemented gradually can significantly enhance user experience and SEO, and prevent major issues from arising.
  • Data-driven decision making. Effective optimization requires analysis of user data and behavior. By using this valuable data to inform decisions and make strategic changes to the site, you can improve your website's performance, user experience, and overall effectiveness. 
  • Enhanced security. Regular security audits and updates, including SSL certificate installation and multi-factor authentication (MFA), can enhance your website’s security and decrease your organization’s vulnerability online. 

When to Consider Optimization

Unlike a complete redesign, optimization should be a non-negotiable for every association with a website.  Optimization isn't just a one-time task but an ongoing process that ensures a website continues to perform at its best and meets the evolving needs of both users and the organization. However, there are some tell-tale signs that your site isn’t optimized accurately or regularly enough. Those indicators include:

  1. Your bounce rate is high. If users leave your site almost immediately after arriving without engaging with your content, that’s a significant problem. To keep users engaged, leverage optimization tactics to dig into certain aspects of your site, such as navigation, page load speed, and content. 
  2. Your incoming traffic is declining. This is a sign that your website is receiving less organic traffic from search engines. Several factors, such as changes in search engine algorithms, outdated SEO practices, or increased competition, can cause this decrease. A strategic optimization approach that includes regular website audits and optimization of keywords, content, on-page SEO, and more can boost traffic numbers.
  3. Your engagement metrics are low. Metrics like low average session duration, few page views per session, or low interaction with interactive elements (like videos or forms) indicate that your site is unengaging to users and needs to be optimized. 
  4. Your site receives negative feedback. Whether it’s involuntary or through structured user research, if your site receives negative feedback about its usability, design, or content—it’s time to start optimizing.  
  5. Your existing site design works well. If your current website design is functional and aesthetically pleasing, but you still need to improve certain aspects, such as navigation or page load speed, then incremental optimization is the way to go.
  6. Your website aligns with your branding strategy. If your website is well-aligned with your branding strategy and resonates with your target audience, you can focus on optimizing specific components of the site to improve user engagement and conversions instead of redesigning it.
  7. You have a limited budget. If budget and resource constraints are a concern, optimizing your site is a more affordable approach than a complete redesign, as it involves spreading website changes and updates out more gradually. 

How To Get Started

Striking a balance between website redesign and optimization is imperative for an association website that truly stands out and resonates with its intended audiences. To determine which approach is best for your organization today, we recommend starting with an audit of your website, as well as your competitors’, taking the benefits and signs listed above into consideration.

If a website redesign is in your near future, you should check out these helpful resources to get started.

If you’re ready to optimize your site, we recommend diving into the following resources.

If you’d like support auditing your site and building a strategic optimization plan, our team of digital strategists can help. Brightfind’s 360Pro service is designed to turn your organization's website into a membership engagement machine, leveraging proven optimization tactics to ensure your site runs smoothly and attracts new leads and members.

Get matched with your own dedicated digital strategist today today.

Ashley Dulaney

Ashley is the director of marketing and communications at Ready North & Brightfind. She has a passion for storytelling and enjoys enjoys hiking, trail running, and camping in her free time.