Your website is one of your most important assets as it’s the primary way many of your members interact with your organization.
Serving up the right content in the right way and staying in the loop with association website design trends in 2021 should be a top priority in order to maximize your online presence and continue connecting with your membership base.
What are the current trends in website design for associations?
This round-up article details the must-know web design trends this year based on an analysis of the top-performing membership websites and site design trends over the past few years.
Let’s jump right in.
Trend #1 - From Storytelling to “Story Driving”
Web content used to focus on storytelling. But today, associations are designing their website to drive the story of their organizations and motivate their audience to share that story as well.
Gone are the days of putting stale carousels in prime real estate space on your website. Today, your website should be big and bold with visual explanations that render quickly across all devices, and inspire your web visitors to share the story, value, and mission of your organization.
Here are some ways you can get other people to tell your story for you:
- Embedding videos and other shareable content on your website.
- Using white space to emphasize written calls-to-action at the center of your web pages.
- Creating an interactive user experience centered around human connection.
- Placing your mission front and center in both a visual and textual way.
- Prominently placing strong background visuals.
Here is an example from one of our clients. Notice how they use a strong background visual to highlight one of their members, tell a story, and share the impact they have on their community?
Visual explanations and story driving also keep users on your website longer, which boosts your SEO performance and helps to convert web visitors into members or constituents.
Trend #2 - Ultra Accessible and Minimalist Designs
Accessibility is particularly important when you consider what the next generation of members expects from your website.
Younger users and your future membership base, constituents, and volunteers expect:
- Super simple, “ultra-minimalist” navigation, menus, and content/structure layout.
- Mobile-friendly sites that are easy to browse and interact with on any device.
- Easy-to-find social channels.
- Headings, bullets, and images to break up heavy text and make the content scannable and consumable.
- Balancing diverse content types for your programs, solutions, and collaborations.
- Content and structure layout that supports the page intent.
- Simple, large, and convenient online forms that take up space above the fold of the page.
Website accessibility is also about removing barriers for individuals with disabilities by making adjustments like:
- Filling out the image "alt tag" or alternative text field.
- Including text-based alternatives for PDFs.
- Allowing your site to be viewed in the color and font settings of users’ operating systems.
Trend #3 - Highlighting Events
Events are a cornerstone for many associations and nonprofits.
Here are ways organizations have been highlighting events and inspiring new attendees this year:
- Using imagery to make events come “alive.”
- Including event calendars that are sortable, filterable, and centralized.
- Sharing event recaps, photos, and videos.
- Leveraging tiles, banners, and other creative layouts.
- Placing “quick links” to event pages on the home page or in the navigation menu.
- Putting an events dropdown in a prominent place on the top navigation.
Trend #4 - Bridging vendors and platforms
Award-winning association websites bridge technology seamlessly.
As you know, associations today rely on a number of systems to run operations. But your members expect one, unified experience.
This is especially true for younger members and for the next generation of young professionals.
Here is how to create an integrated and fluid online user experience:
- Strengthening integrations between your CMS and other systems.
- Embed registration buttons and tools.
- Open a new tab/page when linking to a new platform (e.g. LMS or events system) so users don't get lost.
- Your web vendors should use your logo, HTML templates, and style guides.
- Choose flexible tools and technology with customization options.
Trend #5 - Social Proofing
It’s human nature to follow the crowd. We may peer into an empty restaurant and conclude the food must not be good. Or we may choose to buy a more popular item on a site over one that’s less reviewed or only has a few purchases.
Marketers, psychologists, and sociologists call this magnetic force “social proof.”
In 2021, one of the most impactful association website design trends we saw was the relentless use of social proofs. The social proofing “tools of the trade” are known to boost conversions and help organizations achieve their goals.
Effective social proof strategies include:
- Ratings and reviews
- Badges, seals, certifications, etc.
- “As seen in”, partner, and client logos
- Subscriber counts
- Social connections and shares
- Stats that highlight your impact
Trend #6 - Prioritizing SEO
No longer can you simply publish a whitepaper, blog post, or news article on your website and expect your content to be received by many. Associations and nonprofits are no exception.
To get your audience to visit your website and read your content over your competitors, you must create and consistently use a solid Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.
This means producing the right content and then optimizing your delivery and information sharing.
Long-form, information-packed content and high-value resources that are easily browsable content drive the best engagement – and better SEO today.
Then you should be promoting content across social media platforms, through email, video, podcasts, and other marketing channels to drive website traffic and get your web pages indexed and ranked in search engines.
Metadata and on-page SEO
Good SEO requires some basic structural elements that can’t be skipped, such as filling in the right metadata on all of your web pages with good primary and/or secondary keywords. A page’s metadata includes the SEO title, description tag, H1 and H2 headers, header hierarchy, image alt text, and more.
You also need to link to other relevant pages on your site as well as external web pages when appropriate. Internal links help bots and users more easily find and understand other pages on your site. These are all considered “on-page SEO” strategies.
“Off-page SEO” is also super important. In particular, you need to get links from authoritative domains/sites in your industry to your website. These are called backlinks.
If you’re producing solid content, backlinks happen naturally over time. But you can speed up the process of obtaining strong backlinking to boost your SEO through strategic outreach campaigns.
Focusing on Web Clicks/Engagements
In 2021, we’ve noticed that impressions are up but click-through rates are down for association websites.
This means that associations are producing more and better content that’s being seen on Google and other search engines. But users are not clicking on this content as much as they are engaging with other relevant content.
To increase click-through rates, associations and nonprofits organizations are increasingly prioritizing their on-page SEO by giving Google targeted and engaging metadata about the content on their website.
Optimizing your metadata to increase click-through rates requires you to dig into your Google Search Console insights each month to find pages on your site that have high impressions but low CTR. Then, check your competition and update your metadata based on what’s working and what’s not.
Trend #7 - Page Experience & Core Web Vitals
It’s not often that Google announces an update to their SEO algorithm in advance. In fact, it’s never happened until now.
In June, Google finished rolling out the Page Experience Update. Associations that understand the value of ranking organically on Google and providing a good user experience are updating and/or completely redesigning their website accordingly to pass Google’s latest update.
Page Experience Metrics
The algorithm determines rankings by evaluating whether or not your web pages deliver an enjoyable experience to searchers based on several page experience metrics including:
- Mobile-Friendly - are your web pages mobile-friendly?
- Safe Browsing - do your web pages contain any malicious content?
- HTTPS - have you made the switch to HTTPS?
- No intrusive interstitials - do your web pages have pop ups that disrupt the user experience?
Core Web Vitals Metrics
The algorithm also introduces three new metrics called the Core Web Vitals that look at the loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of a web page.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - measures how long it takes for the largest item in the browser's viewport (the area of the window in which web content can be seen) to load. LCP should happen within 2.5 seconds (or, at the very least, within a max of 4 seconds) from when the page first starts loading. Your goal should be less than 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID) - measures how long it takes your website to respond when a user clicks on something. Your web pages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds (or a maximum of 300 milliseconds). Although it’s best if the FID is under 100 milliseconds on every page.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) - measures whether or not the content (text, images, etc.) on your web pages jumps around as the user scrolls through each page. All of your pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1, or a maximum of 0.25. It’s best if your CLS score is under 0.1 on every page.
You can measure your Core Web Vitals here. You can also connect your Google PageSpeed Insights API key to Screaming Frog website crawler to get real details and recommendations on a page-by-page basis to tackle Core Web Vitals issues.
Association Website Design Trends - Key Takeaways
Whether you just redesigned your website or have an older site with limited capabilities, it’s more important than ever to keep tabs on the latest design trends for your association or nonprofit website.
Not only are people spending more time online, but the competition is fierce as purpose-driven organizations strive to find better ways to engage with current and potential members online.
So what makes a great website in 2021?
Great nonprofit and professional association websites inspire people to tell your story for you. They’re simple and intuitive, accessible and usable, and SEO-friendly. The best association website designs also highlight events and social proofs like testimonials.
In the future, we’ll likely see SEO become even more of a focus for associations and nonprofits as well as the increased adoption of simple, “modern minimalist” website designs.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Websites for Associations to explore the twelve web elements you need to engage and convert users to members.