BUILD A FLEXIBLE WEBSITE
How to Plan and Effectively Implement a Multi-Phase Website for a Member Organization
– Case Study –
BUSINESS PURPOSE FOR MEMBER ASSOCIATIONS
Membership organizations and associations have different needs than companies that sell products or services. Member organizations and associations need to constantly serve and engage their members. On the flip side, their members need to interact with the website frequently.
Original Website for FA
Unlike companies with customers who may come and go, or purchase once and then not interact for a long time, member organizations are built on the promise of frequent interaction. Their existence depends on being a valuable resource and essential part of the member’s life. This is exactly the case of the Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA) member organization.
Four years ago the Placemaking Group was selected to overhaul the original FA website. FA needed to use its website to help run the organization and their original site was not living up to this essential task.
The original FA website was unwieldy and difficult to manage. It had been developed over time with no real plan and had outgrown its structure. As modules were added they weighed down the site, making it slow and difficult for members to navigate. As the number of members and meetings grew, so did the business needs for the website.
New Site Requirements: Flexible Strategy
When planning the complex FA site, we asked:
1. What are the top things members will need to do on the website?
2. How can we build this functionality into the website to increase efficiency and reduce staff time needed to manage it as the organization grows?
Additionally, the new site needed to allow for the addition of future modules, be responsive and viewable on all types of computers and mobile devices. The FA accounting volunteers had specific needs for interconnection with Quickbooks, and FA administrative personnel needed the website to allow FA members different levels of access to make changes.
Improve user experience and make the site more engaging and easier to use.
- Improving online brand
- Provide a sharp focus on the FA mission
- Convey program benefits
- Improve site navigation
- Improve user experience
- Make the site more engaging
- Improve search ability for all the member documents
- Make the site accessible on mobile devices
- Help the organization grow without adding staff
UPDATED DESIGN WITH EASY ACCESS TO CRUCIAL ACTIVITIES
- Magazine subscriptions – Provide the ability to run reports that are automatically sent to the fulfillment house, send out a large number of emails to remind subscribers to renew
- Census reports
- Meeting re-registration process to keep the site database up to date – if a meeting is no longer functioning and not re-registered it is removed from the display list
- A Ride and Lodge sharing application
- Reporting for subscriptions, events and e-commerce items
- Navigation specific to the section: three sub-sections, one for members and one for each of the two divisions.
- Custom User administration so that the admin could control what a given member could access depending on if they are a meeting rep or an officer.
- Search function
- Online information for new and prospective members
- Find meetings
- Make updates to meetings (special permission access)
- Calendar of events – The annual meetings and conventions are set up to be efficiently
- Event registration with custom needs (such as selecting meals for each day)
- Order items – e-commerce purchases and most importantly backend operations such as reports and fulfillment. The client needed a system that allowed the meeting reps to order large quantities of pamphlets and other materials with only a few clicks. Something most out of the box e-commerce systems don’t do.
Add on Functionality Over the Last 2 Years
- Digital products including mp3 (storage and delivery).
- Magazine digital subscriptions – make the digital products downloadable by only members with valid subscriptions.
- Allow the member to manage their own email settings so they can decide which emails they want to receive.
- Document storage and retrieval– cloud solution to help deliver documents quickly. Create links to the same PDF on multiple pages and be able to make changes in one place.
- Add to the member profile area to allow the members to make donations, view subscriptions, downloads, manage meetings, view all past orders.
- Allow members to add meetings, edit meetings (request changes to be approved by admin).
- Order magazine subscriptions for a meeting.
- Member profiles – see subscriptions; see digital products and past orders.
- Microsite for the magazine that links back to the main site.
- FAQ area for members only with categories – drop down answers.
- Landing pages for the book.
Sample User Profile Area:
Members can view their past orders, subscriptions, meetings and convention registration.
With all this functionality, the administrative and member areas need to be easy to use.
Visiting the Site
View 5 or
Year Over Year
Use of ‘Find a
We set up the FA site on the ELF Content Management System (CMS) platform. ELF is PHP-based and designed specifically to be easy to use.
It allows for custom website development to the client’s specific requirements. With this, the end product is extremely easy to use and includes only the modules the client needs. In ELF, each function is named according to what the organization calls it and not a label chosen by the developer that can’t be altered.
ELF stands for Easy to Learn and Fun.
A big plus for the ELF CMS is that it is truly custom – the admin panel doesn’t confuse the user with a lot of buttons and sections that they don’t need and will never use. Other systems have tabs and plugins that aren’t being used simply because that’s the way the programmer built it.
The ELF CMS backend is a framework, JS, with a MySQL database.
ELF utilizes a flexible architecture so that there are hooks and open areas to easily add on functionality as the client’s business grows.
ELF Administration Panel:
Categories on the left open to lists of individual items that can be edited or deleted.