Association Web Design Tips – Drupal CMS to the Rescue

April 26, 2012 | Author: | Posted in Internet Business/Web Design

The association web design landscape can be viewed by a paradigm of new, younger association websites that have been redeveloped in the last couple of years compared to sites that may have been operating for the last 5-10+ years. Not much time from a historical perspective, but in technological time, it’s the equivalent of a rotary phone vs. a smart phone in your pocket. Yes, both make phone calls, but today smartphones make up an ecosystem supporting technology that flourishes within it. And while yes you can still connect with a neighbor on a land line phone, if you want your website to communicate to a savvy generation of internet users, then its time to upgrade. Modern content management systems offer association web design projects not just another tool, but an entirely new landscape to engage their members and expand functionality. Just as some people stick to their old phones, it’s easy to resist the urge to upgrade your website when you don’t realize the amazing benefits you’re missing.

Moving Past Incremental Improvement

So what has kept thousands of associations from upgrading their web presence? It’s more complicated than we initially thought. After reviewing notes from a number of different projects, we discovered a couple of insights. First, executives described to us that it’s not rejection of technology. Many concede that software can be a solution. Budgets were there as a reason as well, reserved for general marketing expenditures and technology upgrades. The great deal of them also had technical staff available that understood the benefits and the potential for improvement. Below we describe some of the real reasons that kept these associations stuck in a permanent holding pattern.

A Content Management System to the Rescue

Is there a perfect association website solution? That could be answered the same way if the question were about cars. Maybe a Ferrari comes to mind. To others, it’s a luxury SUV. And for some, a medium-size sedan is comfortable. But what if our answer wasn’t some super expensive custom brand, but rather an open source solution started by a teenager in his dorm room a over a decade ago? You’d be right to smirk, until you learned that from that original effort, many of today’s websites like Whitehouse, MTV, and thousands of member-based websites have selected Drupal content management solutions over almost everything else.

Drupal is more than a website language. It offers Software As A Solution (SaaS) infrastructure that can help small associations to enterprise-size organizations deploy highly-automated sites that can be run by a single user. It’s a powerful concept to think ten people or a hundred people can use the same software with vastly different requirements, but beneath Drupal’s exterior lies an extremely efficient and modular framework that can be joined together. Unlike previous content management solutions that were run and implemented by individual companies, Drupal is an open source solution where a global community of users participate to make improvements and enhancements. Like Wikipedia, you can make edits and improvements to a system that doesn’t charge any licensing costs.

Drupal Modules can contribute to enhance functionality, that includes:

1. Association Event Calendar
Give visitors access to calendars for conferences, meetings, trade shows, and special events.

2. Event Registration for Members
Allow members to self-register and sign up for courses along with the ability to pay for dues or fees online.

3. Executive and Member Profiles
Highlight executives, committees, companies, sponsors, or member profiles offering basic or detailed contact information.

4. Add Social Media Distribution and Archiving
Give updates on blogs, news, press releases, videos, pdfs, and more with website functionalities that can share updates throughout the site and social media networks.

5. Create Vendor Listings and a Searchable Database
Connect members with the vendors looking to serve your members through paid or complimentary vendor listing areas.

6. Administrative Reporting for Associaiton Members
Need to know what your members are doing? Utilize extensive custom report tools to gain analytical insight into site analytics, ecommerce transactions, site behavior, member demographics, and more.

7. Boost Social Media Integration Interactions
Create two-way communication streams between your website and external social media sites, share content between the two, and encourage engagement through responsive design.

8. Secure Member Area for Association Members
Provide members a secure area to access private content, calendars, or networking areas. Also, have members update personal information or contribute to your marketing campaigns.

9. Utilize Custom Membership Levels
Offer custom membership levels for association members; charge, track, and manage each user from a central administrative area.

10. Embrace Advertising and Sponsorships
Offer selective advertising and sponsorship opportunities such as ads or sponsorships of events, webinars, emails, and more.

11. Board of Director Voting Tools
Allow voting for a board of directors through a secure area on the site and detailed reporting and auditing.

Drupal is a fresh approach to web development. It addresses not only the fundamental technical issues that have been stumbling blocks, but also many of the learned cultural problems that stymied website projects in the past.

These associations rely on solutions like Drupal to power everything from news updates and job forums to content utilized in mobile applications that support their mission to increase in size and value for their members.

Discovering if Drupal is the right fit for an association takes a lot of understanding of the technical goals and strategic objectives your organization has in the years to come. Drupal is an open source CMS that gives its users a large degree of flexibility to modify, share, and distribute content (text, video, data, and business services). Still, Drupal is more than a CMS. It is a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that is perfect for a small business and scalable for any large enterprise. Drupal is a free and open-licensed software package capable of easily publishing content for individuals or large-scale organizations or any size web project in between.

At Alliance Interactive we help associations and nonprofits interested in website redesign projects benefit from the latest tools and resources available. Request a consultation to discuss your specific project.

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