Should our association home page be for members or non-members?

When web sites were first created, the home page was almost always geared completely toward members. Over time, those associations with important external audiences, such as potential customers, the press or legislators began to incorporate information that was important to these those non-member groups. Now with the greater sophistication of association members, the question is whether the home page of the web site should be completely geared toward the external audiences. While it might sound odd to exclude member information from the home page, there are good reasons to consider doing so:

– Members are much more familiar with the association’s web site than non-members. As result, they can easily find the one member button that may be on the home page and navigate to their required information. In contrast, outsiders who are visiting your association’s web site can usually use as much guidance as possible.

– Letting the association home page focus completely on the external audience can make that audience feel important and relevant. That will serve to help move that audience toward the intended action your association requests of them. – Focusing the home page on the external audience will give your association’s members tangible evidence the association is working on important goals. If the external audience is potential customer, the press, or legislators, the association members will see exactly what you are doing on the members’ behalf.

– With the advances in technology, it’s not terribly difficult to allow association members to check a box that would let them skip the home page altogether, moving directly to the members area.

 If the association doesn’t relish the idea of turning over the home page to the external audience, you may consider the alternative: building a second web site under a different domain for the external audience. The only downside to this approach is that if the external audience is likely to search for your association via the original site, you’ve done no better with your second site than you would have done with an internal page. Depending on your association’s mission and target audiences, converting the home page to the needs of your external audiences can help your association meet its goals without undue inconvenience for members. It’s something worth at least considering.

Has your association devoted its home page to an external audience? What was the reaction from your members?

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