For any professional or trade association, your website is one of your most important assets. For many associations, the web is the primary channel for communication between your association and your members.
In 2023, associations and other professional organizations are looking to reconnect with members in new ways. All associations want to form strong connections. Events are finally happening, and real-world connections are once again finally forming, it’s feeling much more “normal”.
2023 is an important year for many associations.
Whether you just redesigned your association’s website or your team is working with an older site with limited capabilities, in 2023, it is more important than ever to understand the latest design trends for association websites.
Users spend a lot of time online, and memberships are shrinking, but by focusing on your organization’s purpose, you can uncover innovative ways to engage with your current and potential members.
These are the design trends we see for association websites in 2023:
Storytelling through a powerful lens
In 2023, we expect associations to embrace dynamic storytelling on their websites and to begin to employ dynamic storytelling techniques to engage members with meaningful content across the web.
Associations are creating immersive, high-quality visual experiences. These unique experiences attract and retain relevant online audience. Go further than impactful messaging, by using powerful visuals like bold colors, animation effects, cinematics, and interactive elements, you have the potential to establish unique emotional connections. This emotional bond, between your brand and members, will engage and inspire them to remain connected.
Not just cookie-cutter storytelling, but dynamic storytelling, will become a key factor in how associations deliver and suggest content. The goal is to move away from single-pane stories that are limited and basic, enabling the exploration of more creative approaches such as story arcs, transitions between sections, micro-interactions between visual elements on each page or even branching presentations (where content can be tailored to suit user preferences).
Design takes an even more important front-seat
Digital design solutions are becoming increasingly sophisticated and as a result, associations should look to elevate the visual presentation of their websites. This could include more innovative ways to display data effectively such as infographics that help members understand information quickly with minimal effort required on their part. It will also involve making sure all elements work in unison so users can get an intuitive experience while engaging with association content online, optimized across different screen sizes & platforms (responsive web design).
Read more about Association Website Design: Explore the Best Association Website Designs in 2023 to learn more about what organizations are leading with way with their website’s design.
Association members have high expectations for website performance, and they won’t stay long if their experience is lackluster. In 2023, we anticipate associations to prioritize design solutions that adhere to principles of minimalism in order to create clean visuals & an intuitive navigation system for a streamlined user journey on their websites.
“In order to expand our networks and increase memberships, association leaders must be mindful of the visual presentation of their organization” explained networking expert and Association of Designers leader Laurel King, during her talk at the Design Summit in December of 2022.
“Maintaining relevancy in this quickly-evolving industry requires constant attention to brand perception and member appeal.”
Personalization, from the design to the message
Personalization has been a trend for 2022, and it will continue to be crucial in 2023. This involves creating experiences that respond to each user’s unique interests using data analytics & AI capabilities.
Associations should take into consideration elements such as customizing the homepage based on previous interactions, including personalized messages formatted with dynamic content within emails or providing tailored call-to-actions (CTAs) when users have interacted with certain pages or features from the past.
All these approaches help create an atmosphere of exclusivity and recognition which encourages members engagement beyond their initial impression at first glance on your association website.
Redesigned navigation that puts users first and foremost
Organizations need efficient navigation so members don’t get lost or become overwhelmed using your association’s website. This can be achieved through well-labeled menus, clear call-to-actions for members, and menu structures that are simple enough for anyone to understand.
The National Education Association (the NEA) has prioritized navigation beyond most all. They considered and have taken their user experience (UX) analysis data, to develop a left-hand vertical navigation that allows users access to the information they need.
Navigation should be tailored towards specific user needs and purposes such as providing important information, navigating content or gathering resources quickly (think search bars & filter tools). Associations need to create navigation experiences without any friction so users do not get frustrated while navigating throughout their website.
Minimalism as a form of function
For the last few years, minimalism has been gaining popularity in design due to its ability to simplify user interface and keep visitors focused on key elements.
In 2023, we expect associations of all sizes to embrace minimalist designs that are clean, organized, and help reduce clutter by removing unnecessary features or content from pages while keeping only what’s essential. Designers who design for the web know, minimalism is in-and-out, always on trend, and never trending… web design trends for 2023 suggest strong use of minimalism.
This could involve rethinking page structure so there’s a clear hierarchy of information through typographical styles (font size & color) as well as visual clues like white space and improved legibility for easy scanning of text blocks.
New tools for memberships & event registrations
As we emerge in 2023, associations will begin to experiment with new tools for creating an efficient registration process. The goal is to make it as simple and fast as possible for members so they don’t become overwhelmed or frustrated during their interactions on your website.
Associations should look towards utilizing a cloud-based system that allows them to securely monetize membership payments and allows users the flexibility of registering multiple people in one transaction, setting up automated reminders prior to upcoming events, providing payment plans & facilitating communication between members regarding specific event information.
One of the biggest changes that associations will experience is a shift towards digital tools for memberships, event registrations and conference attendance. This includes new subscription or payment options as well as booking forms with integrated custom questions tailored to individual events/registrations requirements.
Increased focus on accessibility standards for association websites
This year, we expect to see associations placing a greater emphasis on website accessibility standards. This includes everything from making sure websites are accessible for people with disabilities (WCAG compliance) as well as implementing best practices so all members can enjoy their experience regardless of device or platform. Inclusive thinking in design is always trending.
Associations should look towards mobile-responsive site design that allows users the flexibility to move around easily and understand content quickly even if they’re using a small screen size like those commonly found in smartphones and tablets. Additionally, it’s important for pages to accommodate universal features such as contrast levels & font sizes for improved readability.
Accessibility standards have become increasingly important in website design as they allow disabled users to access content and tools on your association’s websites. In 2023 we expect more associations to prioritize accessibility for their members by incorporating WCAG guidelines into the structure & coding of their sites, implementing automated testing (using AI technology) and integrating helpful features like large text fields or voice commands.
Smaller budgets, smaller expectations for “sizzle and pop” features
With shrinking budgets, and for some, shrinking membership numbers, we expect to see shrinking marketing budgets.
Associations will be looking to reduce costs in their marketing plans and aiming to strategically distribute a smaller amount of funds.
Finally, new events to feature and talk about!
At least we’re getting back into the swing of things and events are finally feeling normal. Plugins and tools to feature events on the website will be more important than ever. Integrations with popular tools like Google Calendar, tools that enable bookings, and ways of accepting memberships online will continue to be more important.
As we get back to events, hopefully we will have some great new content to show off! New videos, photos, and writeups with plenty of social media mentions.
Using members for social proof
Members will continue to be seen as a trusted source of social proof in 2023. Associations can leverage this by allowing their members’ stories and experiences to act as testimonials for others within the community, showing what it’s like to work with or attend events hosted by the organization. Associations can also use video content from members (e.g., interviews about an event) that are featured on relevant pages across their websites and shared through various channels such as YouTube & Vimeo.
As association websites will become increasingly personalized, social proof — user-generated experiences & generated content – can help engage members. This could include promoting member story highlighting certain aspects of their membership or showcasing testimonials from other members on the website in order to boost engagement and build trust with potential visitors.
Embracing new technology for associations
In 2023, associations will continue to embrace more innovative technologies. As new and more tools are offered geared specifically towards the unique needs of their membership base, associations are exploring the software and tools that can help them connect. This includes AI-driven chatbots that can provide support through customer issues & FAQs – automating mundane tasks and freeing up time for association staff. It could also involve virtual or augmented reality technology used as a tool for engagement during events or conferences, allowing attendees from around the world to join remotely without needing to physically be present.
For some trade associations, we see a strong embrace of virtual trade shows and using trade show software to simplify their events. Professional trade organizations hosted more Zoom-based conferences in 2022 than the total number of actual in-person trade events.
Utilizing virtual and augmented reality, machine learning-driven customer service tools such as chatbots, along with AI algorithms to identify patterns of user behavior will help optimize user experience (UX). Associations should also explore developing their own mobile apps that allows members greater access to content, registration & payment systems related information can all be accessed quickly whilst you’re travelling or on the go.
Key takeaways on website trends for associations in 2023 from our designers:
In 2022, many associations hosted their first real-world events in two years. In 2023, many will hold a normal number of events and will once-again be busied with a busy event calendar.
As we resume our normal schedules, we should stay mindful of our aim for perfection. Is this good enough? Probably. Even more, with budgets now stretched to include often under-attended events and websites with too many features, we anticipate many scale-backs for associations heading into this next quarter.
In 2023, associations are expected to focus on creating powerful and dynamic digital experiences centered around storytelling, design excellence and minimalism. They should strive towards a redesigned navigation system that puts users first by making registration processes simpler while emphasizing accessibility standards.
Associations are utilizing new technologies, like virtual or augmented reality, to stimulate connections and create unique interest-based experiences. Video content integration across all pages is becoming increasingly important for engaging members quickly, along with leveraging the power of social proof through user-generated stories & testimonials featured in various areas of the website.
We are interested in learning more about what your association has planned for 2023. Explore our website to learn more about the solutions we offer that could empower your association to succeed this year.