The effect of social media Web sites and blogs on association Web sites is clear: Across all association sizes, member-focused Web sites have become simpler and more, well, member-focused.
Judging from the newly redesigned sites submitted to the 2012 competition, the focal point is on business-building information and tools for REALTORS®. Those discrete buttons off to the side that used to point you in the direction of the member-only areas now feature prominently, touting member resources, benefits, tools, and discounts front and center.
Real estate news, especially national news, plays less a role in association sites, as does information for consumers and other audiences. It’s not that news and consumer resources are less important, in fact, the opposite is true. Many associations have launched robust separate Web sites for consumers and launched separate blogs and social media spaces for news and trends.
The notion that one site could serve multiple audiences and have multiple focuses may be fading. Our five winning sites show a clear focus on the member, which these associations say was exactly what members asked for.
Best site from an association with more than 7,000 members
Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®
Members are the clear focus of this site, re-launched in November. Its objective is to give busy members the information they need as quickly as possible and focus on member benefits. The new site features a REALTOR® search with bios, links, and pictures. The association’s web stats indicated that standard forms and Find a REALTOR® were the two most popular pages, so they are featured prominently throughout the site.
From the judges: “This is a really smart, contemporary site in every way: strong design, good content, intuitive structure, and effective use of technology. It has a personality and a point of view, which are rare in organization sites. These factors make the site extremely inviting to use! On the home page, I like the prominence of the social media links, as well as the use of the HouseLogic widget and RSS feed of headlines from their blog. The visual slideshow area featuring the latest updates is very inviting. The mobile version of the site is clear and attractive also. The design is so easy on the eye, that I actually want to go through the entire site and search out more information. There’s a great balance of white space and cool colors, it sends off an air of peace and calm. All of the links work and I especially love how the HouseLogic articles are presented. You can’t go wrong with the simplicity, yet complexity, of this site. There are layers and layers of navigation but done so well, you know exactly where you’re at on this site. I think the social network buttons are a great addition too. Click on the icon and you’re connected. The simplicity is amazing!"
Best site from an association with 2,001–7,000 members
Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS®
Designed by staff, with members’ needs and wants incorporated via user groups, the site offers multiple applications through a single sign-on, an iPad-friendly version of the association’s electronic magazine, and access to several social media platforms. The site is updated daily with information regarding news, market trends, videos, training and education information, social media, and promotions for member services and events.
From the judges: “It conveys a very professional organization. Although there is a lot to look at, it is not confusing or overwhelming. Everything from the “satellite” links at the top to the NAR links on the left seems organized and well laid out. Events are front and center and the links to all things NAR are easy to find. I think some of these links are very timely, such as the Code of Ethics link. I loved the link ‘get involved.’ This is really a Web site for the member! This Web site is easy, with many options for information or help. It is a great member benefit. I like the “total package” look for members. It comes across as a trade association Web site. This is very important to members. The dues FAQs would be a big hit at our office! The media page is awesome, especially the ‘connect’ space button.”
Best site from an association with 701–2,000 members
DeKalb Association of REALTORS®
With a focus on highlighting member benefits and promoting social interaction, this site stands out for its ease of use and timeliness. Members are clearly the focus with articles on hot topics affecting REALTORS® and special recognition of member awards.
From the judges: “This is a strong Web site – clear purpose and ease of use. All of the logos, addresses, and copyrights are visible and easy to read. This Web site is professional and very attractive and appealing. It is not overly flashy by any means but employs great technology and innovation. I really like the links to movies and interviews, and links to NAR information, etc. It serves as a portal to great information for the public and members alike. [The] Meetings and Events [tab] take[s] a top spot and is very visible on the Home page too. This is very eye-catching and easy to use. This is a site that, as a member, I would visit often—maybe every day or at least a couple times a week.”
Best site from an association with 301–700 members
Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS®
Effective organization of essential elements with style makes this site stand out. Not merely visually appealing, this site also delivers on useful, timely information. Designed on a Wordpress platform, incorporating LAMPS association management software, the site is easy to maintain and generates revenue with banner ads.
From the judges: “This Web site has a clean, uncluttered look and is visually appealing. It is clearly directed to members and not the general public, which is in line with the organization’s stated design goals. Navigation is clear and intuitive—it makes sense. The site looks very professional and the design is appealing—loved the large photos that cycled through at the top. The four button tabs at the top right of the home page, which stay consistent throughout the site, is a clever feature that is very simple. I also like the four buttons for direct links to member search, at the top of the page. I can see how this would be a primary feature for members, and so their placement was a good move. I would probably refer my clients to the open house feature of the site.”
Best site from an association with fewer than 300 members
Santa Cruz County Board of REALTORS®
This Web site gives no clues that it’s from a small association and is updated by the president and EO. From the Twitter feed and elegant mobile version to the quick MLS search and unobtrusive pop-up windows, this site has the features and functions offered by large associations.
From the judges: “I love the action of the photos on the different pages. The sunrise-to-sunrise banner is captivating! There is nothing stagnant about this Web site! Under Government Affairs, I was really drawn to the Legislators and Legislative Tracker. If I were a member and wanted to know what my representatives were up to, this is an easy resource to navigate. Good job! I was able to find a category easily, and finding out how to become a member is easy. I like the way it flows.”
REALTOR AE, Spring 2012