Stupid Questions: The Smart First Step

When seeking strategic web development, asking for help is the hard part. Fortunately, asking the right questions is easier than you might expect. Feel free to skip right to the bottom if you just want this simple, oh-so-secret wisdom. 

Perhaps your existing (or not-yet existing) website features are in need of a redesign?

Maybe your business could be drawing more sales or fundraising through the site?

Or attracting more members?

Whatever your web construction needs might be, it’s daunting to approach an outside vendor. But at some point, you’re bound to recognize that your web presence has untapped potential. It’s only a matter of time; this will always be the case. Because there are always improvements to make.

A digital agency can help you set the right course. But how do you get the most out of them? How will they offer the best support for your specific needs?

You don’t have all the answers, and frankly neither does any one member of a digital agency. As web development standards have evolved and broadened, a need for agencies with a team of diversely talented design and development professionals has been crucial. So take comfort in the fact that no one person can handle it all, even the professionals. That’s okay. In fact, admitting as much is a great start. Then, as you become more comfortable asking the secret questions (still getting those!) the quality and end results of your own web development initiatives will also steadily improve.

The first step is to remember that the old adage is true and more applicable here than just about anywhere:

There are no stupid questions.

Web development teams have heard it all, believe me. Site design and development standards are too dynamic and ever-evolving for committing to a strategy to be anything but daunting.

The questions you want to hear from a service provider should be substantive. More specifically, you want to hear the probing questions that relate to how you and/or your agency will actually utilize the product. A web digital agency should never presume to known and understand your organization. Or how your web presence ought to factor into your business model, for that matter.

Of course a worthwhile strategic service provider should provide strategic support, but only after they ask their own share of ‘dumb’ questions. Be wary of an agency or professional who walks into working with your business like they own the place.

Remember what we say about people who assume?

Your first concern when engaging with a service provider (web-dev or otherwise) might be that they’re going to sell you on something you don’t need. But you can cut through this fear quickly; just don’t avoid questions. Let ’em fly!

If something doesn’t make sense in any way, just ask. Here’s a cheat sheet:

“I don’t understand. Could you explain that?”

“How will this help?”

“Are there other options?”

If these questions aren’t answered to your satisfaction. REPEAT. Then repeat again until they are either a) answered to your satisfaction or b) the provider can’t communicate to you successfully (in which case, move along!).

With these questions on hand, you can always cut through the fluff. More than this, you’ll have answers on hand that will empower your decision making when it comes time to compare and contrast with competing firms. Good luck.

Now get out there and ask away.

Join the Club

What makes a club worth the price of admission? member-front-2

There are any number of specific answers to this question, depending on the association. But there’s one excellent means to judge any or all member based organizations’ utility. Because, at the end of the day, all that matters is how effectively the club connects its members to the resources and benefits of membership. If members can truly depend on access to those benefits, the club’s foundation is strong.

For a web-based association, member management software isn’t a piece of the puzzle, it’s the entire puzzle and the table it’s placed upon. Choosing the appropriate Association Management Software is always a major foundational step. Core amenities (as well as membership perks, however minor) all rest upon the doors opened by the selected AMS.

So let’s take a look at the foundational offerings provided by a few of the most well known AMS solutions:

ClubExpress

  • Full CRM client as well as employee management (including financial admin)
  • Full site CMS Solution, built for intuitive admin
  • The winner of PCMag’s AMS of the year (2016): http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2489257,00.asp
  • The price is right. Heck, compared to comparable offerings its downright CHEAP
  • Excellent for small (under 5k members)

Wild Apricot

  • Excellent budget-concious decision for a small organization willing to put some time into the customization process
  • Solid functionality for SMALL member-based orgs (as a downside, templates looks a bit like outdated CRMs…)
  • Can be a bit more labor intensive to get everything customized, but in terms of options, few doors are closed
  • Excellent video tutorial and overall support for customization assistance
  • Full CRM client as well as employee management (including financial admin)
  • Full site CMS Solution, built for intuitive admin

Memberclicks

  • Very targeted to associations (they know the association world better than anyone)
  • Great option for associations who host numerous paid events, or associations who derive most of their profits from events
  • Full CRM client as well as employee management (including financial admin)
  • Full site CMS Solution, built for intuitive admin

Blackbaud

  • If your organization used Raisers Edge, you’re already using Blackbaud!
  • #1 in non-profit fundraising, fundraising tools integrate seamlessly into CRM / AMS functionality
  • Front-facing design options / templates are relatively limited
  • Full CRM client as well as employee management (including financial admin)
  • Full site CMS Solution, built for intuitive admin

NeonCRM

  • Fantastic for non-profit fundraising, and not always associated with associations, but that’s changing quickly.
  • Excellent organized member-management
  • Ranks very high in user satisfaction AND overall user experience design
  • Full CRM client as well as employee management (including financial admin)
  • Full site CMS Solution, built for intuitive admin

The Power of Design

the-power-of-design

Design is everywhere. You can find it on our television and computer screens, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards, food packages — you name it.  We live in a visual culture inundated with media and saturated with images we simply cannot escape. It can distract and annoy, but it also has the power to entice and inform. A design can even affect our overall perspective.

So why is design and creativity undervalued by many? If design evokes emotions, affects what we buy and enables us to absorb and process information in new ways. Design is much more than just visual aesthetics, is all about generating insightful solutions that put people and their needs first.

Design should entice and persuade. Design can help your business stand out from the competition, keep your brand memorable, keep your content user-friendly, and help your business make a good first impression. A professional designer has the potential to deliver those kinds of results.

Next time you take a walk, remember design is everywhere. I challenge you to explore your surroundings, I bet you will be surprised of what you find — and that’s the power of design.