Ghost Reviews

How many websites do you visit in a month?

According to Nielsen’s statistics, the average American visits 89 web sites in a month, spending just over 29 hours browsing those sites. And these are the numbers from 2010, before many had yet grown accustomed to browsing sites regularly on their smart phones.

This is all to suggest that your website visitors have all seen enough to know what they like. In fact, over half of your site visitors are going to spend less than 15 seconds on your site. Are they happy with what they find? Or will they be quickly moving along to your competitors site?

If anything, it’s just a little too easy for us to cast our verdict on a site’s quality. It’s certainly easy to move right past a web presence that isn’t up to snuff. Sometimes we don’t even dwell on our assessment of a discarded site, just as we dive absently into many that work. We’ve been surfing the net for decades now, we ride intuitively.

You don’t have to be a user experience design professional to recognize great UX when you experience it. Just like you don’t need to be a graphic designer to be influenced by an impactful design. But when an unimpressed visitor passes right on by, it’s not just the site being passed over.

We assess the overall quality of businesses and services by way of their web presence.

Your site might be being assessed harshly by visitors who aren’t intentionally leaving their review. And if your site just isn’t connecting for any reason, you need to know.

There are a number of metrics to help gauge a site’s effectiveness. Such metrics include the dreaded: ‘visitors who leave your site quickly, never to be seen or heard from again’. This can be a website’s most straightforward ‘pass/fail’ test. These are your most negative reviews. If far too many site visitors are ghosting entirely, well… that’s a problem. Of course, what is more nebulous is the ‘why’ behind such behavior; as is what, exactly, you can do to hold onto more visitors.

You’ll never get rid of all of these ghosts. But trying to convert more of them is the good fight. Fortunately, ghost-busting isn’t always as daunting as it might seem.

User experience design and general design aesthetics can be largely subjective. But not entirely. There’s a small window of objective assessment that can actually give us a clear look at a site’s impact.

Analytics and user testing has proven that expectations built off previous site experiences can help us review a new site design objectively. We can assess site infrastructure as it relates to or adheres to our shared expectations. Considering the volume of sites the average site visitor processes, it’s no surprise that they will lean further into the UX they already prefer. What’s more, with enough user data, we can even discover the objective consensus for an optimal site experience.

From there, we can design a site experience to look and even feel better than the current objective consensus–but not too far as to be an alien and non-intuitive experience.

Baby steps.

Our best experiences with a new site is when we can interact immediately. It’s exciting when a site experience awes us with any number of new flourishes; but a successful new site should still always allow for us to dive right into the experience.

Basically, as we engage with site infrastructure and learn our way through an interface, we’ve already put the work into learning those processes. Sites that adhere to these learned models simply feel more intuitive. It’s more than just ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ for the sake of appearances. This has real stakes in the success (or failure) of a business.

It only takes us a few clicks to review a site. It can take considerable effort for a web presence to meet the expected standards of the day, but it’s a key step towards keeping the ghosts at bay.

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:


  • 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):,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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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