A Case Study for An Association Website Redesign

By Denman Wall

Modern websites are more than just a replica of an association’s structure, or a recreation of brochures or lists of products, services, and activities. They must more assertively represent an association’s position, its leadership in the industry, and its value to members and non-members alike.

As a leading organization in the funeral direction profession, the Metropolitan Funeral Directors Association (MetFDA) was ready for an upgrade to its online presence. But this endeavor would not stop with just a facelift to the existing MetFDA.org site. It would involve a complete overhaul intended to reposition the organization by leveraging enhanced content offerings, persona-oriented design, and a new technical infrastructure. The site needed to become more interactive, allowing visitors to interact with the organization in ways it previously could not.

In fall 2011, MetFDA a New York-based Internet strategy and web development firm specializing in association, not-for-profit and service industry and applied information technology, and a Maryland-based membership software and web-hosting service provider to rebuild the website from the ground up.

Key to the site redesign was the creation of a vision for the site, which complemented MetFDA’s. From conversations with MetFDA’s leadership, the vision of the site became “to be the foremost online resource for MetFDA members, professionals in the New York Metro area funeral home industry, as well as to those who are in need of funeral services.” Once the vision was set, the development team set out to determine how the site should engage users. Through a simple four-step approach that included discovery, design, development and deployment, the new site was launched in January 2012 during MetFDA’s Annual Meeting.

During the discovery process, MetFDA and the site designer identified all of the components of the new site, audience types and personas, content architecture, what technologies would be needed, and more. All too often, organizations skip this critical phase by jumping right into design. The discovery sessions allowed MetFDA to spend time concentrating on what it really wanted to do, where it wants to be, what audiences it wants to engage and how.

Following the month-long discovery phase, the team began the design phase. This phase included development of mood boards, wireframes, and site templates. These items were used to convey how the site would feel in terms of color palette, fonts, imagery and styles.

Once the design was set, development of the site, including a searchable online membership database, exclusive members-only content, and e-commerce components took shape.

A soft launch–a time period used for internal testing and user acceptance–was followed by a full launch at the Annual Meeting. The site was officially deployed.

Now that the site has been deployed for a few months, members have been browsing www.metfda.org and learning about its new interactive features and capabilities.

Denman Wall, a member of NYSAE’s Board of Directors and Technology Committee, is principal of denmanwall.com, providing internet consultation and development services. He is the past director of new media for ASME, and was responsible for providing multi-media production support, web analysis and search engine management for ASME's diverse range of web and e-mail endeavors. He can be reached at denny@denmanwall.com.