The Critical Importance of User Experience for Association Members

“In the next 10 years, forty percent of you [associations] will no longer be relevant.” – Michael Dominguez, MGM Resorts International

That was a tough pill to swallow while listening to an Opening Keynote at a recent conference I attended. 40%? Really? He followed the statement by letting the room know that change needs to be imminent for many associations in order to maintain their relevance.

So, how do you do that? What forms can relevance take on? Unfortunately, simply doing what associations do best is no longer enough. Numerous businesses have taken on the association model, and we’re now Amazon members (Prime shipping anyone?), and our nightly dinners come delivered in a box from a meal service we’re members of, and we binge on shows from our Netflix membership.

The one thing a few of these examples have in common is that they’re typically sourced from an online forum. They have amazing UX, which stands for user experience, and they’re able to get you in and out of their processes simply and easily. Everything you’d expect from your online experience. So how do we learn from this as associations and vendors that support the association industry?

Let’s focus on user experience. Or in this case, member experience. Are members able to quickly register for events? Purchase books in your online store? Able to move seamlessly from your website to your AMS, to your LMS and back again? How easy is it for them to find the information they’re looking for? These are all questions we must ask ourselves as we delve into the user’s experience within our systems.

Unfortunately, this seems to be where we fall short. We don’t tend to see the value of stepping back, and viewing these issues from our users perspective. Who has time for that when we’re already moving as fast as we can? But we have to. Otherwise, we lose our relevance when we don’t ensure the users’ experience is what they have come to expect.

There’s a quote from Bridget Van Kralingen, Senior Vice President Blockchain, Industry Platforms, Global Industries, IAs and Partnerships at IBM that explains this phenomenon perfectly, “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.” How true!

Is navigating your website and purchasing association items as easy as it is to do on Amazon’s site? If not, your user experience could use a boost. How do you fix it? In part, Design Thinking.

In the process of Design Thinking you’ll start mapping your users’ journey through your public facing and membership systems. You’ll begin creating user personas to know who is using your systems, what they find useful and how they navigate through processes. This can vary wildly if your users span different generations or professions. Want to stay relevant? Start here and watch engagement (or at least actionable items) begin to grow. You can then begin to morph into more personalized messaging instead of the association marketing phenomenon which is to “spray and pray”, where you essentially give all of your members the exact same messaging and pray they respond.

Design Thinking will bring the departments/directors together to agree to what needs to be done next in regards to existing systems, or even in building a new system, in order to put the user first and increase engagement. If we work to stay relevant, and make the strides necessary, we can grow our associations by giving our members the user experience we’ve all come to expect. Want a bit more? Read John Forsberg’s recent article in Association Impact on Design Thinking here. Already interested in seeing how i2Integration has used Design Thinking in technology projects, or how we could best serve you in this capacity? Contact Lisa Powers at for more.