Six Website Best Practices to Deliver Your Authentic Club Experience Online
Your website has a lot of work to do and has to do it for multiple audiences. And it has to accurately show the “best side” of your club. It could very well be the first impression with new prospects and at the very least is an integral part of their decision process. For them, it has to quickly and accurately convey the experience they are hoping to find at your club. For members, it’s a virtual front door to club information and should remind them of how they to feel when they are there. Those two very different audiences-and their infinite number of goals and objectives while on the site-have to coexist in the same space.
To top it off, your website experience isn’t being measured against other club sites, it’s being compared to every other site they’ve ever visited. Ever. The expectations are high. Understanding best practices, users’ intent, and making time for planning upfront are the keys to success. Following are some of the best practices to ensure that visitors have an online experience consistent with the experience at your club.
1. Intuitive navigation focused on prospect and member needs
This is user experience 101, and boils down to being a good host. You will never generate the results you want unless you consider your web visitors’ needs first. They’re called visitors because they’re guest at your site - treat them like it! Ask yourself who is coming to your site? What do they want to see? A stronger focus on tailoring your clubs navigation to what your prospects and members expect to see is key to driving utilization and added value of your website. For the private side of your website; this includes putting transactional elements front and center for your members ease of use (e.g. booking tee times, special event registration, etc.) And don’t forget about mobile. If you expect or know that certain tasks will frequently be completed on mobile, make sure that navigation is legible and functional on a variety of devices.
2. Beautiful up-to-date content and imagery that highlight your club’s lifestyle
At the end of the day, your website is made up of text, imagery, and video if you’ve invested in it. Your design team can only get as creative as the materials you provide allow. Are you looking to attract new members? Want to look family oriented? Then you should be providing them with imagery and video of families using amenities that fit the lifestyle they will experience at the club (e.g. pool, kids taking golf lessons - whatever best fits your club.) The Club at Ravenna, Grand Wailea, and the Club at the Del do a great job of using concise text and beautiful images to tell their unique story.
3. Speed and load time
Be mindful and optimize content for the application. In our instant gratification world, users expect websites to load quickly. In addition, search engines are increasingly using speed metrics to influence the results they show. Reducing the size of images used enable it to load faster, creating a better user experience without compromising the experience. Various optimization tools like tinypng.com can help you reduce file size without sacrificing the quality of the image. In some instances, even less can be more. For example, on mobile devices users demand a fast rich experience. It is ok to load less on the page to get the major points and critical information across as quickly as possible while still providing a more rich experience on desktops.
4. Consistent, beautiful branding
The first step to providing a great experience online and a more powerful brand is consistency. That includes simple aesthetic choices (such as fonts and colors) and extends to the components used throughout your website (using the same button and styling on all calls to action, for example.) Once you’ve gone through the effort to be consistent, keep it up! It’s good to test and try new things, but do it in an intentional fashion and with the end in mind.
5. Unique details enhance the experience
Small touches on unique elements are what create memorable experiences for members and guests as they interact with your website. Things like adding subtle transitions to the unique fly-out navigation like The Club at Black Rock does provide a memorable way of navigating the clubs website. Others such as The Club at Harbor Beach add subtle fade in to reveal content as users scroll down and explore the site.
6. Measuring performance & analytics
This seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. Not seeing the results you want your website to deliver? The proof is usually in the pudding. Rather than completely redesigning your website because you are not getting enough leads - take a look at what the data and your visitors are telling you. Are visitors not navigating to the critical pages you want them to see? Do they actually watch the videos you’ve created? Are you getting a lot of hits on your prospect form but no follow through? Perhaps your form is too long and prospects drop off because of the tedious data entry. Consistently measuring the performance of your content will ensure that you are optimizing your website to fit the evolving needs of your prospects and members.
It’s Never Finished - Best Practices Evolve
Lastly, keep in mind is that a website is never finished. Technology evolves. Customer preferences change. The best websites shift to meet their audience where they want to go. Consistently monitoring usage and activity on the site will provide insight into the direction your web site should be moving. Even, better ask your visitors firsthand what they want. Ask them if they were able to accomplish their intended goals on the site. And don’t be afraid to look outside of the club industry for inspiration. Remember, your website isn’t just being compared to other clubs, you’re up against experiences across the internet and around the world.
Check out these sites for some inspiration, or get a consultation.