Connecting the Dots – the Importance of integrating Web Sites and Databases


Janan Compitello

September 8, 2011

Gone are the days when an association has one online property – their Web site.  These days multiple online outlets like social networks, e-commerce sites and partner sites play a significant role in how associations communicate with and engage current and new members. Integrating all of these outlets is intrinsic to a seamless and user-friendly experience.
As an example, during a recent discovery project with one of our clients we learned that they were managing member information across three different databases and had three different sites through which members had to log in to access information relevant to them.   Members had to remember their log in information for each site – and had to remember from where they could log in on each site.
This was an issue in two ways.  The obvious issue was that members had to remember too much to get where they wanted to go.  Online users expect quick and easy access to the information that’s important to them.  The less obvious – but equally important to address – issue was that member information was being housed in too many locations.  Information in one database was different for members from the other databases.  Data should be centrally located and cleaned as often as possible to ensure the most up to date information on your members is on file.  Clean data means data that is free and clear of out of date, corrupt and/or inaccurate information.
Any time is a good time to assess what your members are experiencing and what staff has to manage to make sure everything is operating as smoothly and efficiently as possible.  Here are a few things you can do to get started:
#1 – Take stock in what you have.  You may not even realize how many online communication outlets you have or how they should all work together.  To manage inventorying the member experience, think about breaking it down by type of communication vehicle .
Association focused
– Your Web site
Member focused
– Discussion forums
– Online Communities
– Social networking outlets
– e-Commerce outlets
– Affinity relationships (retail outlets that provide discounts to your members)
# 2 – Map out where members log in and what they do when they log in. Create a visual map of each online property and the log in access point.  Do you need a separate log in for each?  Is the member authenticated against a database so that the site knows what content or what type of content he/she can access?
# 3 – Create user scenarios. Your members and site visitors will bring with them certain expectations on what should or should not happen once they log in to your site.  Try anticipating these and walking through the user experience to make sure everything works as expected.
#  4 – Don’t forget about staff. Poll staff to make sure you have a clear understanding of what they do on a regular (daily, weekly, monthly) basis to manage member data.  How much time are they spending on updating information.  If you have multiple databases how often is the information being synced?
Overall, make sure the technology you have supports friendly member experiences and increased staff efficiencies.  Investing in making sure you’re meeting these goals now will save everyone time and money — and make your members happy.

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