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squarespace stories

If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, chances are you’ve heard of Casper Mattress, Blue Apron or Squarespace, the website design company that built their platform so that anyone can build a beautiful website. Their marketing was effective because I threw them into the mix of solutions to consider when two of my clients needed a quick and simple solution for a few websites. We looked into it and ultimately decided to try it out.

This was my first time working with this platform, so it was an exciting opportunity to learn a new way of building a website. Over the span of one month, I built three websites on Squarespace for two clients: one main association website, and two event websites, here and here.

Here is why Squarespace worked for these specific sites:

1. No integrations – None of the websites I recently built needed to integrate with an association management Sastem (AMS) or a learning management system (LMS). To be honest, I wouldn’t have even considered Squarespace if this wasn’t the case.

2. Limited content – The websites had really limited content, making Squarespace a great solution. At the minimum subscription level, you get 20 pages included in the template you choose. This did not restrict me from making the website I wanted; in fact, we were hoping to specifically make one of the websites more effective by removing excess content and adjusting the layout, so the page limit forced me to strategically layout the website.

3. Simple design – The sites I built needed fairly basic features. They did not need pull in multiple social feeds, include custom coded features or tools, have a blog, differentiate between member/non-member content or include sub-sites for association chapters or events. Again, if these had been requirements, I would not have even considered Squarespace.

4. Cost effective – The lowest subscription comes out at $144 a year (if you pay upfront). This includes 20 pages, mobile optimization, a free custom domain, integrated e-commerce and hosting fees. They do offer another level that allows unlimited pages, promotional pop-ups, and other features for a little more. Depending on your website needs and the designers you work with, sometimes a website redesign can cost upwards of $8,000!

A few notes on why it is not a solution for everyone:
1. Integrations and custom coding – If you have an AMS or require a single sign on for your association to offer member benefits, this is probably not the solution for you. If you have a lot of custom coded tools or features on your website that you would like migrated to a Squarespace site, you might want to do some research and/or contact support to see if that is possible before making the jump.

2. No access to html – I didn’t realize how much I depend on html to make quick changes if things are not formatting properly, until I was unable to. Squarespace does not really function like this, and that was definitely something I had to get used to. Luckily, you can still add blocks of code onto the pages. For example, I like to use tables when laying out our event schedules or listing the board of directors and Squarespace does not have a table block. I ended up entering a code block onto the page and just designing the entire page with html.

3. Limited templates - There aren’t a ton of templates to choose from, so if you have a specific vision for the design of your website, this isn’t the platform for you. You have to take what they give you and build your vision around that.

Here are some cool features about Squarespace:
Permissions – You can assign different administrative roles to users. The site makes it extremely easy to grant and restrict access to anyone. For example, if you just want to give the chair of your website subcommittee access to review the reporting in Squarespace, this is a permission you can easily setup.

Forms – You can easily create customized forms in Squarespace which are built with blocks, just like the pages. We used the form feature so that our attendees could request meeting space during our event.

Block layout – You create your website by simply adding blocks of content. Squarespace makes it easy to add blocks between other blocks and reformat them on the page with drag-and-drop functionality.

Mobile responsive – One of our websites really needed to be upgraded; some of the features were breaking each time we added a new plugin or update, and the site was not mobile responsive. All of the Squarespace sites are mobile responsive and you can edit how the site appears on mobile devices. This ended up being a HUGE upgrade for that client at a reasonable cost.

Support – Squarespace has a great support team available to email or chat any time. I’ve been able to resolve questions through their chat support and felt that they were responsive and attentive.

I really enjoyed learning about Squarespace through this process, but it is not the answer for all website needs. For many, it can a quick and easy solution toward a beautiful website. And if it isn’t a good fit for your association, perhaps it could be a solution for a personal website.

 

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AUDC IIBack in April, my colleague and I traveled to Nashville, Tenn. to attend AUDC 2017 – Abila’s user conference. Several of our clients use Abila’s NetForum product as their association management system (AMS). It was an extremely busy time of the year to be out of the office for the full week, but I am so grateful that we went. We learned a ton, made valuable connections and met face-to-face with our Abila contacts to address some issues we had been experiencing.

Here’s why I’m happy we went and why you should consider going to user conferences for any technology platforms used in your association:

Meet face-to-face with your account managers: Honestly, I would say that this was the most valuable part of the conference for us. We were able to sit down face-to-face with our account manager, product leads and developers to discuss concerns we had over the way some modules in the system worked. It was so much more efficient for them to be able to ask questions and get a better understanding of why something was an issue.

You don’t know what you don’t know: Between the two of us, we have a combined 13 years' experience using NetForum. Does that mean we are pros? We’d like to think so, but we know that isn’t true. The fact is, we are so entrenched in the day-to-day procedures for our clients, we aren’t always immediately aware of updates to the system that create more efficient ways to do things. In fact, we were so excited about one particular item we learned that we spent the next 45 minutes playing around with the feature and immediately sent it back to our colleagues at the office.

Learn from other attendees: We learned so much just by listening to other attendees ask questions — questions that we may not have thought of, but that sparked new ideas for us and our clients.

Network: It was also helpful to attend for the networking aspect of things — finding other people like you or the clients you work with — and expanding your network of peers. On the flip side, it’s also extremely helpful to network with the vendors that attend the conference. The other technology vendors in attendance likely already “play well” with the system, so it’s a good way to narrow down your search for conference apps, abstract management systems, web platforms and more.

We have multiple clients using Abila’s NetForum Pro, and since attending AUDC 2017, they have all implemented at least one specific thing we learned there. By attending, we strengthened our relationships with our Abila contacts, peers, and other technology providers. Definitely worth the trip!

Have you attended a user conference recently? What did you find most valuable?

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badge on demand

As my wonderful colleague Brittany Marsala Olson suggested in her recent blog post [March 23, 2017], once you make the transition to badge-on-demand printing, you’ll never go back. I agree so strongly that I decided to rave about it, too! As excited as I am about how smooth the onsite registration attendee experience was, I am even more excited about how this technology changed staff’s experience as well.

1. No more organizing badges onsite – No more badge organizers, no more alphabetizing, no more pulling VIP badges or badges with open invoices, and no more printing badges onsite for last minute registrations. As you might suspect, this saves you A LOT of time to focus on other things – like stuffing registration bags, organizing your daily signage and making sure your speakers have everything they need.

2. No more fussy reprints – Is an attendee’s name in all caps? Was their name misspelled? Did they lose their badge the night before during your awesome welcome reception? Having on-demand badge printing eliminates the hassle of juggling reprints with limited badge stock on a foreign printer and trying to remember which way to load the tray.

3. No more guessing and counting – This one is my personal favorite. When you move to this registration model, you have access to amazing data collected when your attendees check-in. Instead of an attendee walking up to the registration counter and giving you their name, they are given a personalized QR code and registration ID for check-in. Having that assigned information allows the system to track when they check in. This is powerful information when applied to your whole meeting and it gives you important statistics for planning future meetings. You can track how many of your attendees checked in, how many did not and who those attendees are. You can see what date and time registration check-in was the busiest. You can see how many attendees staff assisted and how many onsite registrations you had per hour - which leads me to my next point…

4. No more paper registration forms – With our badge on demand partner, Expo Logic, the kiosks allow for check-in and badge printing for both pre-registered attendees and onsite registrations. This was a huge improvement from last year where staff processed onsite registrations. While it was amazing to have roughly 100 onsite registrations in 2016, it required the use of paper registration forms just to keep the lines moving and staff spending hours processing those registrations so that we could print their badges and assign their registration IDs. With the new setup, registrants entered their own registration information quickly on the self-registration screens and then our system printed and assigned registration IDs for us in real-time, freeing staff to assist registrants with questions.

5. No more data clean-up for badge printers – Our vendor offers integration with AMS or registration systems, which means that your registration information automatically flows to their system for on-demand badge printing. This eliminates the need to pull a final registration report after online registration closes and spend hours formatting your data before sending the information to a badge printer. It also means that the onsite registration and payment data flows back into your AMS or registration system. We were unable to use their full integration this year, so we still had to dedicate time to data clean-up, (as advised by the data expert at Expo Logic, because in his words “garbage [data] in, garbage [data] out”), but the clean-up took place within our registration system. We understand how powerful the full integration is and are excited to see what next year will bring. Regardless, clean-up was much easier than it had been previously and some of the stress was taken out of the process knowing that reprints would be hassle-free.

The badge-on-demand printing service was convenient, seamless and efficient onsite for both attendees and staff and I whole-heartedly agree with Brittany when she said that it is “AN. ABSOLUTE. MUST.” I am excited to continue using this technology and hopefully implementing it for all of our clients!

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convo

We live in an app-dependent world these days. Whether it’s Doodle to help determine a meeting time, Evernote to help us remember what might otherwise be a fleeting thought, or Google Drive to give us instant access to our most important documents, we’re relying on apps more and more these days. On our desktops and mobile devices alike.

Apps help us stay organized, stay on task, and perhaps, most importantly, stay connected. While many social media platforms can provide a great distraction if used during the work day, there are other apps that help keep you connected to those who are most important during the workday…your coworkers! As someone who works remotely part of the time, I rely heavily on Convo to keep me in the loop about what’s happening back in the office while I’m away.

From important office-related news like phones being down for maintenance, to non-work, but equally important news like treats in the break-room, Convo provides a platform for relaying messages that make everyone feel they are in the office (minus the fact that they may be missing out on those treats if they’re working remotely, of course).

With a main page feed, similar to Facebook, Convo posts are public by default and may be seen by the entire staff. You can tag specific people to ensure they don’t miss your post, or make it only visible to specific people if it’s not necessary to include the whole team.

Additionally, you can create private, client-specific groups, adding only select people. The different groups are easily navigable on the Convo interface.

Convo chat allows you to communicate one-on-one with a coworker you might be assisting, or group chat if you need to have a conversation with a smaller team of coworkers.

Convo can be integrated with your company Facebook, Twitter, etc. so that all posts make it to each individual platform in real time.

Accessible on desktop and mobile, Convo doesn’t clutter up your email, keeps you connected, and can facilitate camaraderie, even with remote employees.

What apps is your association or AMC using to keep the whole team connected when, physically, they are not?

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live chat quote

We all want instant answers when we go online, and our members (prospective and existing) are no different. B2B and B2C companies have long known that quick service enhances the customer experience, leaving a positive overall impression. That’s why live chat has become so popular in online commerce. Live chat may not be new in the for-profit world, but for most resource-strapped, small/medium staff associations and AMCs, it is. 

According to Insite Software, live chat on your website can directly lead to “better member engagement, higher conversion and member satisfaction.”

  1. Live chat increases conversions by 20%. Live chat helps answer customer questions, removes buying objections and results in a more confident consumer.
  2. Customers who chat are three times more likely to buy. Live chat provides a method for more direct and personal interaction with customers, resulting in an increased likelihood that they will make the purchase.
  3. Live chat improves customer satisfaction levels. Chat offers customers a more immediate way to get their questions answered. As a result, customers walk away from the interaction feeling more satisfied and positive about your brand. While percentages may vary by industry, it is clear live chat’s instant gratification increases satisfaction and shortens the sales cycle. Data shows that as many as 59% of people who would have otherwise called, were completely satisfied with their online interaction.

Live chat for associations
For associations, live chat can lighten the load of your call center and administrative staff. Plus, because live chat is mobile friendly, association staff can easily monitor activity and answer questions anytime, anywhere. That doesn’t mean live chat requires 24/7 chained-to-a-desk service. Many companies staff their chat during business hours only and offer the option to leave a message in the off hours. This is totally acceptable. 

An added bonus to being instantly accessible is the ability to see where your web visitors come from (a Google search or referring site) or what organization they are with. It’s gratifying when you recognize returning visitors by name.

Most live chat services are relatively inexpensive, starting $5 or $10 per month. Many have a free trial or “freemium” model. Some even integrate seamlessly with Wordpress, Hubspot, Salesforce, and other online tools you’re already using.

Enhancing member satisfaction
Live chat gives our staff the opportunity to engage with our members in real time. Thanks to a small piece of code that I installed on our association website, I’m alerted instantly when (“Ding!) a member is having login problems that cannot be fixed by the “Forgot Password” button, (“Ding!”) a member has a question about completing his online profile, and (“Ding!”) a prospective member has some questions before submitting an application for membership.

With live chat, I enjoy being able to quickly help our members go about their business with usually little impact on my day. In my experience, most of the interactions involve some online technical issue, finding a resource for a member or nurturing a potential sponsor or member relationship. Like any good customer experience, listening and providing decisive help is key.

If you use live chat, you will notice patterns in the questions you get. They may help identify problems with your website, conference registration site or learning management system. Perhaps a web page is confusing or lacks some information. Share what you learn with your marketing or web person to ensure that information or the customer-flow through your website is optimized.

While some days are busier than others and it appears as though I am falling down a rabbit hole of busy work, I know that, with live chat, I am directly affecting the bottom line of the association by enhancing customer satisfaction — for only a bit of labor and little if any monthly fee.

Source: B2B Marketing, American Marketing Association, Pekala, Nancy

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