Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair
Oklahoma State University
Our multi-state survey of communication practices and follow-up communication audits reveal the web site as a major component of member communication. Many cooperative web sites omit important information. The web site should have your locations, services, hours of operation and contact information. Phone numbers, email, address and contact forms should be easily assessable and visible. Phone numbers and emails should not be uploaded as part of an image but rather in a format where the user can copy or click to place the call or send the email conveniently. The web site is also a great place for a short version of your mission statement.
Clear navigation is essential on a website just as a legend is essential on a map. The various pages on the site should have clear, easy to understand names and a convenient navigation bar. Those should include a “contact us”, “FAQ” and “about us” sections. The web site should be designed so that users can accomplish their key goals, whether it be viewing the current wheat price or finding information on the membership meeting.
Social media is not going to leave anytime soon so it is worth the investment in time and effort to promote your social media presence on the website and use the social media to drive traffic to key areas or information on the site. Up until a few years ago, designing for the web meant designing for a computer. Now it means designing for anything with an internet connection. Laptops, tablets and smartphones, all have different screen sizes. This creates the need for responsive design which allows the website layout to adapt to the screen on which it is being browsed.
Finally, don’t forget to include cooperative information on your website. The website should describe how to become a member, the date of upcoming member meetings and board member eligibility requirements.. The board of directors should be listed (preferable with photos) along with other key member committees such as the director recruitment committee. The principles of member ownership, member benefit and member control are the essence of the cooperative organization. The website should describe, in simple terms, how the cooperative retains reserves and distributes profits in cash and stock. The process of equity revolvement should also be described. There are some good examples of cooperative website that describe their business model in short, easy to grasp terms. You might also consider including the board chair and CEO reports from the annual meeting. Many key members were likely not in attendance.
Your website is an important link to your member-owners. Take a fresh look at yours and make sure your members are having a positive experience.