Adopting Responsive Design Without Abandoning Non-Dues Revenue

By Laura Taylor • November 10, 2014

Laura Taylor
Laura Taylor, Naylor Online Solutions

If you have considered a redesign of your website or newsletter during the last year, you’ve likely heard the term responsive design. Responsive design seamlessly reformats the layout and content of a Web page or email depending on the size and configuration of the reader’s device. This allows you to deliver an optimal user experience no matter how or where a reader decides to view your digital communications. Already, 65 percent of all email opened in the U.S. is opened first on a mobile device, according to Venture Beat, and of that amount, 84 percent are opened on a smartphone. According to SEOcial, mobile users will surpass desktop users by the end of 2014. (See their infographic below.) Thus, responsive design is becoming increasingly important to delivering an ideal communication experience to members and other readers of your content.




Research shows that 65 percent email in the U.S. is first opened first on a mobile device—primarily on smartphone.

Responsive design automatically reformats the layout and content of a Web page or email to conform best to the specific device that a reader is using.

[ctt tweet=”Don’t forget about the needs of your advertisers and sponsors when transitioning to responsive design. #assocadviser” coverup=”UNwba”]



Left: A digital edition archive on a desktop monitor, and (right) on a mobile phone.
Left: A digital edition archive on a desktop monitor, and (right) on a mobile phone.

Minimalist design is the newest trend in digital publishing and responsive design is certainly contributing to the “less is more” mentality. Moving to a clean, concise design eliminates clutter and captivates the reader with the content you want them to read, without the distraction of information surrounding the content that’s typical of older designs. Although this new design is definitely the way to go, you can easily devalue your digital communications as non-dues revenue (NDR) generators if you don’t ensure advertising and sponsorship can be easily integrated into the new format.

Three keys to responsive design

Here are three key actions you should take during the transition to responsive design to ensure you don’t lose the opportunity to earn non-dues revenue.

  1. Set ad expectations with your designer.
    Your designers’ main focus is serving the needs of your readers. Unless you remind designers upfront about the importance of maintaining advertising relationships, they tend not to make that a priority when reviewing layout options with you.
  1. Involve your sales team.
    Whether your sales team is in-house or outsourced, it is important to involve them in the redesign process. The earlier in the process the better. Your sales team has a valuable relationship with your advertisers. They know best how advertisers will react to changes in editorial and ad layouts and can provide valuable insight to ensure a smooth transition to the new design.
  1. Take into account ad size and placement.
    You don’t have to include the exact same ad spaces from your old design in your new one, but you need to have ads that offer similar value to advertisers. This is very important to ensure you retain your current advertisers. One of the biggest struggles I see when trying to fit ad space on new website designs is that designers tend not to want to position ad spaces prominently. This waters down the value of an ad placement and reduce the amount of NDR you can generate from that ad space. Create at least one ad position that is “above the fold,” meaning it can be seen without the visitor having to scroll down the page.

Also consider sponsored content opportunities that look more like editorial. These ad spaces are highly sought after by advertisers and can command a higher rate than display advertising. Content ads are the best of both worlds because they don’t make your digital communications look ad heavy, but they still provide value to your advertisers.

eNewsletter sponsored content
Minimal design doesn’t require eliminating ad spaces. This sponsored content, surrounded by red, fits seamlessly into this eNewsletter.


As people read more digital communications on mobile devices, responsive design is likely to become the standard format for websites, emails and digital publications. If you are considering the switch to a responsive design format for your publications, plan to give your existing ad spaces the size and positioning they’ll need to attract the NDR your association wants. A redesign is an optimal time to add new ad positions as well. A small amount of planning with your designers and sales team now can help your association reap big benefits later in terms of member engagement and revenue.

Laura Taylor is the director of Naylor Online Solutions.

Why Responsive Design is Important: 10 Key Statistics

 Infographic courtesy of SEOcial.