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IMPROVE YOUR CLUB WEBSITE
- What should be the content be?

In the previous article I said: "If this article has made you think about how you can make your website more effective and attractive to potential newcomers I hope we can help." This article is the first of a series which is intended to do just that - with a series of practical tips to help you produce a better club website. First of all in order to establish where you are in the process I suggest you follow the decision tree below:

A decision tree diagram to help people work out what kind of help they need.

First steps and beyond

As indicated in the chart above there is an alternative to dedicated website software website which beginners or upgraders can try. This is a free service called Weebly, which is a neat, simple way of putting together and publishing/uploading a website at no charge.

Weebly tutorials can now be found on the IAC website and whilst they deal with the nuts and bolts of web design these FVM articles address content, design, style, navigation, layout, search engine optimisation etc.

It's not so difficult!

The work falls into several stages, like making a film. Fortunately unlike making a film, rain or forgotten kit doesn't matter and it is impossible to make an irretrievable cock-up. However we do suggest you come up with a "shooting plan" (a "webbing plan" perhaps?). At the very least set yourself a target completion and launch date - otherwise it will never be done. Unlike a film, website building is more of an iterative process. You try ideas, get responses, try changes, get responses and so on... Happily you can always improve a website without too much effort and I encourage you to tinker with it regularly.

Content is king

Lots of juicy, interesting and informative content gives the club solidity, engages and flatters the members, attracts newcomers and maintains communication with those who cannot come every week. It also gives search engines (like Google) loads of subjects to hook into, making the site more easily found.

It can be fun to brainstorm the content with colleagues. To get you started here are some ideas:

  • Programme listing
  • Finding the venue
  • Committee Members list
  • Joining costs
  • Fees for new members and non-member visitors
  • Competitions you run - complete with deadlines
  • Club history
  • Technical hints
  • Reports on recent events, trips, parties, current productions, competition results, external competitions won, news of members
  • Outline your fantastic viewing facilities
  • Stress how friendly everyone is
  • Throw in a review of the year
  • ... and make sure it is always up to date.
Phew! Quite a lot of work.

The front page

It is best to start with the front page (Home Page). This is critical for new visitors to the site and needs the most careful thought as here you either capture or lose their attention. And you have to work on the assumption that they judge the club only using this page. On our Finchley site over 30% of new visitors from the London area go no further than the front page.

So at the very least the front page needs to sell the club. Of course it is impossible to tell them all they need to know so if you can entice surfers to wander around the site getting a feel for what your club is all about that's even better.

It is difficult to consider the front page dispassionately - after all you know your club well. So put yourself in the mind of a potential new member. The home page sets the site's style and tone and should reflect the club's approach, heritage etc. I am chary about being too prescriptive as we don't want all club websites looking the same! However there are several dos and don'ts.

I'll deal with layout, style and pictures in a later article but content is always king, especially on the home page where search engines give it special attention.

1. Give details of your very next meeting - date, time, subject, location (essential to link to a map). This can be tough as someone has to update the site every week so if that's too much, try covering 4 weeks at a time. It is crucial however because crazy as it sounds - many people cannot be bothered to actually look round the site for programme information. 9. Remove unnecessary clutter left over from website history - such as:
" a visitor counter -not only old fashioned but likely to show uninspiring low numbers

" notices such as 'This site is best viewed at 1024 by 768 or preferably greater' or 'optimised for 'Internet Explorer'

2. Stress that new visitors are not only welcome but that they will not be charged (you don't charge new visitors do you?!) 10. Avoid a blow by blow account of the club's history meandering through 16mm, 9.5mm, std and super 8, then VHS,hi-8, mini DV and HDV
3. Show enthusiasm for the club and its activities especially making films and back it up with anything achieved. 11. If there is something long and/or complicated you just have to include - place a simple one sentence link on the home page so people click through to it on a separate page
4. Make a dedicated link to generate an email to someone in the club who will answer it quickly. 12. Check text carefully and remove/update anything which implies the 'latest' activity/production was any earlier than 2008. Avoid lingering anachronistic 'proud boasts' - such as 'many members now use the latest digital camcorders'
5. Give news about an upcoming event/project and/or a recent event. This can be labelled 'stop press' or 'latest' etc. (and not announcements as I have seen on some sites) 13. Avoid pictures of camcorders as decoration as opposed to 'in use'- unless you update them every 3 months they will always be out of date!
6. Link to some video for visitors to watch - make sure it is recent and good but not too good 14. No need for a complete list of the whole committee complete with mug shots.
7. State the basic aim of the club in one or at most two sentences. 15. . Do not have a minimum of details topped off with a button labelled 'ENTER'. That implies the site is not for everyone.
8. Make a bullet point list of what the club offers members (much better than a vacuous mission statement) see 7! 16. And finally WHY would you have a member's only zone which some clubs do?


Photo of hand writing in a diary.Programme

The next most important page lists the programme, (On our site it gets more hits than any other page except the Home page). In my earlier review of current club practice I lamented the lack of detail in describing upcoming events. Take a hard look at your current page. Imagine you have never attended the club, don't know the people or the activities … would you still be interested? Would terms like 'triangle competition' or 'summer workshop' mean anything?

I suggest: a heading plus a short explanation of what is involved:

Date Evening In detail Host
23rd March 2011 Members evening Members show lecturettes of between 5 and 20 minutes on any subject. Anyone is welcome and you do not have to check with the host beforehand. More details from the club host - Fred Smith fredsmith@movieclub.co.uk

This should inform and hopefully attract newcomers. It also gives potential visitors a chance to get in touch and ask question in advance. Your club maybe full of the friendliest, most welcoming, least cliquey people in the world but for new visitors a little pre-reassurance is worth a lot!

Of course you will always have the latest programme details but there is no harm in giving access, maybe in an archive section, to previous years programmes to show what kind of things you usually do.

News or Newsletter

In the dim and distant past local newspapers reported the activities of local clubs. My father was cub-reporter and spent many happy hours attending harvest festivals and W.I. meetings to report on the best jam sponge or largest marrow. Today you must seek someone in the club who can write short punchy prose. Commission them to be your very own 'club reporter'. For example, always put competition results on the site and if you have had an external judge - include a few positive quotes as to why this was the winner. Not only will you flatter the winner and encourage your members it also gives potential members something interesting to read.

At the very least these reports go on the website as an ongoing record of events and could, if edited further, act as press releases.

Some clubs have an archive of newsletters and this is the place to link to that.

Other pages

We already have three pages (Home, Programme, News) but of course that is not enough. Here are my suggestions for other pages accessible from the menu on every page.

Productions - archive as much as you like - members' work / previous club productions films (linked to YouTube) production stills etc. - add sub-menus to your heart's delight but make sure some current work is featured.

Committee/how the club is run - explain the working of the club and help newcomers find out who are the big cheeses.

Competitions - results of internal and external comps plus details (with links) of upcoming events to enter - e.g. BIAFF. Those boring prize giving pictures could end up here.

About Us - tell the club history of which you are so proud BUT give priority to How to find us - address, map etc (dedicated link to this from the front page)

Contact us - offer a simple dedicated email address or a pre-set form- to avoid your email address getting spammed (dedicated link to this from the front page)

Technology updates, Film Making tips - optional extras that offer casual web surfers something to read and maybe hook them. It also lets members share knowledge on their favourite subjects.

Links - the chance to link to the IAC, other clubs, favoured suppliers and if you link to them -they may link to you and that is important.

Pages you do not need to link to on your main menu ...

I have seen: Lists of members, projectionists' rota, a guest book, competition rules....


The next of these articles in Film and Video Maker will cover style, layout and navigation


Free And Easy

The Weebly logo.Meanwhile if you are keen to get going I suggest you get stuck into Weebly which will enable you to build a stylish website, totally free, in a couple of evenings. It sounds like a dodgy sales pitch, but there is no catch to this system - apart, perhaps, from the silly name!

Weebly is easy to use, yet lets your website have an interactive map guiding visitors to the club, videos, a photo-gallery or even a forum if you wish. If you plan a career as a web designer, look elsewhere. But for many of us this is an ideal answer: it costs nothing, needs little time - and works on any type of computer. Weebly exists only on the internet, so you don't need a program except your usual web browser.

We have written a step-by-step guide to using Weebly. It is packed with illustrations which would take up all of FVM … so we put it on the IAC website. Click to see Build A Club Website.

We asked Chesterfield Film Makers to test drive a draft of the guide and luckily this was just the help committee member Keith Slaughter needed.

"At the last committee meeting someone kindly suggested that I produce a web site for our club. I wasn't present at the time, but I don't mind as it is something that I would very much like to try."

Three days later he added:

"I have worked through your tutorial as far as publishing the site. I am now up to the page on embedding maps etc. I can honestly say I have had no problems. I found it all very well set out and easy to follow."

Take a look at what he has done … http://chesterfieldfilmmakers.weebly.com

As the articles in FVM discuss principles, we will extend the tutorials to show how Weebly can comply with them. (Oh - and just in case you are wondering, we have no connections with the Weebly company!)


Website Makeover Guides - Introduction

What Should the Content Be? | Navigation | Planning Navigation | Anchors & Links | Words | Getting Pictures | Getting & Using Pictures
Processing Pictures | Video | Presentation Pictures | Colours | Layout Principles | Layout Schemes | Fonts | What is SEO?
Search Engine Factors | Check Your Search Ranking | Stay Legal | Website Health Check | Website No Goes more to come ...

A Beginner's Guide to Creating a Club Website with Weebly

Don't Panic! | Signing up to Weebly | Making your first (elegant) page | Adding more pages and navigation
Adding pictures and words | Creating a complex Coming Soon Page | Adding Forms, Emails, Maps and Videos.

IAC Competition to find the Best Club Website 2011


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Page updated on 19 January 2011
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