IAC logo

The world of non-commercial film and A-V

Events Diary Search
The Film and Video Institute find us on facebook Join us on Facebook

 

Click here to see the shortlist / results / presentation / judging criteria.

The Website of Surrey Border Film & Video Makers

by Neil Cryer, webmaster

Why have a club website?

Next meeting noticeNext meeting announcement

There are of course many reasons for having a club website. For me the main one has to be to attract new members. This may surprise you as perhaps a more obvious purpose would be to keep members informed. However, my experience is that when members have a query, they go to great lengths emailing each other and scratching their heads rather than looking at the website which would invariably provide the relevant information.

If a website is to fulfil its main purpose, and indeed all its associated purposes, it needs to look clear, competent, friendly and professional, both in content and appearance.
 

Website content

Surrey Border camera man

In my view the content of a club website needs to be chosen to show that:

  • this is a club where members help each other,
  • significant professional expertise is available within the club,
  • the club has a strong track record for producing significant and award-winning films, and
  • there is an on-going social element to the club.

At Surrey Border Film and Video Makers, we are fortunate that, thanks to the commitment and expertise of members, our website is able to perform well in all these areas.

Website appearance

Comparison of Surrey Border website to Guardian Newspaper site
Club and Guardian website compared

Commercial websites spend thousands of pounds employing designers to come up with suitable layouts. However, there is absolutely no need for clubs to spend such money. Instead just look around at various websites and find one with a layout that you like. Then analyse what it is about it that you like. Look at the layout, the columns, the boxes and how the sections are separated etc. Also look at the fonts, the use of colour and the use of graphics.

Next take your club’s publicity material and fit it into the style of your ‘model’ website, using all the layout characteristics that you identified.

The website of Surrey Border Film and Video Makers is based on that of the Guardian Newspaper. Take a look, and compare with our club site. You will surely notice the influence. The colours are of course different because we feel that our club colours are part of our ‘corporate image’ as shown in our banners and various displays.

 

Website design software

Web design software is, in my view, essential for creating a website. Which software you use is not important provided you can achieve the design you are looking for. I happen to use Microsoft’s Expression Web, which suits my purposes admirably. I hear that people also genuflect to Dreamweaver. These software packages enable one to view both the code and the design, which I personally would not be without. There are a number of cheaper and less sophisticated packages available, but I have no idea how good they are. When I first started web creation, I used FrontPage, but it produced code which was riddled with errors. Fortunately it is no longer available!

Incidentally if you are stuck on how your ‘model’ website achieves a particular effect, you can always view its code. All browsers can show this, usually by right-clicking on a page and choosing ‘Source’ or ‘View Source’.

When you think you have a page looking right it is worth checking out the layout on various browsers. I have Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 and 8 and Safari installed.

Maintaining and monitoring the website

Border PostClub magazine

It is crucially important that any website be kept up-to-date. Surrey Border Film and Video Makers is an extremely active club with something going on somewhere most of the time. Much of this is reported in our monthly magazine Border Post which has now reached its 219th edition. Each edition has articles, illustrations and photographs from members providing a vast resource for the website. So I do not have to solicit material. Indeed there is a backlog of such material waiting to go up. My task as webmaster is to convert it all to web format. Fortunately this is fairly quickly done by copying an existing page with a suitable layout and then amending it.

Border PostClub magazine

Once I have produced a new page, I like to validate the code because it is all too easy to make mistakes, however careful one is. I use the free W3C validator. This type of maintenance work probably averages about an hour a week, sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on what comes in. With the passage of time, though, the website can appear jaded in appearance and I get the urge to modernise its design. A complete redesign can be extremely time consuming. The redesign based on The Guardian website took several hours a day of concentrated effort for about a month, as every page needed attention. Our website has 253 pages and is growing: it includes 90 members’ articles, 86 press reports, 37 copies of our magazine Border Post and 20 films.

I use Google Webmaster Tools for monitoring the functioning of the website, and StatCounter for monitoring the activities of visitors. Both are free. Google Webmaster Tools tells me how often Google visits my site; any errors it finds; the keywords that find the site and other important data. StatCounter tells me the number of visitors to my site; how long they stayed; the pages they visited; where they came from; which pages were the most popular; and much more.

Navigation

To help visitors find their way around a website, Google has two suggestions. One is for a page called a Site Map which is similar to the Contents Page of a book with links, shown under general group headings. The other is a ‘You are here’ link system on every page called a Breadcrumb, by which visitors can quickly link back to the group heading and the home page. I have included neither (yet) as I feel that the site map is partially covered by the drop down menus across the top of each page, and that the breadcrumb would spoil our particular page design.

A search box

I do, though, provide a search box for visitors. There are several free versions on the Internet. I use one from Google.

Google asks webmasters to supply what is called an XML site map to guide it to all the pages on a website. This is invisible to visitors. There are various free XML site map generators on the internet, including one under development from Google.

A Google advertA Google advert

Adverts

Visitors to the Surrey Border Film and Video Makers website will see adverts down the left-hand-side of most pages. These earn money each time a visitor clicks on one. In the first year the adverts produced an income which covered the annual website hosting fee, but in the current recession the income may not reach the hosting fee. Certainly adverts do not make a fortune. However, I feel that they do not distract provided that one opts for colours that are in keeping with the style of the website and chooses the option of no flashing graphics. In some ways it can be argued that adverts make a site look more professional. At least they reduce its financial burden on the club.

Google site and page rankings

Google page rank buttonPage rank button

How important is Google site and page ranking*? I scratch my head and discuss with other webmasters, but cannot fathom how Google is thinking on this. At one stage I thought that the number of pages in a site was important, and indeed Google considers a site as ‘small’ if it is less than 250 pages. But I have found no evidence that size does affect Google ranking. To quote some statistics, my wife has six websites of which three have a ranking of 5, and three - like the club website - have a ranking of 4. The three sites with a rank of 5 have fewer pages (about 80) and poor code (a hangover from FrontPage which she has not bothered to update) and only 2-300 visitors a day, whereas the sites with the rank of 4 have perfect code (as indicated by W3C), around 300 pages and about 1000 visitors a day. However, what the higher ranked sites do have is links to them from other sites of high ranking. That seems to be worth thinking about. So get your local university, council or whatever to link to your site.

Having said all this, it is not at all clear that site rank is the only factor of importance. What I am convinced of, however, is that satisfying Google invariably means also satisfying other search engines.

Is it all worth the effort?

A social coffee break Our club members during a refreshment break

Remember my main purpose for our website? Well, the club has a small but steady flow of new members who all quote the website as how they have found out about us. Other means of publicity like the regular reports of club meetings in the local newspaper and a club stand at local events do also produce new members, but the website has been the most consistently successful. So the club will continue to develop and evolve its website as we puzzle over how to make it still more effective.


- written and laid out by Neil Cryer, webmaster of
Surrey Border Film & Video Makers Website,
which won the first award for Best IAC Club Website at BIAFF 2011.

Images taken from that website early in April 2011.

* Google PageRank (named after Google's founder Larry Page) assigns a numerical value to a web page. Google comments:

"When Google was founded, one key innovation was PageRank, a technology that determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as other data. Today we use more than 200 signals, including PageRank, to order websites, and we update these algorithms on a weekly basis."

Wikipedia quotes an earlier Google statement:

"PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results. "

An easy way to find the PageRank of a page is to use PRChecker


Share your passions.

Audience silhouette.

Share your stories.

Page updated on 16 September 2013
Contact Webmaster
find us on facebook Join us on Facebook
Bookmark and Share
UNICA information UNICA member
Company Limited by Guarantee No. 00269085. Registered Charity No. 260467. Authors' views are not necessarily those of the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers. Website hosted by Merula. JavaScripts by JavaScript Source. Menu by Live Web Institute. Art work by Tony Kendle.