Setting Up Your Club Website

Clubs On The Cutting Edge

by Janice Sadler

GFWC Virginia Web Designer

I remember back in the early nineties when I was doing reports for my club.  It was one of those big snowstorm years and we were all housebound with children.  The reporting deadline was approaching fast.  My co-chair and I used email to send the reporting information to each other.  At that time email was relatively new and we couldn’t attach files that we could each read.  But through copying, pasting, and a little ingenuity we managed very well.  Since that time files of the report forms have been available on disks.  Now they are available online.  YES!  We have made progress.  Much club work now is done through email.  Gigabytes of information are dispersed through websites.   Check out the following websites to be on the “cutting edge” of club work.

            www.gfwc.org             The official GFWC website

            www.gfwcvirginia.org   The official GFWC Virginia website

It’s great to be able to access information at the state and national level but often we just need to know what is happening locally.  A club or district website can also be excellent PR.  Is your club ready to advance to the World Wide Web?  If so, then use the following guidelines to help you.

The first step is to develop a plan.  Will your site feature a brochure-style to promote your club, its regular activities, fund-raisers, programs and other pertinent info such as officers, meeting time and place?  Or will it be an online newsletter with a current calendar, articles about club projects, and future events?  Maybe a combination of both.   To help you decide what kind of info your website will contain you should visit other club websites.  You can visit one of the clubs located in Virginia by going to www.gfwcvirginia.org/links/club_links.htm.  You need to select a website chairman who will be conscientious in keeping the site updated regularly.  I recommend you choose one who will accept the position indefinitely.

Now that you have an outline of the data you want to include on the site, you need to plan the layout.  Decide what info will go on each page and how that page will relate or link to the other pages.  Keep your page short, so that a visitor doesn’t have to scroll down more than two screens to read it.  Develop a simple navigation or menu scheme that makes information easy to locate.  Always identify your club’s name on every page and have a contact link.  Include the GFWC emblem and the GFWC Virginia emblem to show club affiliations.  Put the date on the bottom of the page so viewers know how new or how old your information is.

One popular web language is called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) but don’t let the term scare you.  The high tech web design programs include Expressions Web and Dreamweaver.  Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) offer free or low-cost HTML editors with lots of fun templates and design options.

Use only the basic fonts when writing text.  This is a hard-fast rule.  The person viewing the website can only view it in the font available on their computer.  You are usually safe using Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, or sans-serif.

Graphics are a cool eye-catcher.  But graphics can make a page load very slowly.  People are very impatient with slow loading pages.  Some graphic programs like allow you to save the picture as a “web ready” or compressed picture.  This is a very small file that will load quickly.  There are two types of image files commonly used on the web, GIF and JPEG.  The GIF format supports transparency.  The JPEG format has a high level of compressibility and retention of file quality and resolution. 

Don't forget all the wonderful freebies out there.  Check out www.bravenet.com .  They offer a wide variety of free tools.

To budget or not to budget, that is the question.  You need space on a server that is willing to host your Internet website.   Renting space on a server is an financial option.  Lee District rents host server space from www.godaddy.com for a very reasonable price.  There are many free choices out in cyberspace.  Many ISPs provide free space but unfortunately many people change ISPs frequently.   I recommend purchasing space on a host server and make sure more than one person has the id and password.  

After you’ve set up your site, look for a URL redirect or domain name.  This is a simple web address that people can remember and easily type.  Again you can pay or find a freebie.  One site that offers free URL Redirects plus counters and lots of other helpful website tools is www.bravenet.com.   You can purchase a domain name for a specific period of time at one of the many companies online.   Lee District buys their domain name from www.godaddy.com for a very reasonable price.  The host server and domain name are usually sold as a package.  Again, make sure that the id and password are held by more than one person.

Okay, you’ve developed a plan, designed a web site, found a host, and downloaded the files to the server.  Does your site work?  This is where you will find the bugs.  Yes, there will be bugs because of all the variables.   Test all the links.  After you get it running smoothly on your computer, email the address to several people and ask them to test the site on their computer.  Make sure it is tested on both Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Safri.  Have them report any errors they find. 

Announce your site in your club and district newsletters.  Include your website address in newspaper press releases.  Email the website address to the GFWC web contact (www.gfwc.org) , the GFWC Virginia web contact (www.gfwcvirginia.org) , and your district web contact.  All of these groups have a web page that includes links to clubs and districts.  Go to their website to find the email link for the contact person.


Suggested GFWC Related Items

 

FREQUENT MISTAKES FOUND ON CLUB WEBSITES

As the GFWC Virginia Web Designer I am often asked to provide a link from our state website to a club website.  I'm delighted to do so and the state website has a special "Links" page to link our clubwomen to clubs and many worthy organizations.  I want all our clubwomen to be connected and informed.   When our clubwomen are looking on the internet for information, they want it to be current and accurate.  Be sure your website has a working email link and answer any requests promptly.

Occasionally I surf to your club website to test the link, check out your web setup, or judge the site for the state awards. I've seen some neat graphics, terrific photographs, spiffy calendars with linked data, and some excellent profiles.  I've also seen some data that was 2 years old, no email contact available, the old VFWC emblem, the old state name, or no state affiliation/emblem.  I want to share with you some of the most frequent mistakes I have found on club websites.

No club affiliation found.  List your club's affiliation with GFWC at www.gfwc.org and GFWC Virginia at www.gfwcvirginia.org

VFWC is listed as the state organization.  At the last Convention in May 2002, we changed the state name to GFWC Virginia.

No state emblem is shown.  You can go to the www.gfwcvirginia.org site to copy the new emblem.  (Right click on graphic and "save picture as" to your computer.

The old VFWC emblem is still displayed.  Visit the GFWC Virginia site and copy the new emblem.

No revision date is shown.  Display a revision date at the bottom of every page.  This lets the viewer know how fresh the data is on that page.

Data on the website was one or two years old.  UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE.  The club web designer must be informed and update as often as the information changes.  Appoint club web proofreaders who check the website for accuracy on a regular basis.  Don't forget the website when club officers and chairmen change.  Passwords and setup information must be documented.

Spelling mistakes were made.  Use your "spell check" tool or your club web proofreaders.

No calendar found.  This is not necessary but extremely helpful to your club members, especially big clubs with many computer literate members.

Links don't work and pictures don't display.  Test your links from other computers.  Get your members to test your website from their computers.

Only part of the page shows.  Different size monitors and different browsers show different things!  Get your members to test your website from their computers.

No contact link found.  Show an email contact on EVERY web page.

Contact email bounces back in error.  Make sure that the contact person checks their email DAILY and their email link is ALWAYS up to date and typed accurately.  Test this link!

Now go visit your club website and see if you have any of these problems.  Remember it is not the size of your website that counts, it's the accuracy and timely material that matters most.  A one page website can be just as effective as a ten page site if you avoid the above mistakes.

Make your club a part of the cutting edge.  Good luck developing your website.  And like any good club chairman, keep a notebook with all the login names, passwords and web addresses that you use to compile your site, UPDATE frequently and BACKUP the data regularly.

Excerpts adapted from “Clubs in Cyberspace” from the National Exchange Clubs Magazine in Cleveland, Ohio, July/August 2000 edition.

Published in the Virginia Clubwoman, October 2001

Revised, July 2002, August 2002, January 2003, February 2009, March 2012