I just finished visiting almost 500 US gem, mineral, fossil and lapidary websites. I did this to create a comprehensive list of clubs and pull together as much information as possible. If you haven't had the chance to review the fruits of my labor, take a minute and go check it out. I think it is pretty cool to see all of the club logos on one page. You can access the link here: Club Directory.
However, while doing this, something else became apparent. Someone needed to be the bearer of bad news and let you know that it isn't 1995 anymore and your website needs to be updated.
After looking for club information on roughly 500 club sites (yes, I visited and clicked around all 500) I started to notice trends and started to make a list. Before I get into my observations and my recommendations (take them for what they are worth), I would like to point out that I have built Geology365.com to allow your club an easy to use interface for hosting and managing your club website. For more information on that, click here to read about what tools are available.
Who is Your Site For?
As you build your website, keep in mind who your site is for. Is it to help new members find your club or for existing members to get information about club dealings? Most likely, it is a combination of both. With that in mind, a prospective member may not be as willing to click around to find information on the club.
Your home page should be dedicated to answering Who, What, Where, and When so that visitors can quickly find out if your club is right for them.
“Who” - I think every site clearly answered this, so... Good Job!
“What” - What is your club into? Minerals? Fossils? Gems? Lapidary? All of thee above? Or perhaps just a social club? Make it clear for those who find your site what your clubs interests are.
“Where” - Many sites I found would write things like, “At the lodge next to ____”. If I live a ways out of town, I may not be familiar with the area and will have to take additional steps on how to find the club. Instead, write out the full address, city, state, and zip. Everyone has a smart phone or GPS. Instead of giving directions on your website, or perhaps in addition to, give them the full address that they can click and launch their GPS app.
“When” - Most of the sites I visited had this answered. Good Job here too!
Current members will likely be more willing to click around for information they likely already know is there, so additional resources (ex: educational links, meeting minutes, etc.) can be a little more “buried” in the site.
If you want to use your website to keep club members and the public apprised of your activities, try to stick with it, or at least clear content that is no longer relevant. I saw numerous sites touting an upcoming trip in April 2012... *Note: This article was written in 2020.
Somewhat related, it looks like many clubs will post their newsletters online. This is a great practice! However, keep these current as well. Search Engines, like Google, reward new and original content that is posted on websites. Side note: search engines will also index information in PDF files as well (from what I saw, this is the preferred format for club newsletters).
External Links: Some content on your site is beyond your control to stay current. If you have external links to resources and websites beyond your control, check them from time to time to make sure that resource is still there. *Search engines punish you for dead links that are found on your site.
Also pertaining to links, make sure that clicking on an external link or opening a PDF hosted on your site that you do so in a new window. You can do this by adding 'target=”_blank”' to your link. By not opening a new window, you are forcing the visitor to leave your site prematurely.
Do not use dark text on a dark background. Not only is this difficult to read, but search engines actually punish you for doing this (they think you are trying to hide keywords on your site to maliciously attract traffic).
No Flashing Images or Text
No Scrolling Text
These don't really have to do with the look and feel of the site, rather, they are recommendations from my experience.
Don't use personal email addresses for club members who hold a position. Your current president likely doesn't hold a lifetime position, so when they step down, that email address is all over the internet tied to the president of your club. Instead, there are numerous free email companies (gmail, hotmail, etc.) that you can use. Better yet, create email accounts that match your domain name.
*Services like Gmail will also allow you to create email groups for free (you'd have to have at least one paid account). You can assign email addresses to these groups. For example, you could create president@rockClub.com and assign your presidents personal email address to that account, then when a new president comes along, you just change the email account(s) in the email group.
If you want to remove the confusion of updating your website on your own, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about how you can use our tools to manage your club website. I'd also be willing to answer any tech related questions you may have.