During compilation of the BowlsClub.org directory I have visited hundreds of bowls club web sites. This has undoubtedly been an interesting, informative but sometimes frustrating experience. I’d like to make some suggestions about the construction of club sites from the perspective of a user (although I’m an experienced programmer I’m not a graphic designer, so I won’t presume to make any comment on that front.).
Plan your web site before you start work and consider everythingyou will need to include. Visitors will come to your site looking for information – make sure they get it.
- Start your main page with a clear description of what the club is (e.g a lawn bowls club, a crown green bowls club, a tiddlywinks and bagatelle club for the exclusive use of hermaphrodite Martians – whatever!!! but visitors need to know!)
Tell visitors about your club – what makes it special, interesting and exciting. Then give more general info (or a link) about your sport in general.
Don’t include a ‘welcome’ screen – itlooks pretty, but does anything but welcome. Vistors have usually come looking for information and don’t want to wait ages to download then view a long animation (which often crashes their browser or requires plugins they haven’t got…) Also when search engines index your site they often never get past the firstpage.
- Contact details
- Include full contact details on the main (index) page or on a clearly linked ‘contact’ page. Surprisingly many club sites fail to include all the necessary information to even contact the club:
- Full postal address (including region,postcode and country)
- General email contact for the club
- Club telephone number
- Clear contact details for the clubsecretary.
If you can, make use of the free map services (e.g. MultiMap.com) which will let you link to a map based on your postcode (but this is not a substitute for listing your address).
- Presentation and code details
- Text and graphics should never flash – it was cool in 1995, but now just gives people headaches.
Keep your site organised and logically structured into short sections which easily fit on the screen.
Photos are interesting and a great asset to a site – but make sure they load quickly (e.g. no files bigger than ~ 8k on your main pages). High resolution is not important for web pages, but quality is – if like me you’re not an expert photographer than ask someone who is (lots of people in the club will be happy to help).
Don’t use embedded ‘frame’ web pages – ifyou don’t know what that means then don’t worry – this doesn’t apply to you). Search engines still don’t cope well with these and they load more slowly.
No web page should ever make noises – it’s intrusive and embarrassing (imagine how it feels to being using a computer in a silent public library which suddenly starts blaring out the Marseillaise at 80 dB).
Test your site with more than one web browser, e.g. if younormally use Internet Explorer then make sure the site also works inFireFox and Opera, both of which are free downloads and are wellworth trying anyway.
Use scalable font-sizes (don’t specify pixel sizes for fonts) use em or % to specify sizes (or use the ‘Hn’ tags). Lots of people will want to display text magnified to make it more readable – please respect their choice and don’t impose text on them that they can’t see properly.
- Links and navigation
- Choose carefully what pages you link to – they should be useful to your visitors. Organise your links and don’t have too many. Check them occasionally (e.g. three times a year) and remove any which no longer work or which are superseded.
Your page title is important. It is used by search engines to identify your page. Good titles start with your club name e.g. ‘Bungay Lawn Bowls Club homepage’. Bad titles are things like ‘Welcome to the bowls club’, ‘test page 1’, ‘home page’ or even ‘this page requires frames’ – these tell your visitor nothing.
Keep your site up to date (even if that just involves deleting old irrelevant information).
Don’t use images for navigation links (or if you do makesure you also include text as well). This will make things easier foryour visitors and for search engines.
About search engines
In many ways search engines are now the most powerful force in shaping the web. If a site can’t be found it might as well not exist. There are some simple things that you should do to help search engines understand and index your site.
Find other relevant sites to link to, and also encourage them tolink to you.
Be wary of anyone suggesting tricks to get into search engines (or most kinds of ‘optimization’). Search engines penalise sites who abuse their indices e.g. (Google link). The only reliable way to get long-term success is to have a high quality site.
And finally… (or, the hard sell)
I strongly believe that every club should have a good web sitewhich is a real asset to your club, but a bad site is a liability. BowlsClub.org provides a simplified system to quickly and economically set up and maintain a high quality site, without requiring knowledge of html. If starting a site from scratch is daunting or if you’re just looking for a reliable solution then I urge you to try our service and to take advantage of our free trial.