This is the second in a series of posts for Creating a Web Presence for your Community Group. In this post I will take a look at the Web Site itself.
- About the group
- History of the group
- The Committee
- Rules of the group
- Any legal obligations (eg if you are an incorporated association)
- Contact details
- Locations of events, clubs or meetings
- Photos and details of past events
This content can be broken up into Static and Temporal content. The static content is the information about the club itself, the committee and location and contact details. This information doesn’t change that often and is updated only when it needs to be. The temporal content is the information that is applicable to a particular point in time only. This is news, details of events, minutes etc. If people want to look back at old content that is fine, but only the most recent and relevant content should be the most visible on the site. I will put Upcoming Events into another category because that is going to be a separate post.
This is where I’m going to delve right in and say use WordPress for your site – yes that WordPress – the one that does “blogs”. WordPress is NOT just for blogs, it can be used for almost any kind of web site – including a shopping site. Wordpress is a Web Content Management System – that just means that it is an easy to use web based system that allows for the content to be separated from the design. So when you need to write a news article, you just write the article, you don’t have to worry about how it looks on the page, because that is already handled for you. Other Web CMS’s are Joomla, Drupal and Squarespace (to name just a few of the thousands there are out there).
WordPress comes in two flavours – self hosted (WordPress.org) and hosted (WordPress.com). This post will mainly focus on WordPress.com as it is free, simple to us and suits 99% of the website needs for a community group. If you want to host your own WordPress install you will need a web hosting provider. There are thousands and thousands of them out there, but for a simple WordPress hosting service you should not have to pay more than about $150 per year. Self Hosted WordPress has many features that WordPress.com does not have, including the ability to extend your site by using PlugIns, control the look of the site exactly using themes and CSS and even use custom code to make it do almost anything you could imagine. I like this article that explains self hosted WordPress in a bit more detail. If you start with WorPress.com and want to move everything to a self hosted WordPress at a later date, then it is a simple process. So there is nothing stopping you from starting now with a WordPress.com site.
Setting up WordPress
WordPress.com is simple to set up – it takes just a few minutes and you have your basic site set up – for FREE. From there you need to choose a theme. WordPress.com at the time of writing has close to 100 themes to choose from, so you should be able to find one that suits your community group. (If you want more control over the look and feel then you can pay US$15 per year to be able to apply custom CSS to your site). My advice is to stick with a simple theme with a custom header (where you can put your logo), and maybe custom colours. (This is why I love the Vigilance theme that this site is based on). See more information about Themes from the WordPress.com support site, including the great video. You may need to play around with a few themes until you find the one that is right for your group. It may not be 100% perfect, but this is where you trade off perfection for cost – remember so far this site has cost you nothing but a few hours of your time.
The next thing you want to do is create some content. Your static content such as committee, about the group etc will be created with Pages. Your temporal content such as news, events and minutes will be created as Posts. Each Post will be given a Category (eg News), which will help you navigate to only the posts about news or events. As WordPress is orignally designed for blogs, by default he Posts page will be the first page that you see when you come to the site. You need to change this to be one of your static pages. You set the home page in the Reading Options settings.
The next thing you need to set up is the Widgets that display in the sidebars. (Sidebars can be on the left, right or bottom of the page, depending on the theme you have chosen). In the sidebar, I would suggest at least some navigation to the latest news stories, some information on how to contact your group a search box, and a links to any other web sites that your group has (eg you may have images on flickr or a twitter account or facebook page). In the Events post I will talk about how to put an events widget on your sidebar.
Map your Domain to your Site
Once you are happy with the overall site, it is time to link the site to the Domain and then publicise the fact that you have a web site now. To link the Domain to the web site follow the steps to Map an Existing Domain on the WordPress.com site. This costs US$10 per year. There are three steps to this process.
- Nameservers: You will need to go back to the domain hosting provider and log into your domain management to update the Nameservers. This is where it pays to have a good hosting provider as they will have some online help on how to do that, or they will be able to help you set it up.
- Payment: You will need a Paypal account to do this (but you probably want a paypal account anyway). Go to Settings > Domains in your site to do this.
- Mapping: Once the Nameservers are set and you have paid for it you can then set the mapping up. Go to Settings > Domains in your site to do this.
This process can be a bit fiddly and don’t expect it to take a few minutes. But once it is done, it never needs to be done again (except paying for it each year).
That’s it! A simple web presence online, with your domain name for a total cost so far of under $100 for the domain and the domain mapping.
See the next posts in the series for more things to do with your website such as events and applications and ongoing management of your site.