Progress on New Website
Websites are important. They are the public face of an organisation.
Our existing website at naroomarotary.org has a number of really nice things going for it. The Clubrunner software makes it easy to maintain stories which are published on both the website and also become the basis for the weekly newsletter. While a bit “clunky”, the Clubrunner software has been designed for Rotary Clubs and so is actually relatively easy to use once one overcomes the problem of unfamiliarity. But it does have a number of problems:
- it doesn’t resize properly for smaller screens like phones, (it’s not “responsive”),
- it takes a long time to load,
- it has accessibility problems ( eg cannot be driven without a mouse),
- it is hosted in Canada which incurs the time penalty of overseas communication,
- its not widely used in Australia,
- it is expensive.
Our Clubrunner service was costing approx. $400 each year. This doesn’t sound too bad at first glance. But if each of the 34,000 clubs worldwide spends $400 on their website, that amounts to almost $14 million!
It surprises me to find that each club is left to its own devices. There was an unsuccessful attempt in Australia to provide a service for clubs to use, I am not aware of the reasons for the failure of that exercise. However I firmly believe that some sort of service should be provided at either the District or country level.
A website involves these costs:
- a domain name ( eg ownership of www.naroomarotary.org.au)
- a hosting service (somewhere for the website content)
- creating the website (a once-off)
- maintaining the website.
Domain name registration can be avoided if we use subdomains which cost nothing. For example, if the South Pacific and Philippines Office would offer subdomains, we could have had narooma.rotary.org.au for free (notice the extra dot).
Hosting services could also be provided by the South Pacific and Philippines Office at a reasonable price by doing a bulk deal with an ISP.
Creating a new website should be as easy as cloning an existing clubs website and changing the text and the pictures, users and subscribers. Sadly, I was unable to find anything which ticked every box.
Maintaining a website mainly involves club members updating content, and occasional software maintenance.
In the absence of a central provider for Rotary websites, it falls back to each club to do its own thing – a time consuming activity that is surely a distraction from our main priorities.
Our club now has a three year contract with VentraIp, an Australian service provider, for about an eighth of the cost of Clubrunner. They provide as part of their service, email accounts ( eg firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com ), plenty of disk space, and access to WordPress, a free software alternative to what we currently use.
The decision to use WordPress was heavily influenced by the fact that it is the most popular Web site content management software in the world, used by 5 million or more.
The first step in using WordPress is to choose a “theme” of which there are hundreds available, so I first searched for what might be available already within the Rotary community. There are a couple of examples where clubs provide WordPress templates as a service to other clubs. The Bellevue Breakfast Club paid a lot of money to develop a WordPress theme from scratch, which they now make available. However it was done some years ago, and has a number of problems. I got in touch with them and they have no plans to fix those problems. Moreover it doesn’t conform to the Rotary branding guidelines.
The Rotary guidelines can be found in the document titled “Quick Start Guide For Club Websites”, which I can supply on request.
The New Website
My motivation for suggesting a change to the website hosting service was therefore:
- to use a local web hosting service provider
- to retain at least the same functionality
- to use software that is popular and Open Source
- to provide somewhere for the Club to share and archive material
- to provide an email system for distribution of the Bulletin
- to make some improvements
- to save money for our club each year
- to save money for other clubs each year.
Now that the Board has given the green light, it is time to start the changeover process happening. We have a couple of months to finish the exercise, as our subscription to ClubRunner runs out in October. The new website is the same name but with .au appended, ie.
The www bit at the front is optional and not encouraged.
A website’s success depends heavily on the pictures and artwork it uses. The better the pictures, the more engaging the website is. Our existing website has a picture of the Inlet, I do not tire of looking at it. But Bob has pointed out that it doesn’t tell the story of who or what we are. So we need 3 or 4 pictures that tell that story. PLEASE if you have pictures at home, let me have them!
Please look through your collection of pictures, and send them to me. The more we have to choose from the better.
Our club supports a wide range of projects – it seems to me that we do not have a major project that defines us as a club, so the main page will show those 3 or 4 pictures, the ones we care most about. They change automatically every 3 or 4 seconds. Other pictures can go on other pages on the website.
Another indicator of a good website is how active it is. The blog-style with weekly contributions is good.
The Home page
All other pages are a “first draft” – if you would like to contribute / edit / suggest any changes, please do so. Let me know so we can coordinate that.
One nice enhancement is that events can go into your calendar as soon as you click on them – you won’t need to turn up at lunch time a week early Mike!
An Archived Newsletters page will hold all of our old copies of the Bulletin.
We can provide a place for committee material – constitution, minutes etc.
I had in mind, when re-doing our website, the larger picture – other clubs face the same set of problems and costs we do. To make it as easy as possible for other clubs to use what we have done, I used a WordPress theme that is very popular, and was already fairly close to the Rotary guidelines. Customisations (Rotary colours etc) have been done outside of the main theme itself in what is known as a “child theme”, which makes software updates much easier.
If we think that providing a service to other clubs is something worth pursuing, I will document the process and volunteer to work with other clubs. To make this of benefit to us as well, we could ask for a donation in the first year, equal to what they currently pay.