This is the second part of the multi-part series that explains the importance of having a website for your club and how to develop one effectively. In part one, we blogged about what you should consider before creating a website. Assuming you’ve read that post, and put some serious thought into your website, let’s talk about how to actually build your site.
Before diving in, let’s take a moment to point out the obvious: some technical skill will be required to setup your website. If you aren’t tech-savvy, consider hiring a professional to design (or update) your website for you; a poorly designed website may actually be worse than not having a website at all. Hiring a professional comes at a steep cost (several thousand dollars), but is likely worth the price tag if you want to attract new participants. If you don’t have the resources to pay a professional, or believe you are tech-savvy enough yourself, then let’s dive in to creating an actual website.
What’s in a name? A domain name is what you enter in your web browser to get to a website – for example, www.biasedbowls.ca is a domain name. The domain name you choose for your website should be short, sweet, and representative of your club. Ideally, your domain name should be easy for people to remember, and easy to find: www.bowlsclub.ca is much more ideal than www.greatertorontoarealawnbowlingclub.com. Some domain names might already be taken, so you may need to be creative with yours.
TIP: spend the money and purchase your own domain name. www.bowlsclub.ca is more professional sounding, and easier to remember, than the free version of www.bowlsclub.wixsite.com. Also, clubs in Canada are encouraged to use the Canadian extension, “.ca” for their domain name.
Once you’ve decided on a domain name (and made sure it is available), you’ll need to decide on a platform and a host. Here’s a quick summary of what that means:
Host – this is where your website actually lives (and in many cases, where you can buy the domain name). Websites are hosted, or stored, on special computers called “servers”. If someone wants to view your website, they get connected to the server that your website is hosted on. Hosting companies typically charge a few hundred dollars per year to “host” (or store) your website for you, and offer various services (such as security, custom email accounts, and support). There are numerous hosts available, such as BlueHost, GoDaddy, JustHost, Hostinger, and many, many more. Do some research and find out which ones are in Canada, how much they cost, what type of security they offer, and what kind of service they provide.
Platform – this is where you create your actual website. There are numerous options, such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly, etc. They vary in cost and functionality; however it is worth noting that 35% of the internet is powered by WordPress, and for good reason too. Be aware that there is a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org (we’d recommend .org, as it allows for greater flexibility, but to each their own).
To make it easier to understand, think of your website as a digital filing cabinet. The platform is what you use to create the filing cabinet (what is it made of? What colour? How many shelves? What’s in it?), and the host is where you store it (like a storage facility).
A few more notes on setting up your website…
Some companies will combine services (host and design your website all in one place). While this may sound convenient, this is actually a risky option. If the company is hacked, or shuts down abruptly, everything you have is gone with it. While it may seem unlikely, why take that risk? Having separate companies for your host and your platform offers a bit of a safety net – in order to lose everything, there would need to be two separate incidents with two separate companies.
Part of having a great website is ensuring that you show up in search engines. If someone wants to find your club online, they should be able to! When creating your website and registering your domain name make sure you go with the “HTTPS” version (note the “S” at the end). Why does this matter? It’s a more secure webpage, and boosts your chances of showing up in search engines. According to this article, 98% of Google’s first-page results have HTTPS URLs (as opposed to just HTTP). If you want to show up on the first page, boost your chances with HTTPS.
Back-ups, Back-ups, Back-ups!
Whatever host and platform company you choose, make sure you have frequent back-ups! A back-up is a copy of your website’s content. Ideally, your back-up should be on a different server – this way if your existing company’s server goes down, you’ll have a safe copy somewhere else. Not only that, but if your site is “hacked” or the server has a data failure, you can put it back to the way it was by using the last back-up. How frequent you back-up your content is largely dependent on how frequently you’ll be updating your website – if you update your website daily, you should likely back-up your site daily; if you don’t update your website frequently, you could likely get away with backing-up your data on a weekly or monthly basis. A reputable hosting company should include website backups as part of their services.
A poorly designed website, or “dated” or “cheap” looking site is likely going to do you more harm than good. According to numerous studies, it takes users 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) to form an opinion about your site, which determines whether they leave or stay on your site. In other words, your website needs to be modern, colourful, and professional looking in order to keep users on your site. To see for yourself, which website would you rather spend time on? Option A or Option B?
Further to that, your website also needs to be mobile-friendly: over 50% of website traffic worldwide is from a mobile device, so make sure your mobile-users can access a quality website too! When it comes to your website, invest the necessary time and money into it to make it a quality product – the cheapest option (or least time-consuming option) isn’t doing you any favours.
As with everything, you get what you pay for. Here is a quick summary of what it could cost you to create a website:
|Option 1||Use a free version||$0||Some computer skills needed|
|Option 2||Buy your own domain, but still build the site yourself||$200 approx.||Some computer skills needed|
|Option 3||Pay a professional to build the site – once created, the club updates the site||$5,000+ (one time fee)||Fewer computer skills needed|
|Option 4||Pay a professional to build the site – a professional updates it for you||$5,000+ (one time fee)|
plus on-going costs
|No computer skills needed|
As mentioned earlier, a cheap or low-quality site may be driving potential members away. If you don’t think you can design a colourful, visually-appealing website, consider applying for grants to hire a professional to design the site for you. There are numerous federal, provincial, and possibly even local grants that you can take advantage of.
If grants aren’t an option, then consider students. There are numerous students in high school, college, and university who have a passion for graphic design or web creation, so consider hiring a student to creat (or update) your website for you.
Does all of this sound like technical mumbo-jumbo? For the less tech-savvy, creating a website can be incredibly difficult to do properly. If the prospect of creating your own website seems overwhelming, consider hiring a professional to do it for you. It may be costly up-front, but you’re doing your club a disservice by not having one (or by having a poorly designed one). If you want to gain new members, they’re out there surfing the web… give your club a fighting chance by having a beautiful website that prospective members WANT to spend time on!