This is the first of a multi-part series that explains the importance of having a website for your club and how to develop one effectively. This first post provides an overview of what to keep in mind before creating your website. Part two provides more details on how to build your site once you’ve considered the information in part one.
Many clubs in Canada struggle to get new members each year, and get frustrated by the continual decline of membership numbers. Something you may want to consider, especially if you don’t have one already, is your website. In today’s day and age, a website is absolutely crucial for any organization, including your club.
With the advent of technology and the ever increasing reliability of internet capabilities, more and more people today are going to the internet to find information. According to Statista, over 4.5 billion people worldwide were actively using the internet as of April 1, 2020. Here in Canada, they estimate that 96% of Canadians were using the internet in 2019. Whether it’s from your phone, your tablet, or your laptop, almost everyone in Canada is online and has the ability to access more information than ever before.
So given that people are frequently accessing the internet, your website is very likely the first experience people today will have with your club. Before coming down to your club’s open house, maybe even before agreeing to consider it, some people will want to research your club to see what they’re getting into. If your club doesn’t have a website, that is an immediate turn-off for many people. In fact, 75% of people judge a company’s credibility based on the website design. If your club doesn’t even have a simple website, what does that say about the rest of your club?
For those clubs who don’t currently have a website, there are various different platforms you can use to create one, such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly, or GoDaddy to name a few. Whichever platform you choose, even if you already have a website, here are some things you should consider.
Free vs Paid
Most platforms offer “free” web creation, which means you can create your website for free. While this may be tempting for smaller clubs with smaller budgets, there are some significant drawbacks to going this route.
- Free versions typically have limited access. Whether you can only create a specific number of pages, or upload a certain number of items (such as pictures), many free versions limit what you can do. Make sure you investigate what you can and can’t do with the free version before beginning.
- Free versions typically don’t let you have your own domain name. Your domain name, that is, your web URL, is what people type into the web browser to get to your website. Many free versions force your URL to include the company name. For example, www.yourclub.wixsite.com or www.yourclub.weebly.com are examples of what your URL might end up being if you use the free version. Not only does this make it significantly more difficult to direct people to your website, it may also limit your website’s search-ability. This means that when someone Google’s your club, it may not appear at the top of the search.
TIP: Once you do have a website up and running, Google it to make sure you can find it. If it doesn’t come up on Google, people aren’t going to be able to find it. Do some research on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make your website stand out on Google and other search engines.
Before you begin developing your website, you should consider what sort of functionality you need from it. Will you be accepting payments for membership fees through your website? Will you be selling club clothing in an e-store? Will there be a way to register for tournaments or leagues? Will there be an e-newsletter that you want to send out? Will you be recording people’s information and storing it online? Will your website be mobile-friendly? All of these considerations should be made before you start to build your website, and will likely impact whether you go with a free or a paid version of a website builder.
TIP: 57% of people on the internet won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. Not only that, but 88% of consumers who search for a type of business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours. If possible, make sure your website works well on mobile devices!
In addition to functionality, you should think about what type of information you’ll want to post. Take a look at other bowls websites to get an idea, and jot down a list of what you’d like included. Identifying what you want included should be your first step, as it will dictate where it is shown on your website. For example, if you want to let your members know what your membership fees are this year, where are you going to put that information? Under a “Contact Us” page likely isn’t the best spot for it. Conversely, you might decide you don’t want to make that information public knowledge, in which case you wouldn’t need to develop a “Membership Fees” page. If you have a list of all of the information you want on your website BEFORE you begin building it, it will make building it significantly easier.
Here are a few websites you should check out:
- Calgary Lawn Bowling Club
- Courtenay Lawn Bowling Club
- Heritage Greens Lawn Bowling Club
- Pointe Claire Lawn Bowling Club
- Regina Lawn Bowling Club
Once you have a list of the various items you want to include on your website, you should consider how often you will be able to update your website. How often you update your website is up to you, but the more often you do, the better. It’s important to set realistic expectations with how often you will be able to update your website before you finish creating it. For example, if you plan to update the website daily, then having pages for each individual club event would be a reasonably good idea to include. However, if you don’t think you’ll be able to update your website more than once every couple of weeks, then it likely isn’t a good idea to have event-specific pages. There’s not much point in having a webpage for your annual fundraiser, with nothing on it, 2 weeks after the event has ended. In fact, an out-of-date webpage can actually drive people away; it shows that you don’t update your website frequently, and some people may start to think that your club isn’t worth going to because you don’t care enough to keep your website updated. Consider how much time you’ll be able to devote to your website before developing specific pages.
Once you do have a list of all the information you want on your website, your next step is to develop a way to navigate through it. Having all of your information on one webpage is overwhelming, so you will likely need to develop multiple pages so you don’t overwhelm your viewers. The most common method is by using a menu at the top of the webpage, but this is not the only approach. How you wish to navigate through all of your information is ultimately up to you, but keep in mind that regardless of what navigation style you choose, it should be intuitive and easy to get to all of your information. If the average Joe can’t figure out how to get to a webpage, then your navigation style needs to be revisited. Before making your website live, test your navigation style on other club members and see if they can find specific information.
Building Your Site
Many people do not have the expertise to build a website. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you should recognize whether you have the ability to make a well-designed website before you begin trying. It takes 0.05 seconds for users to form an opinion about your website, which ultimately determines whether they stay on your site or not. 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout are unattractive, and 89% will go to a competitor after a poor user experience. In other words, your website needs to be beautifully designed, sleek, and modern in order to keep people on your website.
For those who do not have the expertise, consider hiring a web designer to build it for you. This comes at a cost, but if you want a well-designed website, you’re going to need to pay for it. Typically, a web designer will charge a higher price up-front for the website creation, and then a much smaller fee on an on-going basis to update it. Some web designers will turn it over to you once it’s built, so you can have total control of it. If hiring a web designer is out of your price range, consider turning to your local colleges or high schools. Students who have a passion for graphic design or web creation will be eager for the experience to put on their resume, and your club can get a semi-professional looking website for a much more reasonable cost.
Your website is the first experience people will have with your club. How your website looks, how easy it is to navigate, and what information is available on it says a lot about your club, and is the first hurdle in getting new members. If you don’t have a website, your odds of attracting new members is substantially lower than clubs that have one. Simply having a website isn’t sufficient though; it needs to be modern, sleek, responsive, and attractive. Failing to have a beautifully designed website is just as likely to drive people away from your club as it is to attract them. If you’re looking to grow your club in 2021 and beyond, get yourself a quality website!