Getting Started with a Website
For clubs that are considering a website for the first time, the whole business may seem like an unexplored minefield complete with the overwhelming fear of taking a single step. The truth is that there are lots of considerations but when they are organized in a logical step-by-step manner, the minefield quickly becomes a paved path to success. On this page we outline the decision-making process and provide tips on how best to proceed.
Decide to Decide
Decide whether or not to have a website. This is the easiest step rationally. It may also be the hardest step for a board or committee trying to reach consensus. Here are some considerations to help the club decide.
Decide to have a website. Okay, we are a bit biased, but my guess is that if you are reading this page, you are already in agreement!
Set goals for the website. What are you trying to accomplish with your website? Perhaps to attract new interest in membership. To improve participation in club tournaments. To get better attendance at F&B events. To provide members with a source for quick answers. To save on printing and mailing costs. A quick review of features offered by website providers may serve as a catalyst for goal setting.
Choose the website features desired. As in the goal setting, it may be helpful here to first get acquainted with the features offered by website providers. Most features your club would like are probably included with the basic website offering but some features offered by some providers come with significantly higher, recurring monthly fees. PrivateGolfCourses.com charges a flat monthly fee that is not tied to the features selected.
Set a budget. Will the initial expenditure to build your website be budgeted as an expense? In many situations, the cost of developing software is considered a capital investment that can be depreciated over the life of the system. Check with your accountant for the options available. It will also be necessary to have some initial indication about what the website will cost before a good budget can be put together, so it might be good to explore options and costs of various providers first.
Appoint a champion. A successful website requires that content be kept fresh and crisp at all times. If not, members will cease visiting and all that will remain is a public presence. Someone needs to take responsibility for seeing that website content is created by department heads and that the club website administrator has the necessary resources. The typical champion is the club manager or a board or committee member.
Appoint a club website administrator. This is the go-to person who has knowledge, dedication and authority to create, edit and upload content to the website. The title is usually given a volunteer on the club staff that has good computer skills plus the interest and dedication to keep the website up to date. The task takes only an hour or two every week so clubs don't usually need a dedicated person.
Establish project timeline. A list of milestone deadlines will help to keep a website project on track toward a timely completion. Since administration is almost always an add-on responsibility and because it is new, the website project without a timeline can easily become out of sight and out of mind. Set dates to complete each step in this start-up guide, with the last step being the intended launch date followed by the marketing effort. The champion has the responsibility to keep the project on schedule.
Select Website Provider
Evaluate website providers. Visit websites of prospective providers and evaluate what features and functions they offer their customers and what they charge. Click here for a sample worksheet you might use to compare providers.
Select a website provider. Make your selection, and if necessary, sign a contract. PrivateGolfCourses.com does not require a contract.
Create Website Content
Decide on color scheme. If your club uses certain color combinations for letterhead, signing, brochures, etc., then these may be the colors to choose for website design.
Decide on logo use. If the club has a logotype, you will need to find a good, clean copy of it.
Decide on main pictures. Most websites have photos of the club and its facilities prominently displayed in the graphic design of the website. Choose a half-dozen or so that really capture the essence of the club for the visiting public.
Write copy for public pages. The public pages typically talk about the club, its various facilities, membership policies, history, etc. Some clubs like to include a page intended for guest viewing which may include a map, dress code and contact information. This section of the website requires more writing and creative input than most of the members only pages, and since it is being written for the visiting public, the writing should be articulate and carefully edited as would be a formal brochure about the club.
Create member database. Most websites include a member directory that contains contact information about the members. It is usually possible to extract this information from the club's accounting system.
Collect back issues of newsletters. Most websites allow for a library of newsletters. Find back copies for several months and scan them into PDF files for easy reading on the website.
Collect documents of interest to members. Some of the content for members will consist of documents that already exist such as the by-laws, etiquette rules, staff contact list, tournament records, etc. Posting documents such as these on the website serves to help members answer their own questions about club information.
Announce in newsletter. Publish an early notice about the future website in the newsletter to let members know it is coming. Request that members provide their email addresses too so these may be added to the member directory. Members often have four email addresses (member, spouse, member work, spouse work). Collection of email addresses will facilitate communicating with members via email through the website.
Website launch. Promote the launch in the newsletter and tell members how to sign in.
Promote website. Create signs and posters to display around the club.
Monitor visitor statistics. Most club websites keep track of visits. While such stats are very subjective and easily misleading, a comparison of one month's stats to another can be helpful in determining if members are increasing their visitation to the website.
Launch survey to get member feedback. Most club websites include a survey system. This is a handy way to get feedback about the website and to give you ideas on how to make it better. PrivateGolfCourses.com websites also allow the club to email surveys to members in order to reach those members who may not visit the website regularly.
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