Build a Website – Beyond Basics
This section of the U3A website kit is aimed at helping you do more of the advanced items that you need to do to get your website published on your own domain, finished off with some of the extra things like changing the footer and favicon as well as entering in as much as you can for the search engine optimisation.
There is also some information on how to change the size of images so they load onto your website quickly, check that your website looks good on mobile devices and a brief explanation on setting up members if you wish to have web pages that only members can see.
Choose and purchase your own domain
Your domain is effectively the name of your website on the internet and it is important to find a domain name that your members and visitors will be able to identify. Take a look at the domain names currently used by Queensland U3As to get some ideas, but as you will see the domain name will usually include U3A, the area it operates within and then at the end .com, .com.au or .org.au. A simple and easy to remember example of the domain name would be something like U3AMyTown.com
Queensland member U3A
Once you have an idea of your domain name you will need to check that it is available meaning that someone else has not already purchased it. At this point is should be noted that the domain names are actually not purchased outright, but more akin to being rented for a period of time usually for a minimum of 1 year.
There is the option to purchase a domain name from any of the popular domain name registrars such as Netregistry or if you wish to purchase the domain name through your website hosting provider which for this U3A website kit is Weebly.
The advantage of purchasing your domain name through Weebly is that you will have only one bill per year and that connection of your domain name to your website is all done in one place being Weebly. Weebly also provides 1 year of domain name for free when you purchase a paid website hosting plan.
The advantage of purchasing your domain name through a popular domain name registrar is usually ease of portability, to move or connect to different webhosting platforms over time without having to transfer the domain name from one registrar to another. It is possible to also shop around for a cheaper price on the domain name, but you should find you can purchase your domain name from anywhere between $10 to $20 a year.
Purchase a paid website hosting plan with Weebly
Once you are happy with your U3A website it is time to upgrade from your free Weebly plan to a paid Weebly plan even if you only wish to only connect your domain name that you have purchased from another registrar. To look at paid Weebly plans you simply click on the orange button in the top right corner with the lightning and Upgrade.
You will then be presented with the option of 3 plans, any of which will allow you to connect your own domain name purchased from another domain registrar. The professional and Performance plans remove any Weebly brand ads on your website. The prices shown are for 12 months but there is a 24 month option once the plan is selected which is slightly cheaper. For example, the Professional plan is A$12/month billed upfront.
The features of the Professional plan would suit a U3A wishing to create their own website, with a few of the main features explained below.
As noted earlier, a free website domain is provided with the Professional plan for 1 year, but not with the Personal plan.
Two features that may also be useful in the future are website or web page passwords as well as members only areas which are available in the Professional plan but not the Personal plan. These features could be used as part of the business management and are briefly discussed in the business management section.
Finally, when you are ready to purchase the Weebly plan you should check the actual plans and prices as they may have changed from these shown here in the Website kit.
Connecting your domain in Weebly
When you are ready to connect you domain your simply go to Settings, then General and click the Change button for Site Address.
You will then be able to select connect or transfer it now to connect to a domain you have already purchased from Weebly or any domain registrar.
Changing the footer of your website
With a Weebly Professional plan you can change the footer on each of your web pages to remove the Weebly advertising as well as to add something useful such as contact times, links to your U3A Facebook account or even any copyright information. To change the weebly footer you just click inside and add elements as you have done when building the website.
Changing the favicon on your website
The favicon is the symbol or graphic that appears in the tab of your internet browser for your website. You may not have noticed this before but take a look and you will see that all the websites have the favicon.
The default Weebly free plan shows you that the favicon is currently W and to make a change to your logo or other graphic you must upgrade the plan.
With the Weebly Professional plan you can change the favicon from the W which is he default for Weebly to something you prefer which could be your logo by pressing the Upload button. If you wish to remove the logo the Remove button should be pressed.
Changing the size of your photos and images
Photos can be taken today at resolutions of 10 megapixels or more with the latest cameras and smartphones. This high quality is needed when printing or displaying on large monitors and TVs but comes at a cost of time to display. With many members and visitors likely using a mobile device, delivering optimal image file formats & sizes is critical. Any long delays in page load times might cause your website’s members and visitors to lose interest and leave. The larger the photo size the slower it will take to appear on your web page.
Search engines that look at all the websites take into considerations the speed to load your webpages and slow loading pictures may cause Google to eventually drop your ranking on the return results. Depending if your photo is to go across the entire screen or just take up half the screen width, a rough rule is to keep all your photos less than 300 kilobytes (300KB).
Check your website looks good on mobile devices as well as computers
When building your U3A website on your computer desktop or laptop you will need to keep in mind that many people are now using mobile devices such as iPads and smartphones. Weebly automatically builds your website for both desktop and mobile so there should be no extra work needed, but it is worth checking what the mobile site looks like just in case you want to change your website to make it look a bit better on the mobile device.
To take a look at what your website looks like on the mobile device you simply click on the small picture of the monitor and a drop-down list appears. You then click mobile and Weebly will show how your website will look on a mobile device.
You can make changes to your site in either the desktop view or the mobile view, and then flip to the other view to check it is acceptable there.
There are many photo editing software products available to change the size of any photo and most computers have a basic capability to change the size of photos. Explaining how to edit your photos is beyond the scope of the Website kit but to do basic resizing there are good instructions on the wikiHow website which can be seen by clicking on the following image.
Members only area
Weebly provides a feature where you can give members the ability to log in to their own area to see members only web pages. This has been used in some U3As for members only to nominate and enrol into classes through the website which obviously is restricted to paid members only and not the general public.
Members use their email address to log in as well as a password which they set themselves.
Membership management is done through Settings > Members.
Members can be added manually by the webmaster one at a time or as a bulk upload through a CSV file. Once this is done, members will receive an email from Weebly inviting them to log in to members area only by clicking a registration link.
Weebly allows you to create Groups, which can have members assigned to them so that they all share the same permissions and level of access. In this way you do not need to manually manage all of your users and can instead have them gain the permissions provided to the group as a whole.
Advanced Search Engine Optimisation
In order to have search engines such as Google find your website and understand it better so your website ranking can possibly increase making it appear higher in searches, a few simple things can be done in Weebly.
One of the first steps to take is filling out the Description and Keywords both for your entire site and the individual pages that make up your site. Description and Keywords for your entire site can be found under Settings > SEO.
The Description field is the more important of the two as it’s what Search Engines actually display as the description for your site in their own results.
For the Keywords field, you’ll want to use around 10 to 30 words that match your content, and the types of searches people may do to find that content.
Ae sure to Publish your site after you’ve added Descriptions and Keywords, as they will not have any effect on your live site until you click the Publish button.
Check your U3A website traffic
Once your U3A website is up and running you can check how much traffic it is getting over time. This can be useful in determining if more training and advertising for members is required. Furthermore you can see which pages are the most popular in the Site Activity section. This could provide you with valuable feedback as you may have a gallery page or newsletter page and find out how often it is checked.