The first steps in building a website, especially if this is your first website is basically to get as prepared as possible by thinking about the following areas, and where needed write down the answers and gather material beforehand such as photos so the design and build stage run as smoothly as possible.
Identify a webmaster and a backup
The person who looks after a website is often known as the webmaster for that site. It is wise to have two people knowing what is going on with your website, although it is important to stress that only one person should make the changes to the website at any one time. As time goes on there is always the unfortunate situation where the volunteer webmaster resigns or quits, so you don’t really want your U3A to be left bereft of a webmaster.
The action here is to identify the person who can undertake the webmaster role as well as a backup person.
Look at other U3As: Research and Brainstorm
Building a website can be fun and creative, but we should always keep in mind that our members need to use the website to find information about your U3A, including classes that may interest them. Keeping the website as simple as possible and easy to navigate is always a sensible objective.
The good news is that there are many U3A websites already built not only in Queensland but throughout Australia and beyond. Doing some research by visiting a few of these websites should give you ideas of what you like, what you don’t like as well as what would work best for your own U3A.
It should be pointed out that not all features including fonts are available in all website builders, or only available by spending extraordinary amounts of effort and complexity. To this end, it is somewhat sensible to not find a website and decide to duplicate it exactly.
One final point, given that the website is for your entire U3A, it is often beneficial to have the proposed design at least checked by a few people on your committee as well as giving them the opportunity to at least add their ideas and feedback.
The action here is to research some existing U3A websites and possibly others to come up with a high level picture of what you would like your website to look like and what information to provide to the members.
Gather email addresses and contact information to put on website
Most websites have a contact page so it is important to know how new and exsitng members can contact your U3A. Some things to think about to include on the website:
- Do you need to list any contact for certain roles within your U3A such as course coordinator or the president?
- Will you list multiple email addresses, phone numbers or just use a single contact email and single U3A phone number?
- Can the members drop in to visit, and if so what days and hours?
The action here is to determine the contact details you would like to include on your website, and ensure that there are processes and people there to answer requests from the public or members.
Obtain professional and generic graphics
Most U3A websites have meaningful photos which can be of specific events, local scenery or classes and maybe some of the handwork products that have been created. Some general rules to be aware of is that permission is needed to put photos of people up on the internet, although there may be covering rules in conditions of membership so this should be checked.
Also when using photos from the internet you must be aware that many are covered by some form of copyright and cannot be used legally without payment. The good news is that there are plenty of websites that do offer free-to-use pictures on your website. Some of these websites are
- Pixabay can be found here
- Unsplash an be found here
As a webmaster you should be aware of the tools on your computer to change the picture sizes and resolution to fit into your website design. There is a recommended standard that pictures should have to ensure they load onto the webpage in a reasonable time which will be explained in the design and build section of the website kit.
Other ways to catch parts of photos or images is through snipping tools and screenshots on your computer.
The action here is to collect any photos, your logo if you have one, images from the internet or other sources.
Decide on the text and gather documents for relevant web pages
Most U3A websites will have at least a HOME page, ABOUT US page, PROGRAM page, JOIN or MEMBERSHIP information page and CONTACT page. Other pages often included are NEWSLETTER page, EVENTS page and GALLERY page. The great thing about building your own website is that you can always start with just a few pages then add more as you feel there is a need and benefit to all.
So for each website page you will need to think what information you would like to include. The name and purpose of the web page is always a good hint to what is needed on the page but when you are doing the build, it always helps to have this written down or at least know where to get the words. Otherwise, you will be making up the text as you go along, which is OK but can be stressful as could take more time jumping about between papers and reference websites.
You may also need to obtain actual documents such as newsletters, class programs that are in electronic format for the website. The best electronic format to use is PDF as most computers can open these.
The action here is to start thinking what web pages your website will have, at least to start with and find or have handy the material that will be included, be it text paragraphs or documents.
Business or work processes
With the design and building of your own website you have the opportunity to start to include some electronic forms which will duplicate and possibly over time replace the paper forms. When building an electronic form there needs to be a work process behind it to make it work. For example, the contact forms need to go to an email inbox that someone will read frequently and then either take action themselves by replying or passing on to the appropriate committee member depending on the official business process.
Many U3As are adopting more complex forms such as membership application where the members details are entered on the form on the website and then sent electronically. This often requires a more complex process which would normally involve the membership staff and so a process for this type of membership application lodgement would need to be developed.
For any of the forms it is often good practice to indicate what timeframe the person can expect some sort of reply.
The action here is to consider what forms and business processes and staff are needed for your U3A website.