2.3 Developing an Online Presence for the VOPE – Website

ImageDescription

In many instances, a VOPE’s website is its flagship product.  It is usually a good idea to start off with a page that meets your basic needs and then add additional modules to the site as your VOPE matures and gains additional resources.

First Things First

You can register and pay for your VOPE’s domain (a once off fee and usually annual or bi-annual payment renewal) and website hosting (usually monthly or annual fee) yourself, or include it in your web developer’s contract.  Most VOPEs choose an .org domain as it is associated with non-profit organizations.

You can either take the open source or proprietary route in terms of web development.  Keep in mind that proprietary solutions are more expensive but support and skills sets are more readily available, whereas open source solutions at the outset are more cost effective.  Make sure that the relevant support and skills set for your choice is available in your local market.

Keep in mind that, just like a database, a website has a “front and back-end”.  The back-end constitutes the administrative tools, membership database, archived content etc. that is linked to the front (user end) of the website. Both these aspects should ideally be included in the website Terms of Reference for contractual and change control purposes. Technical specifications, maintenance requirements, content creation and content management should be specified as clearly as possible.

Most VOPE website design caters for sections on the VOPE itself (board, policies, membership – becoming a member and some sort of membership directory, reports, and minutes), training and job opportunities, newsletter and listserv signups, information for donor or volunteers, resources, events and news.  The inclusion of good search functionality will enhance the user friendliness of your website considerably. Other forms of social media (e.g. links to Twitter and Facebook) are usually also embedded in the website.  If resources allow, consider embedding a full membership management module (automatic membership expiration notifications, links to membership payments, voting eligibility etc.) and an online board voting module into your website, creating an electronic audit trail for these important VOPE management functions.

The procurement and Terms of Reference for any web development should be in line with the VOPE’s procurement policy.  Consider whether you want to /imbed Mobile or other technology to the website’s development, and remember to include browser/operating system compatibility testing in the Terms of Reference.

Managing the VOPE Website

It is advisable to design the website in such a way that VOPE members can easily add and edit content.  There are various user friendly website toolkits available that can be incorporated into your site to enable content management.  As with social media and listservs, various administration related functions and membership information (usually only partially searchable unless the member indicates otherwise) should always be password protected in line with your VOPE’s Privacy Policy.

There are multiple tools available to assist in managing website content. Generating and keeping website content current are usually the most labour intensive task of managing a website. Crowdsourcing/communities of practice – contributions/collaborations/peer review functions from fellow online members can add great value to a website – but, as with a listserv,  it can potentially require time and effort to moderate responses if open to the general public.  There are drawbacks to closing sections of a website off to members only – the content in these sections are often not detectable by search engines, which in turn generates less traffic to your site.  The counter argument is that members-only sections of a website (particularly job and training opportunities) might encourage a higher membership subscription.

Managing content created by third parties, whether VOPE members or not, requires documented rules and guidelines in the form of a website policy.  Care should be taken to review content for appropriateness, copyright infringement etc.

Creating Traffic to your  Website and Website Analytics

Link exchanges/business directories are the most common way of diverting additional traffic to your site.  Many VOPES/other organizations will agree to post a link/information to and of your website on theirs and vice versa.  Another user friendly method to generate traffic is search engine optimization. For well-resourced VOPEs, most major search engines have a pay per click option where your website search ranking is increased in exchange for – often not so cheap – rates.  The more relevant content and keywords your website contains, the higher your search engine ranking will be, so the pay per click is not really necessary for non-commercial ventures.

Website Analytics will assist you in tracking your users (demographics), which pages are most popular, how often they visit and many other useful titbits without infringing your visitor’s privacy.

Some reading and resources:

* TOP RESOURCE:  Free Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Toolkit developed by Microsoft Web. The SEO Toolkit with its detailed analysis and search engine friendly suggestions helps improve the relevance of your website in search results. Did I mention it was free? Free SEO Toolkit Accessed online 27/02/2014 from:  http://www.microsoft.com/web/seo/

ImageTools

 

The Association Hub has put together a Communities of Practice Toolkit which is available for purchase since early in 2014. Toolkits: Communities of Practice. Accessed online 26/02/2014 from:  http://associationhub.com/communities-of-practice-short.html

Mashable  has identified 13 potential tools to test multiple browsers across multiple platforms and resolutions, most of which are available free/ at a minimal cost – a great time- and headache saver if you are going the DIY website design route. 13 Essential Tools to Check Cross-Browser Compatibility. Accessed online 26/02/2014 from:  http://mashable.com/2014/02/26/browser-testing-tools/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link

* Open Source Content Management Software to assist you in updating your website content. 30 Day Free Trial Available. Tendenci Content Management. Accessed online 27/02/2014 from:  http://tendenci.com/cms-content-management/

* Easy domain registration from GoDaddy at reasonable prices. GoDaddy find a Domain. Accessed online 27/02/14 from: http://za.godaddy.com/ or  http://za.godaddy.com/domains/search-new2.aspx

* Free of charge Piwik Analytics  is a PHP MySQL based service that provides detailed reports on your websites and visitors (open source alternative to Google Analytics ) Piwik  – Liberating Web Analytics OR Google Analytics. Accessed online 27/02/14 from:  http://piwik.org/ or  http://www.google.co.za/analytics/

Capterra has put together a list of top Association Management Software Products with a short description and link to each. Top Association Management Software Products. Accessed online 27/02/14 from:  www.capterra.com/association-management-software

Tendenci Business Directory software to share and manage VOPE partner information on your website. Business Directory Software. Accessed online 27/02/14 from:  http://tendenci.com/tendenci-business-directories/

* A free eBook on mapping online media strategies, specifically geared towards non-profits.  Mapping your Online Media Strategies: A guide for non-profits. Accessed online 27/02/14 from:  http://nonprofit-network.org/

 

ExampleExamples

* Open Source Website Development Terms of Reference from the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA) SAMEA Website Terms of Reference. Accessed online 26/02/2014 from:

* The SAMEA website design is a good example of a modular open source website design. South African Monitoring Evaluation Association (SAMEA) Website. Accessed online 26/02/2014 from: www.samea.org.za

* The SAMEA and African Evaluation Associations’ (AfrEA) membership directories could give you some ideas about layout and design. SAMEA Membership Directory. And African Evaluation Association Members. Accessed online 26/02/2014 from:http://www.samea.org.za/index.php?module=pagesetter&tid=2 or  http://www.afrea.org/?q=page/members

* Example of a Login page from the Australasian Evaluation Association . Login Page (AEA). Accessed online 26/02/2014 from:  http://www.aes.asn.au/component/users/?view=login

* Example from the European Evaluation Society (EES)’s website – Listing of Institutional Members. ESS Institutional Members. Accessed online 27/02/14 from:  http://www.europeanevaluation.org/community/ees-institutional-members.htm

* The Australasian Evaluation Society Consultant directory registration form. Register to be included in the Consultants’ directory. Accessed online 27/02/14 from:  http://www.aes.asn.au/services/consultants-directory/register-to-be-included-in-the-consultants-directory.html

* Search Functionality for listed evaluators on the American Evaluation Association’s Website. Find an Evaluator. Accessed online 27/02/14 from: http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=108

* The Australasian Evaluation Society Consultant Directory. Consultant’s Directory. Accessed online 27/02/14 from: http://www.aes.asn.au/consultants-directory.html

 

FRENCH EXAMPLES

Example

Ce site présente les risques liés à la création et la gestion d’un site web (compatibilité, type d’appareils):

Comment fait-on pour créer des sites web. 

Cette page offre des conseils sur la façon de gérer un site Web sur une base quotidienne:

Comment bien gérer son site internet au quotidien

Cette page explique comment créer un site Web et comment le mettre en ligne:

Créer un site web

 

Invitation to give Feedback

Have you used any of the resources recommended in this post? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Acknowledgements, Licensing, Attributions

Find details about the acknowledgements, licensing and attributions of this content here.

Disclaimer

Note that depending on the size, development phase and purpose of your VOPE, the material presented in this post may need to be contextualized for your specific purposes. Also take note of the full toolkit disclaimer here.

 

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