Websites for Groups, Sharing, and Publicity
For Teams, Programs, Departments, & Communities of Practice
For years now, instructors have been creating Web pages to supplement and enhance their existing face-to-face training. Recently, more and more research teams, work groups, departments, programs and “communities of practice” have begun to share, collaborate, or showcase their own activities, capabilities, and creative output.
Some Ideas to Think About
— Does your department, program, or team have bragging rights about the work you do or the programs you offer? A website for publicity and sharing is an excellent way to do this.
— Doing creative, innovative work? The world wants to know. Share what you’re doing and showcase the excellence of your group, department, program, or team.
— Got a bunch of valuable data you want to share? You’ll need to create a web-based data repository with a search component that can look for keywords in any field in the database. It would also be desirable to be able to search by date range or elapsed time period (last week, last month, etc.).
— Do you offer programs open to the public that provide access to specialized equipment? You’ll want lots of pictures of the equipment in action. Maybe even video clips with narration or, at least, a tour using 360-degree room panoramas with hot spots that label and explain the items in each room. We helped Samuel Merritt University to create just such a “web tour” of their specialized facility for nurses in training. The facility included surgery and patient rooms fully equipped with leading-edge nursing and surgery equipment, including life-size training mannequins that simulated disease symptoms and human responses to surgery and treatment.
A project like this will require somebody to write easily understood copy that explains the content of the images and why they are important. Somebody, maybe even the original author, will need to structure that copy so that it is search engine optimized. Not all writers understand the unique structure required to make web pages search engine friendly, so be sure those responsible do.
— Working on an open source or even proprietary software platform that you’d like others to use and help develop and test? You’ll need to set up pages that offer current documentation, how-tos, and technical support. You’ll also probably need a page that acts as a gateway to your trouble ticket software. You’ll want lots of screen captures of the software so the uninitiated will know what they’re getting themselves in for. Again, somebody will need to write easily understood copy that explains the screen captures.
— Answers to frequently answered questions need to be captured, organized and put back out on the site to make everyone’s life easier. Again, that copy will likely need to be search engine optimized.
Should You Build It Yourself?
It takes special know-how to integrate all the parts of a website so that they are visitor-friendly, search engine friendly, and easy on the budget. There may be more than one person on your team who can construct elaborate Web sites putting large chunks of information online and provide both synchronous (chat) and asynchronous (conferencing or blog) discussions. But doesn’t everybody on your team already have a full-time job? So it might be a good idea to call on expertise from outside. That’s where we come in.
Start Small and Keep It Simple
When we work with clients, we like to start small and keep it simple with a concise, coherent goal and build one component at a time evolving into the fully capable information and community site you envision.
Our experience tells us to start with these 3 pages:
- Home/Landing Page
- About Page
- Contact Page
This is the very first place your visitors will land. You need design elements, navigation, images, and great copy, correctly structured so that your visitors won’t bounce. (“Bounce” is web analytics jargon for visitors who leave your site within seconds of arrival.) This is may include web programming but it’s more than that. It includes copy that’s different from what we usually think of as good writing and a “user interface” design completely different from an ad, brochure, newsletter, or direct mail letter.
If your home/landing page is successful, your visitors will want to know more about you. Typical visitor curiosity includes questions like:
- Who’s on your team? (biographical info)
- What do you look like? (photos)
- What makes you special, different, or unique?
- Are you “virtual” or can I come to visit you?
- Is your geographic location important to your public?
- What have you done before (cases, portfolio, clients, and so forth)?
- What do others say about you (testimonials)?
- How do I get in touch with you?
If you have several optional ways that a visitor can contact you, for example, mail, email, phone, online chat, online form, maps and directions, hours, or anything else, then you probably ought to have a “Contact” page.
If you have a contact page, then you can add a contact link to that page from any other page, giving visitors easy access to your contact information. User-interface researchers have reported that website visitors looking for contact information usually jump immediately to the “About” page — unless they spot a “Contact” link on the home/landing page. But you don’t want to overwhelm your visitors with too much information on any given page. So it may be better to put your contact information on its own page. Once you have a contact page, you’ll want to create a link to it on every page, not just the “About” page.
After that, what you do next depends on what you want to showcase. If you missed the examples we mentioned earlier, scroll back up and see if anything we say gives you some ideas of your own. Or call us to start a conversation on the best way to get started creating a website for publicity or sharing your team’s special value.