As locals grow larger and cover greater distances and as CUPE members are increasingly surfing the net more locals are creating their own web sites. They neednt be expensive to build or update and distribution costs are minimal.
Like newsletters, web sites are most successful when theyre the product of a collective effort. There are lots of on-line tutorials available on how to make web pages. And you can purchase or download programs that make layout and design easy.
In building a web site, the first step is to plan before you move on to collecting the material or actually setting up the site.
This stage is at once the most obvious and the most neglected. You need to figure out what your site is going to look like, but also how the information will be organized and how people will get around your site.
Be realistic about what you can produce and how often you can update it. Figure out how much time your web committee has to work on the site every day, week or month. Then figure out how much you can get done in that time and plan your site accordingly.
It takes no more time to build an attractive web site thats easy to use than a poor site thats unlikely to get repeat visitors. Think through how your site can help your members get information, give feedback, order materials, download forms or communicate among themselves. The Internet is interactive so it presents all sorts of new possibilities for involving and mobilizing members.
- Look at other locals web sites and see what you think would work best for your local.
- Consider who your audience is. Are they activists, rank and file members of the local, the public, the media? What kind of information would be most appropriate for each?
- Draw a flow chart or arrange index cards on the floor or on a bulletin board, listing contents and links.
- Plan how youre going to get your content: who will write it, who will format it and who will post it?
- Content is key. People wont return to the site if theres no reason to do so.
- Include an e-mail link to the local so visitors can ask questions, make comments and provide feedback on topical issues and on the site.
- Include a link to CUPEs web site to access bargaining tips, health and safety information or campaign materials.
- Its a good idea to include images but they shouldnt overwhelm the site. Graphics take time to download and most users dont want to wait more than 45 seconds for a page to appear. If nothing shows up, theyll move on.
When youve done your planning, gather together all the text and all the images for your site in a single place. Computers have been part of union life for long enough now that a lot of the information is already in electronic form.
For example, your collective agreement may be on disk. But in what format? You may need to convert from a word processing program to plain text or from a graphics program to an image format. Its not complicated to format files so train several members of your local to do it. That way, it will be easier to quickly post new items to your site.
Remember, people are more likely to scan a web page than read it. So instead of posting long documents to the web, you might want to post a summary and provide a link to the full text. Visitors to your site dont want to have to scroll down to find what theyre looking for so dont bury the highlights.
- Keep items short.
- Put the most important facts up front.
- Use bullets and meaningful subheads to make it easier to focus in on key points.
- Provide links to background information
- Avoid scrolling sideways
Keep your site up to date. Visitors are looking for practical, timely information. Update calendars and remove out-of-date notices regularly. If you can only manage a monthly update, dont highlight dates and avoid words like “the latest” or “updated.” Avoid distracting gimmicks that quickly become annoying.