creating a youth athletic league website with wordpress (part 1)

| May 17, 2011

For those of us with kids, we are all familiar with the Youth Athletic Club (“YAC” or “club”); baseball, soccer, lacrosse, swimming, etc.  Most of these clubs have “attempted” to create a website to support the communication needs of the club and club members, but what they have created is a historical resting place of information about the clubs past events.   The reasons may vary, but a here are a few likely contributors to the demise of the YAC website:

1) A Techie Mom or Dad built the site and is the only one who knows how to maintain it.

2)  information is not updated timely; at all; or inconsistently.

3) useful content does not exist on the site.

Whatever the reasons, it’s generally the Soccer Mom’s (and/or Dad’s) and the volunteers/ coaches and staff who suffer the most.  They ultimately dedicate additional time to figuring out how to communicate and stay in touch with the happenings and events of the club.  When all they want is to allow their kids to have the best athletic experience possible.

This post is the first of several providing guidance on ways to gain the trust of the club members to use the site, how to leverage wordpress to build a robust website that is easy to maintain and inexpensive on the budget.  In future articles I’ll get into more advanced features.


The Techie stuff simplified

Start here… First go to wordpress.org to learn the basics about wordpress.  DON’T hit the download button, there is a MUCH easier way to set started.  On the home page you should see a section labeled “It’s Easy as…”.  Start there.  This will take through the basics of:

(1) Finding a web hosting provider (I chose bluehost.com for my personal blog.  The support is great, and if you’re not technical don’t worry, they were extremely helpful, and they don’t talk down to you.  If you don’t have a registered website domain, they can help as well to make it an easy and painless experience.)

(2) Use the download & Install feature (if you can click a mouse, you can install WordPress)

(3) Read the documentation and become an expert in no time.

 

Pick a Design Theme….. WordPress.org defines a theme as “… a way to “skin” your weblog. Yet, it is more than just a “skin.” Skinning your site implies that only the design is changed. WordPress Themes can provide much more control over the look and presentation of the material on your website.” Read more about themes on wordpress.org

When picking a theme I recommend to not get too graphical or chose a theme that is designed to use large photos.  These may look very appealing, but you will quickly learn it will become difficult to maintain.  Remember this is an informational site, not a fashion statement.  Choose a simple theme. The goal of the site is to inform the club members and provide a better athletic club for the KIDS….  You can always come back and update or change your theme.  Make your site a source of timely and accurate information, and you can spruce it up later.

For those not familiar with WordPress, themes are design templates that greatly assist in molding the look of your site.  Start with the 1,340 plus FREE themes available, you can upgrade to a premium (paid) theme in the future if you want more functionality.  I’ve been using WP-Prolific from Solostream.  Doesn’t have large image requirements, simple menus and is easy to maintain.

Plug Ins…. “Plugins are tools to extend the functionality of WordPress” (Read more about plug-ins on wordpress.org).  WordPress plug-ins are created by community members around the world to provide additional functionality to your wordpress site.  Most plug-ins are FREE, but will ask for a donation (if your budget allows and you really like a particular plug-in, donate a few bucks to help the cause).

For starters don’t get too hung up on plug-ins.  Get the site up and going then spend time messing around with plug-ins.    I will recommend one plug-in everyone should have, the Google Analytics for WordPress plug-in by Yoast.  Makes setting up your analytics very easy.  More on that later…

Content Strategy

Create a simple taxonomy…. Or more simply stated, make the categories/menu simple and easy to understand.   Our Theme allowed for a two-tiered menu.  The top tier was focused on the different leagues, camps, and coaches.   The bottom menu was more to provide short cuts to key elements of the site, directory, and club calendar, where it was important to have them part of the visible menu on every page.

Make sure you use the terminology of the user to describe the menu options.  Listen for feedback from club members on what information they are looking for on the site and are having trouble finding, then update the menu to make it easy for them to find.  In order for a menu to be effective you should make it easy for the club member to find what they are looking for.  Again, build their trust….

Menu’s are managed in wordpress under the “appearance” section of your admin tool bar.  Fairly simple to

First gain the trust of your club members –  In order for ANY website to be effective, it must gain the trust of it’s users.  What does that mean?  It means they need to know the website will answer their question(s) in an accurate, timely and efficient manner.  If you can’t answer their basic questions when they visit the site, you have lost their trust and they will find other ways of getting the information they need.

Find the 1 or 2 pieces of information that are important to your club members and make sure it is always 100% updated.  For our website it was “Field Status”.  Were the fields open or closed.

So, the initial focus was updating this on a timely basis, making sure we clearly noted the date of the update, so people knew it was current and could be trusted.  Once people realized this was a ‘trusted’ source of information they needed, the number of site visits on days with inclement weather would increase 2 – 3x from prior days, so we knew this was working.  Once this is established you can build out other content categories and further build the trust of your community.

Give content creators access to publish – Easier said than done, but critical none the less.  Many of these YAC sites were probably built by the 1 mom or dad who has an IT background and built HTML pages and FTP’d (file transfer protocol) page updates to the hosting provider to support the site.  It may have looked great, but that one person soon became the ‘bottleneck’ for all changes.  Not a good way to create a sense of community for your club and keep information current.

With some minor assistance, just about anyone can learn how to update and maintain the content on a well structured WordPress site.  There are tons of on-line resources available to teach people how to use wordpress.

Leverage Free Content Tools…. Gmail Calendar – Leverage capabilities like embedding a google gmail calendar (which is also free) and make it accessible on the site, see example.  This way you can assign for someone to update the club calendar and have it automatically appear on the site.  You can also leverage one of many plug-ins out there to extend the reach and visibility of your calendar on your WordPress Site.  We chose the Google Calendar Events plug-in which allowed us to put a side bar widget on the home page to display events for the coming week.

Also, using your google account, you can open a Flickr account to upload pictures from games, events, etc., to you Flickr account and easily embed them into your website,  see example.  It’s a simple copy and paste of a few lines of code that you don’t even need to understand and you have an instant on-line photo gallery!

Measure your Success!!!!

Measure your progress…. Thanks to our friends at Google, you can add robust reporting to your site that’s not intimidating for the beginner to setup and understand.  Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool provided by Google, and with a simple plug-in you can add it to your WordPress site in minutes (actually seconds, but didn’t want to make it sound too easy).   There are several simple plug-ins for this, we chose Google Analytics by Yoast.

I’ll go into analytics more in a future post, but for now, get Google Analytics set up to get basic info.  It’s easier than you think.  Once you collect a few months of data, there’s some simple metrics that are good to check to understand your user community.  Also when you see the increase in traffic from all your efforts, it makes it all the more rewarding….

 

What’s Next…..

Now that you have your website up and running we can begin to look into some more advanced topics for the next post.  We’ll do a deeper dive on analytics, facebook fan pages (another simple and FREE way to communicate to your community).

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: wordpress articles

richard m. fagan

About the Author (Author Profile)

Comments are closed.