Nick Bailey is the founder of Makesweat, and has been a member of various amateur sports clubs since he joined a tennis club aged 8. He’s also a professional IT Project Manager. In this article, he explores the increasing expectations of online services, and how amateur sports clubs need to adopt a new approach.
Whether you want to check your bank account or book a holiday, the majority of us now start online. Over the past five years, the trend has been towards mobile devices over desktop websites. Even the government sector, usually slow moving in technology adoption, now offers most of its services online. A customer’s first interaction with an organisation is usually through its website.
The benefits of using services online are clear to all of us; convenience is key, accessing services on the bus or filling otherwise dead time. No need to travel to a bank, post office or travel agent. No need to phone a local number just to wait in a call queue, or send an email into the ether on the off-chance that someone will reply.
For those offering services online, the benefits are also easy; all simple transactions can be offered without any human intervention, saving staff or volunteer time. Payments can be received and automatically reconciled against the services delivered.
While any serious sports club now has an online presence, the use of technology in volunteer-based clubs has fallen behind the mainstream. It’s perceived that websites are expensive to have designed by professionals, so clubs often appoint an enthusiastic amateur to both create and maintain the club’s online “front door”. Ten years ago a website was see as an amusement alongside the club’s important main business; now, members expect the club’s website to be its heart; up to the minute, authoritative, linked to social media, and interacting with their membership & training account.
This usually leads to the phenomenon of volunteer burnout. The web officer, starting with enthusiasm and great intentions, encouraged by the committee, may underestimate the complexity of the needs of the website, while overestimate their ability to deliver them. Club members add pressure by making unreasonable requests of the committe and website. The club website can enter a sort of zombie state; some bits work, other bits are delivered by unsuitable modules, and behind it all a membership secretary tries to reconcile various disparate data in a suite of complex spreadsheets.
So once you’ve decided to build a new site, and want to make sure your club doesn’t put too much pressure and become reliant on one person, how do you make it happen?
Creating your new website
Here’s a project management view of how to create your new site.
Step 1 – List & prioritise
Here’s my list of what I’d expect from my sports club’s website, roughly in order of importance. Add your own essential or desirable features, or change priorities. The first three are the traditional uses of a website, with slow moving information that’s a one-way publication from club to members. The last 4 involve two way communication, where the members can take an active part in the club.
I’ve also indicated what we see as the best solutions to each element. I recommend ‘standard’ websites for the first 3, and leave the dynamic elements to dedicated solutions – and of course I recommend Makesweat!
- Information about the club; activities, level, facilities, key people – Essential (Using a CMS)
- Contact details for the club – Essential (Use a CMS)
- Calendar with training & social sessions – Essential (Use a CMS)
- Book into upcoming sessions inc. payment – Highly desirable (Use Makesweat)
- Membership self-service – Highly desirable (Use Makesweat)
- Shop for club kit – Not essential (Makesweat will be able to offer this shortly)
- Forum – Not essential (Recommend Facebook)
Step 2 – Pick your CMS & website host
Your new website will be largely based on a Content Management Solution (CMS). A CMS is the software that lets you enter text onto your site, and it takes the complexity out of creating a website. Once it’s ready, anyone giving login details can create and edit pages, much as you’d use Microsoft Word. No special knowledge about creating web pages is required.
Option – WordPress
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), and is free to use. You pay for hosting and for people to customise it. (This website, whatismakesweat.com, is created using WordPress.)
WordPress is particularly worth considering because there are many designers who can create a customised WordPress site for you. WordPress is very flexible, but the downside of this is that it’s less ‘out the box’.
You also need to choose a WordPress host. This is the company that will put your website on one of their internet servers. A search will find you many companies who will do your hosting for you; watch out for and avoid (cheaper) hosts that might put adverts on your site. WordPress templates are good at working on mobile as well as desktop.
Option – Squarespace
Squarespace is a CMS and host together, so you just create an account and they’ll get a basic site up and running for you. There are many designers who will create Squarespace templates. Squarespace templates can work well on desktop or mobile.
Option – Wix.com
Wix.com is another combined CMS and host, but is more constrained around how pages are created. We have successfully integrated Makesweat with Wix, but would not recommend Wix due to its lesser flexibility than WordPress or Squarespace.
If someone on your club has the ability to create a WordPress site, this would be my preference due to its flexibility. Squarespace would be a fallback option, with Wix as a distant last due to its lack of flexibility.
Step 3 – Get it designed
Another major change in IT has been the move towards crowd-sourced solutions. Rather than finding and vetting a local provider, online marketplaces have emerged that let you offer your work to designers worldwide. I’ll highlight designcrowd.com and running a WordPress competition, through whom we ran a competition to design the Makesweat logo as well as the style for Makesweat.com. Other marketplaces such as Fiverr are available; Fiverr is less suited to whole website designs.
With Designcrowd, you provide a brief, pay a fixed fee, and put it out to international designers to provide a site. You choose the best, and within the period of the competition choose a winner who then does some more work to implement your site. The designers need quick and definitive feedback, so your club committee needs to be ready to respond without delay or risk the fee. Ideally, entrust the running of the competition and picking the winner to one or two people, who might choose to share the better designs to get committee and club feedback but who have the ultimate decision making ability.
A few things to remember when running a competition.
- Come up with a budget. A competion for under 200USD should be sufficient to get the interest of great developers worldwide
- Create your content first with a view of the logical layout (what links to what), or give a link to your existing website in the competition brief. This will help the designers to understand the structure of the site.
- Create placeholder pages for the calendar and event booking. Note on the competition that widgets will be used to provide these elements and that the designer will need to embed the widget as well as customise the styling to match your site. An example is here (Makesweat widget demo).
- Provide key graphics, such as club logos.
- Make it clear that the winning designer will need to take your site’s WordPress login details and put the template on your site. This is an important step and the designer will be able to do it quickly and efficiently.
- Understand that you may need to pay for further tidying up. Add 50% of the initial fee for this stage, and this is why it’s important to find a designer who’s got good feedback from previous jobs.
Step 4 – Integate Makesweat
Get in contact with us using the ‘Get Help’ button on any page on Makesweat.com and we’ll be pleased to help with embedding the widget, and provide information to your designer.
That’s it! Good luck with your new website, send us a ‘Get Help’ message on Makesweat.com if you need anything. Comments here are welcome!