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Jul 14

men carrying wwwRecently I’ve been dealing with a couple of Apple User Groups, along with some Community Groups and even a few businesses – and I was shocked to discover they don’t have a web site!!!

In 2016 this is inexcusable! Every Apple User Group should have a website. These days it quite inexpensive to get online and if you can use an application like Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages, you have the basic skills to get a site online.

How I came across these shocking discoveries was when I asked for extra information or somewhere I could direct other people so they could see the information… and a website is the logical answer for this sort of request.

So I was a complete surprise to discover they did not have one! A couple of the businesses and one User Group referred me to their Facebook page, which is slightly better than nothing, but not by much! And another group actually had a website, but it hadn’t been updated since 2013, which is even worse than not having a site at all.

setting up a websiteSetting up a website

To get your group online with a website you need two basic things;

  • A Domain Name, and
  • A Hosting Package/Server

Selecting a Domain Name

The Domain Name is the address people use to find your website e.g. www.appleusers.org and the Hosting Package, or Server, is a computer attached to the internet, where you store your web pages.

When selecting a Domain Name you want to try and get something close to your organisation name, but you also don’t want it too long either (when writing the address on marketing material, business cards etc you don’t want to the web address in too small a font to make it fit, but becoming unreadable).

Let’s say your group’s name is “The Greatest Australian Apple User Group Ever” the domain “thegreatestaustralianappleusergroupever.com” is obviously far too long and difficult to read, so you may want to look at shorter options, like;

  • www.tgaauge.com
  • www.australianappleug.org

The first using the initials of the group and the other using the most relevant portion of the group’s name.

You also have lots of options for the Domain Category (the part after the second period (.) in the address.

  • .com
  • .org
  • .club
  • .com.au
  • .org.au
  • .asn.au

to name just a few options available.

.com and .org have been around for years and are easily recognised as a Commercial Entity and Organisation (often a not-for-profit) but finding a suitable domain name in these spaces can be difficult. These domains were originally set up for use by organisations based in the US, but many see these as “International” (for example I registered AppleUsers.org for use with this site, even though I’m based in Australia)

.club is a relatively new Global Top Level Domain (gTLD) and is often on “special” for new registrations. Finding domain names within this space is currently a lot easier.

.group is another gTLD recently released that could be suitable for many Apple User Groups, especially if your formal name ends with the word Group… e.g. if your Group name is say The Australian Apple User Group, you may want to consider a domain like AustralianAppleUser.group.

Every country in the world also have their own Top Level Domains (ccTLD) like .au for Australia, .uk for the United Kingdom and even .us for the United States. Most of these have Second Level domains like .com.au, .org.uk. These help clearly identify your group as catering to a certain region, but may have extra restrictions like in Australia to get a .com you must have a registered Australian Business Number and domain name you are registering under that ABN must be directly related to the Business or Organisation name.

A domain should cost you around $15-$20 per year for a .com or .org; about $25 for two years for a .com.au, .org.au and .asn.au; and approx $12 for a .co.uk or .org.uk.

There are plenty of resources out on the internet for helping you decide which TLD would most suitable for your User Groups domain.

Hosting Package/Server

When you have registered your domain, you then need somewhere to store all you webpages and there are plenty of webhosts out there at a reasonable cost.

These days look for a company that provides cPanel hosting as that has become the industry standard and makes it easy to move to another provider if you need to down the track.

I also recommend you look at using an online-based Web Authoring package like WordPress rather than a local based package like Adobe Dreamweaver. This way you can have a couple of people adding content, and when your Webmaster decides to move on all you need to do is hand over a User ID and Password to the new Webmaster and not worry about getting access to all the source files.

You can get good hosting packages, that include WordPress installations, starting at less than $5 per month, and often you get discounts if you pay a year in advance.

QuestionsWhat to include on your User Group Website

Once you have registered your domain and setup a web package you are ready to start posting content to your website.

Here is a list of information that I believe every Apple User Group should include on their web site.

On your Home Page you should have the following information, or at least clear links to the information;

  • How to contact your group
  • Next Meeting Date
  • How to Join your Group
  • Mailing List and/or Online Forums

Other information that could be included somewhere on your website includes;

  • Details, and photos, of your Committee/Board Members, and other prominent volunteers
  • Previous Meeting Information
  • A Photo Gallery of your previous meetings and events
  • Other Services your group may offer;
    • Past issues of your Magazine (or a sample issue)
    • Book Library
    • CD/DVD Library
    • Member Discounts and Offers

Contact UsContact Us

Every Website should have basic contact information either on the Home Page, or accessible from a highly visible link.

Include your postal address… many groups take out a PO Box to have all official correspondence sent and it allows of change of Committee members

List a contact telephone number. These days many groups get a VoIP service or a Virtual Voicemail Service to answer any calls and have the resulting voicemail sent to the Secretary or other relevant officer, as an emailed mp3 file. If you still list a members home phone number as your primary contact number include the times best to call.
Something that is becoming more and more common is for User Groups to get an iPhone for the club and then lists that number as the primary contact number making is easy to pass on to a new Committee member, or to pass around so the load is spread around – say the President has the phone for Week 1, then the VP has it for the second week of the month, the Secretary for the third and the Treasurer for the fourth week.

Include an easy to use Contact Form so that people can email you. Have the form include a couple of different options like “Committee” “Secretary” “Meeting Co-ordinator” etc so queries can be directed to the most appropriate people. Don’t use overly complex CAPTCHA challenges as these can turn people off contacting you.

Next MeetingNext Meeting(s)

This is one, if not the most, important pieces of information you can have on your home page. And it needs to be kept current!

Many groups get lazy and just state something like “We meet 7pm on the third Wednesday of every month, at 123 Main Street” – DO NOT FALL IN TO THIS BAD HABIT! By all means, have it as a summary, but don’t rely on it as the sole source of information about your meeting times and locations.

Take the time and effort to list the full details about your next meeting on your home page as this will show that your website is up to date and current.

Include;

  • Date of meeting in full e.g. Wednesday, June 13, 2016
  • Time your meeting building opens
  • Location of where the meeting is held
  • Map showing how to get there… a Google or Apple Map link can suffice
  • Topic Description of what is to be presented

I recommend you list the time your meeting venue opens and not the time the presentation begins because you want people to arrive early to browse your other services and then to be seated before the presentation commences.

The Topic Description is almost the most important part of your Next Meeting information as it tells your members and potential visitors/members what is been discussed and can be the incentive to get them to come to THIS meeting, rather than put it off for another month.

Even if your group doesn’t have a set presentation and rely on a self help Q&A session, define a topic to promote to create interest in that meeting, even if you only discuss that topic for the first five minutes and move on to other questions from the members, it still gives you something to interest others in attending and gives you fresh content for your website to help increase search engine rankings.

filling in a formMembership Form

For most Apple User Groups, their primary source of income is generated through Membership fees, so a prominent link to your Membership Application form is almost essential.

This can be a PDF that new members can download, print and complete or it can be a online form that links to a payment service like PayPal.

Keep the form as simple as possible and make your fees simple to understand, especially if you pro-rata your fees if you have a single renewal anniversary. Likewise list any concessional rates and optional extras.

Mailing List IconMailing List and/or Online Forums

Many User Groups maintain a mailing list that they use to remind members and other interested parties about the next meeting date and topic, when a new newsletter has been released and the more people you can have included on this list the better.

There are many packages out there that allow you to easily maintain a mailing list and to send professional looking announcements, including GNU Mailman and MailChimp.

Have a simple “Enter your email address to join our announcements” form on your Home Page or an obvious link to a dedicated page for this. I strongly recommend against using popups for this sort of thing – personally I get annoyed when a page popups up a Subscribe Now box BEFORE I’ve even had a chance to read the content I initially came to the site for.

Likewise, if your group offers an Online Discussion Forum, include a highly visible button to access the Forums on your Home Page.

Committee TableCommittee Members

List the current members of your Committee (or Board) including their Name and Position, plus a recent photo of them.

Often the Photo can be a group shot taken just have your Annual General Meeting and then captioned with people’s names and position.

Many User Groups also include other prominent volunteers like the Meeting Co-ordinator, Equipment Officer, and Welcoming Officer.

By having photos of your Committee and some of your other volunteers on your website allows new guests and potential members to be able to recognise a face when they arrive at your meeting.

This information can be included on your Contact Page, or perhaps is better served on a dedicated page.

Previous PresentationsPrevious Meetings

Include a summary of all your previous meetings as this can be used to show potential Guest Presenters the type of presentations your group has conducted in the past and potential members will also be interested in this information.

The summary can be just a single paragraph with the main topic and presenter’s name/organisation listed or it can be a detailed summary of the major points covered. Both types can include relevant links and copies of presentation slides if appropriate.

Some groups even include links to video or audio recordings of the presentation.

pile off assorted photographsPhotos

Assign a member as your Meeting Photographer to take photographs of all your meetings and then post a selection of these to your website.

Grab shots of the presenters, the slides presented, the audience seated, your members gathered in the entrance foyer or tea room.

Give potential members and visitors an idea of the ambience and friendliness of your group.

Some groups also find it useful to some photos showing the layout of the empty meeting venue to give potential presenters an idea of the space they will be using to present.

LinksLinks and Other Resources

There is a wealth of information out on the World Wide Web and whilst most of us use a search engine to find that information, it can be useful to had a page of useful links to external resources that your members and site visitors might find useful.

These could be to news sites that cover Apple and related topics, Apple’s own websites (product info, support forums etc), third party resources and information like MacTracker and TidBITS.

This page can also be used to link to any sponsors your group may have.

Other ServicesOther Services

The sky is the limit when it comes to what else you can use your website to promote.

Newsletter

If you produce a magazine or newsletter, either printed or electronic, look at including back issues, or at least a sample issue, online. This allows potential members to see the quality of your publication before they join, and hopefully give them an incentive to join up immediately.

Book Library

If your User Group still maintains a physical Book Library, having an online catalog of the books and publications available for your members to borrow is a handy reference.

Video DVD Library

Likewise many User Groups have Training Videos available on DVD for members to borrow and having a list of these titles online can help encourage your members to utilise the service.

Member Specials & Deals

Apple User Groups Resources compile a vast range of discounts and special offers that are exclusive for members of Apple User Groups and your group can list these deals on your own website (behind a password protected page) and you may have arranged your own discounts with local retailers and suppliers and this would be an ideal place to promote them.

Keep Calm and Keep Up To DateKeep Your Content Up To Date

Once you have setup your website, don’t sit back and ignore the site.

Keep adding new, relevant content, on a regular basis!

Virtually every Apple User Group has at least one new article that can be added to your site each month – Your next meeting details! This can be followed up with a summary of the meeting written by your Meeting Reporter and include a photo or two from your Meeting Photographer

Write a general article based on the Q&A session from your meeting and post that to your website.

Extract an article from your latest newsletter or magazine and feature that on the site.

Your magazine often includes a From the President or Committee article that details what’s been happening within the club… use this as an article on your website.

Write an article about the latest product launch by Apple… or write how your members are still putting older Macs (or even Apple //’s) to productive uses.

Publish your own Media Releases.

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