Vision For A Bicycle Club Website

Background Reading

Summary

So once again the Ride/Event Calendar for the bicycle club to which I belong is having a ‘tummy ache‘. And there is yet another call for jettisoning it in favor of something that actually works more that 90% of the time.

I know that I have tried in the past to offer up suggestions (to no avail) and this may yet come to the same end, but I will be the eternal optimist and assume that after this many failures over several years that someone might pause long enough to read this and think things over. The problem is not insoluble, you simply have to know what you need to do.

Let’s Begin With Design Features

There are several key ingredients in a bicycle club website:

  • Ride/Event Calendar
  • Ride Report Section
  • Image Gallery
  • Information Archive
    • Club Rules and Regulations
    • Messages/Reports from the elected officers
    • ‘How-To’ Articles from club members
  • Polling System
  • Discussion Board

Features Demanded By Today’s Communication Device Users

This is 2014 and the single most often device used to read and write information is the SmartPhone. So that says to me that your communications with the club website should be easily handled by a device with a very small screen.

bicycle-club-website-design-diagram

bicycle-club-website-design-diagram

User Interface Design

If you are a club you have essentially two routes to follow:

  • Pay through the nose for a consulting firm to tend your site
  • Build your site from Open Source applications like WordPress™

The bulk of my work experience as a software engineer was spent working for a consulting firm, so I understand the motivation to go in that direction. But these days the level of expertise that is needed to run a website using WordPress is minimal. It has been designed with the end-user in mind and in this instance that means the ‘volunteers‘.

But even more exciting are the plug-ins that you can get to augment the functionality of your site. There are plug-ins that provide:

  • Online polling and surveys
  • Online shopping cart
  • Online bulletin board
  • Online event calendar

And virtually all of the ones in position are either FREE or very inexpensive.

How Your Club Members Event Calendar Could Function

When it comes to things like event calendars, I am fond of Google Calendar. It is not fancy but it works and it does not need any babysitting to remain that way. When you create a calendar of your own there will be the need to ‘clean out the old events‘ to keep the database manageable.

Google Calendar also offers the luxury of allowing club members to use their personal Google Calendar accounts to update their rides. So a person can open his iPhone and update his personal calendar using the Calendar App. This then causes his phone to contact Google Calendar and create a matching event.

Google Calendar as displayed on the club website will be an overlay of one or more calendars. And of course you can allow a single Google Calendar to be shared by all club members, but that is riskier in terms of security. You want to avoid having people inadvertently erasing entries of others.

Updating The Discussion Board

Our club knows the advantages of using the Google Discussion board. It never fails and everyone has a chance to enter information and have it broadcast to the remainder of the club. You can of course use your SmartPhone to handle this contact. And should you have your account send you individual emails as they are broadcast you can easily reply to them and never have to seek a laptop device to engage in any discussion.

Social Media Links Should Be Automatic

Whenever a post is released there should be the option to automatically contact all of the usual social media outlets like:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest

and as many others as seems reasonable. Each time a post is released a link back to that post should appear on the various designated social media outlets! This sort of thing makes it possible for those considering membership in the club to keep tabs on what is going on in as easy a manner as possible.

E-Mail Reports Should Be Optional

Somewhere on each page of the site, there should be a means for visitors to subscribe to an e-mail update that arrives in the mailboxes each morning. It should contain a list of posts generated the previous day and an active link back to those posts.

Ride Reports (In The Field Or From Home)

WordPress has two modes for allowing folks to create and update blog entries. You can either log into the Administration Area or you can simply post an email to your ‘admin account‘. You can for instance (while on vacation or touring the country) send an email to your account (complete with photos) and have WordPress create a blog entry (showing you as the author) and include the photos no doubt taken with your SmartPhone.

You can either publish these immediately or have them stockpiled until your return to work on them from your laptop. And what is quite nice about WordPress is that any images uploaded to its database are searchable (by name) and you can retrieve them for use in other blog entries. In fact WordPress allows you to do some pretty fancy modification of photos (like cropping, resizing, rotating and more).

In fact there is a WordPress App that you can download to use to gain direct access to the Administration Area on the website. Each contributor is given a classification status that has certain privileges attached. That way the volunteers who are overseeing the site can control what goes on.

You can have WordPress monitor the word usage in order to prevent specific terms that you do not wish to have appear on the site. In addition you can control whether an blog entry is published immediately or is subject to review by the volunteers.

Pages Versus Posts

Blog entries (or reports) are allowed to ‘roll off‘ the screen as they age. But you can also have static pages that remain in the menu bar all the time. These are the places where information that is often referred to would be kept.

But if you are likely to put certain information into a blog entry (or post) you can still get at that information either by the SEARCH function or via one of the many automated means of retrieving information based either on a CATEGORY (static) or a TAG (interactive). There is also the possibility of searching through posts using a query that specifies the month and year of its creation!

Links and Supporters

Usually along the bottom of the page is a list of links to sites other than that of the club. And along the right side you will often find a selection of small image blocks that sport the logos of supporting businesses.

SmartPhone Specific Viewing

Finally the WordPress environment is blessed with a class of themes known as being RESPONSIVE. First of all a theme is a view of your site that you can simply install and it changes everything about the visual look and feel of your site. Most themes are FREE. But I like the commercial ones that allow a lot more detailed control of the visuals of the site.

Either way they generally have a SmartPhone-specific variant that makes it a lot easier to do what you need to do with a very small viewing screen and fat fingers! You can conduct searches and read post and pages with ease. And that makes all the difference in the world. Remember with the design I am envisioning you would use your installed Calendar App for your brand of SmartPhone to access the Google Calendar used by everyone in the club.

If you use the overlay method of viewing multiple calendars (for instance, one for each ride leader) it is possible to see rides from each leader in a different color! That makes it super easy to see those rides from your favorite leader at a glance.

Final Thoughts

While a visually spiffy site is extremely important, if it is not supported by an equally snazzy means of using your SmartPhone to interact with it then, why bother? Each member of the club should be able to handle every single interaction with the site via their phone. And it should be EASY. That means that the editor interface for posts should be simpler than something as complex as Microsoft Word.

Yet, you should be able to handle complex issues with amazing ease that is usually reserved for the user of Microsoft Word. Before you buy into a given website system make certain it is easy to use.