Reasons Why Your Course or Club Should Have a Web Site
With over 45 million people taking to the Web every week (Source: Media Matrix), a critical mass has emerged that are taking advantage of the hottest media to come along since television. And with 67% of PDGA Members reporting use of a computer (1998 Membership Survey), as well as 66% of Mid-Atlantic Disc Club Members telling of Internet use (1999 Membership Survey), having a Web Site for your course or club seems like a reasonable endeavor.
But why? What exactly are the advantages of launching a Web Site for your Course or Club? Will the benefits of a Web Site be for the local crowd or for the global one? What can your club or course do with a Web Site? Answers to these questions, as well as real live examples, are presented in this DGWN's installment from the Web Editor.
Reason #1: PORTRAY APPROPRIATE IMAGE
Although we all know that disc golf is a great game, we also understand that the players and courses around the World have characteristic features that give them their identity. Each course has a signature hole, and each club has their niche for serving the players on their course.
By having a Web Site, your course or club will be able to portray their identity and characteristics to those who visit it. This will allow current players, potential players, and the entire disc golf community to get "a feel" for what kind course/club you maintain. The content of your Web Site can also include input from almost anyone in your group. This too allows for expression by your course/club's players, thus giving you a unique identity amongst the hundreds of choices now available.
Good examples of courses/clubs using the Web to establish their image are:
Reason #2: SUPPORT COMMUNITY ACTIVITY
No disc golf course or club exists in a vacuum. Whether it be the city or state park the 18 pole holes are planted in, or the neighbors that your disc golf club are establishing liaisons with, your disc golf activities should be part of a bigger picture.
By having a Web Site, your course/club can help to support the activities, not just on the course, but within the community as a whole. If a Cub Scout troop comes out to help with the clean-up, give them a page on the site for recognition. When your local police department is having their annual ball, let the visitors to your Web Site know what a great job the police are doing. This will help the players and course neighbors know that this is a community effort, not just a disc golf effort.
Good examples of disc golf courses and clubs using their Site to promote community activity are:
San Francisco Disc Golf Club-- http://www.sfdiscgolf.org/clubinfo/youth.html
Marshall Street -- http://www.marshallstreetdiscgolf.com/services_lessons.html
Reason #3: MAINTAIN A COURSE SCHEDULE
One of the great benefits of having a club Web Site is to make your Club and Tournament Schedule available to all those who visit the site. Whether it's a clean-up, a fund-raiser, a special event, or just the monthly tournament dates, having the course schedule online is a major advantage to growing and promoting your group.
Even though the bulletin/message board at your course may have all this information, there's nothing like finding out what is going on in a timely and convenient manner on the Web. No need to shuffle through papers, make bothersome phone calls, or drive to the course to check out that board. Just log on and see.
Good examples of club's using their Web Site to present their schedule are:
Morley Field Disc Golf Course (CA) - http://morleyfield.com/course/schedule.htm
New England Flying disc Association (NE) - http://www.nefa.com/06sched_2.htm
Oregon Disc Sports Alliance (OR) - http://www.odsa.com/schedule/schedule.asp
Reason #4: ARCHIVE TOURNAMENT RESULTS
Depending on the size of your club, publishing the tournament results in a newsletter is often impractical and expensive. Therefore, by having a Web Site to post the results of your course/club tournaments, you will realize the benefits of formalizing the competition and entertaining the players. I've often heard from Tournament Directors that players love seeing their names and scores in print. What better way to satisfy that desire than putting it on the Web for all the World to see?!
Good examples of courses and clubs publishing their tournament results on the Web are:
Charlotte Disc Golf Club (NC) - http://www.charlottedgc.com/history_events.htm
PDGA Tournament Results - http://pdga.com/schedule/search_results.php
Mid-Atlantic Disc Club (bottom of page) - http://www.madisc.org/
Reason #5: REPORT CLUB BUSINESS
Whether your club meets once a year or once a month, you are doing something to help improve conditions for the players on your course. This work should not go unnoticed, and could be easily reported on your Web Site. This simple act of letting inactive course players and club members know you are doing something will begin to create the perception that things do not just happen by themselves. Clearly, people are stepping up and working to improve the conditions on the course, to promote community involvement, or to raise money for new tee signs and baskets.
Reporting club business on your Web Site can deter players for taking things for granted on your course, and may even spurn volunteerism and involvement by unlikely individuals.
Good examples of club business being reported on their Web Sites are:
Springfield Disc Golf Club (IL) - http://www.discgolfclub.org/SDGC_Main.asp
Houston Flying Disc Society (TX)-- http://www.hfds.org/
Hard Disc Drivers Disc Golf Club (FL)-- http://www.med.ufl.edu/anatomy/todd/discgolf/clubnews.html
Reason #6: GUIDE VISITORS TO COURSE LOCATION
As more and more players take to the Web, they are using this tool to discover what courses are near them or on their travels. And although the online course directory does provide driving directions to most courses, having more complete information on your Web Site will guarantee that they get there.
Not only can you have text that describes the roads and turns to your course, but also a map that let's visitors to your course know they are on the right track. Often times local nuances in traffic can confuse those driving to your park or recreation area. Make a note of these types of things on your Web Site, so travelers can avoid ending up in the wrong side of town, while they are looking for your course.
Good examples of courses using their Web Site to direct visitors to them are:
California State University, Monterey Bay DGC-- http://clubs.monterey.edu/discgolf/direct.htm
Dallas/Ft. Worth Disc Golf-- http://members.tripod.com/discgolfing/index.htm
Splat Hill Resort (CA)-- http://splathill.com/map.html
Reason #7: PROVIDE COURSE DESCRIPTION
Once visitors do find their way to your course, often times navigating the 18 targets presents an even greater challenge. Describing your course on the Web Site can give visitors (and even seasoned veterans) enough knowledge to, not only get around the course without much hassle, but also help with disc selection on particular holes or advice on how to avoid hazards.
Ranging from a hole-by-hole analysis (complete with pictures), to a scanned copy of the course map and scorecard, to providing a course description of your course will make the newer players feel like they are welcome and allow for a more pleasurable experience when they play their first few rounds.
Good examples of Web Sites that provide good descriptions of their courses are:
Hudson Mills Disc Golf Courses (MI)-- http://www.inflightsports.com/a3disc/hudson.html
Greenbelt Park Disc Golf Course (TX)-- http://www.simpson.edu/~korver/DG/Courses/greenbelt.html
Kalamazoo College (MI) Disc Golf-- http://chakakahn.sapien.net/discgolf/the_course.htm
Tampere, Finland Disc Golf-- http://www.uta.fi/jarjestot/ufo/discgolf/frisgolf-e.html
Reason #8: GROW MEMBERSHIP ROLLS
Since disc golf is a luxury in most of our lives, our play and involvement is often dictated by life events with higher priorities. As such, there seems to be a significant churn rate with the players who come out to the course. We'll see them consistently for months, but then they disappear for some unexplained reason, only to surface again after a reasonable amount of time.
On the other hand, course and club activities are usually an ongoing process that knows no preference for the events in your life. It is imperative, therefore, that you keep your club membership growing and up-to-date. This will allow your club to meet its commitments to the players, neighbors, and Regional disc golf organizations by merely having enough persons to do the work.
Having a membership application on your web site will support a perpetual membership drive, and give potential volunteers the opportunity to help serve by participating in your course or club activities.
Good examples of clubs who promote membership growth and involvement are:
Manhattan Disc Golf Club (KS)--http://www.cis.ksu.edu/~ask2963/mdgc/index.html
Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course (PA)”http://sedgleywoods.org/membership.html
Greater Cincinnati Flying Disc Association (OH)-- http://www.discsports.com/gcfda/form.htm
Reason #9: CONDUCT FUND RAISING
Although requiring club dues is one way to raise enough money for maintaining the quality of your course, having a Pro Shop on your course Web Site is a more effective and less invasive way to raise money. This Pro Shop could range from just having a Web page announcing a special commemorative disc sale to a secured-server supporting the online sales of dozens of discs and accessories.
Using your Web Site as a fund raising tool could also make distribution of course items more convenient for players, as they would no longer have to rely on the course Pro to get their plastic. And short of having an actual store on the course, this is a way for your players to find out what supplies your club can provide.
In addition, providing information for potential sponsors is another way to grow the course or club treasury. This is a great way to get companies and individuals outside of disc golf involved.
Good examples of courses and clubs who use their Web Site to raise funds for their course are:
Sandy Point Resort & Disc Golf Ranch (WI)-- http://www.sandypt.com/shop.html
Morley Field Pro Shop (CA)-- http://morleyfield.com/products.htm
Flying Squirrels Disc Golf Club (PA)-- http://www.websolut.com/flyingsquirrels/sponsorship.html
Reason #10: INCREASE COMMUNICATIONS
Perhaps the best reason for your course of club to have a Web Site is to improve and increase the communication between your players and members. Publishing a list of board members, their phone numbers, and e-mail links is a great way to channel questions or comments to the appropriate persons. A scrolling banner or message board on the Web Site could also serve as a great forum for letting people know what's hot on the course, that you found a lost disc, or if some emergency needs attention.
E-mail lists and threaded newsgroups are especially effective for maintaining the communications between club members, and it may even facilitate a decrease in the need for face-to-face meetings. Presenting an issue to the group and getting feedback on it, can be as easy as typing it up and clicking the submit button or mailing it to the appropriate people. This single reason for having a Web Site and providing contact information and messaging capabilities to your club members could save money in postage, phone bills, and man-hours that would otherwise be necessary to support effective correspondence.
Good examples of courses and clubs who use their Web Site to increase communications between their players or members are:
Clearly, the Internet, including both the World Wide Web and E-mail, will be a major influence in our future lives. By establishing a presence for your course or club on the Internet right now, you will be exploiting one of the most cost- and time-effective tools to maintain your course and grow your club. Even if it is one-page to announce your random-draw doubles schedule, you'll find the benefits of a Web presence invaluable.
Since I have hopefully now convinced you to launch a Web Site for your course or club, my next article will present some of the technical/professional considerations you must address when getting a Web Site off the ground.
#1. Web Authoring Tools
Making a Web Site is not as difficult as it used to be. When I started designing and developing Web Sites six years ago, the choices we faced were whether to make them using notepad or Word. Not many Web authoring tools were then available to expedite the transition from idea to Internet.
Today, there are a number of Web authoring programs that you could use to make your Site, and you would never have to touch any html code. Some of the great programs include:
PageMill 2.0 (Adobe, http://www.adobe.com/)
DreamWeaver 1.0 (MacroMedia, http://www.macromedia.com/)
Drumbeat 1.01 (Elemental Software, http://www.elementalsoftware.com/)
Homesite 3.0 (Allaire, http://www.allaire.com/)
HoTMetaL Pro 4.0 (Soft Squad, http://www.softsquad.com/)
FrontPage 98 (Microsoft, http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/)
Fusion 2.02 (NetObjects, http://www.netobjects.com/)
If you are more inclined to author your own Web pages, without the aid of a Web Editor, there are a number of sites available to give you support and suggestions for using html (HyperText Markup Language). Some of best Sites for learning html yourself are:
Web Monkey (http://www.hotwired.com/webmonkey/authoring/)
The Web Developer's Channel (http://www.internet.com/sections/webdev.html)
W3C HTML Homepage (http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/)
The Virtual Mirror HTML & Web Authoring Forum (http://www.vmirror.com/forums/html/)
The HTML Writers Guild (http://www.hwg.org/)
#2. Web Hosting
Once your Web Site has been authored, it must be positioned onto a Web Server so the rest of the Internet world could view it. Although there are a number of available companies competing for your business, there are a number of features that need to be included in their service to make your site realize its potential.
Some of the specifications that your Web Hosting company should provide are: 10 MB Storage, ftp access to download your pages, e-mail boxes, access to log files, and a cgi-bin for making your site more interactive.
There are now a plethora of companies that will actually host your site for free. Of course, we all know that there is no "free lunch." However, if you could tolerate the banner ad that will appear at the top your Web Pages, the lack of support for solving technical matters related to your site, and the possibility of less than optimal download times, then these companies may help your course or club get online.
50 Megs.com (http://www.50megs.com/)
Free Station (http://www.freestation.com/)
Free Web Site Hosting (http://www.free-web-site-hosting.com/)
Bravenet Web Hosting (http://www.bravenet.com/)
Astro Atlas Web Hosting (http://www.createyoursite.com/)
Create Uh Page (http://www.oe-pages.com/)
Just Web It (http://www.justwebit.com/)
Pro Hosting (http://free.prohosting.com/)
#3. Domain Name Selection
Choosing the name of your course or club Web Site may be an important consideration for luring visitors to your site. Although the most popular domain names on the Web are the "dot coms," putting your course or club onto the Web may warrant using the "dot org" suffix. This designation is most appropriate for organizations that are on the Web, and using it will increase the likelihood that you could reserve the name you want.
You should know that if a domain name is already being used under a "dot com" label, that does not preclude someone from using the same name with the "dot org" or "dot net" domain. To investigate the availability of a domain, you can go to Network Solutions (http://www.networksolutions.com/), who administrates the registration and reservation of the "dot com," "dot net," and "dot org" domains.
A domain will cost $70 for the first two years, and $35 for each subsequent year. Before you are able to reserve your domain, you'll need to have your Web Hosting company designate an IP number for the domain. This is analogous to having your name in the phone book and coupling it to your phone number.
Getting your Web Site from the office computer to the Web Server requires some specialized software called an ftp client. An acronym for File Transfer Protocol, ftp software allows you to manage files, including transferring them, on a remote computer (the host). Most of the ftp clients are relatively easy to use, and they operate by "click-and-dragging" files on your computer into folders on the remote server. Some of the Web Authoring tools listed above, also bundle an ftp client into their package, making uploading files to the Web Server seamless.
Some of the top ftp clients that are available include:
WS ftp Pro (http://www.ipswitch.com/Products/WS_FTP/index.html)
FTP Voyager (http://www.ftpvoyager.com/)
TransSoft Products (http://transsoft-is.vservers.com/products.htm)
BulletProof ftp (http://www.bpftp.com/)
#5. search engines/directories
OK...now you've landed your own domain, constructed your site, and loaded it onto the Web Server. Now what? At this point it's time to promote your site through Search Engines/Directories. Although both tools are employed by Internet users, there is a fundamental difference between the two.
Search Engines send out robots (or spiders) to evaluate sites on the Web that match the keywords or concepts used during the search. Search Directories (like Yahoo) house all the Web Addresses and Site information on their own computers to speed up the process.
By registering your url to these Search Engines/Directories at least once a month, you'll begin to see a significant amount of traffic pass through your Web pages. Especially encouraging is the tremendous presence that disc golf has on the Web. Here are some of the search engines/directories to which you should register your site:
Alta Vista (http://www.altavista.com/)
Web Crawler (http://www.webcrawler.com/)
Direct Hit (http://www.directhit.com/)
Hot Bot (http://www.hotbot.com/)
Scrub the Web (http://www.scrubtheweb.com/index.html)
GoTo dot com (http://www.goto.com/)
or you may just want to visit Disc Golf dot com (http://www.discgolf.com/). It's the most comprehensive listing of disc golf related sites on the Internet!
#6. e-mail accounts
Despite the hard work and dedication that you give to your Web Site, the part of the Internet that will end up being most valuable for you to promote your course or club is e-mail.
Your Web Hosing company should provide an e-mail account (or a few of them), however, how you manage them will determine whether your online communications is a bust or a boon. Since e-mail clients are such an important part of your Internet experience, you should be aware of the packages available to you. Here are a few e-mail programs that will move you along:
Outlook Express (Bundled with Internet Explorer 4.0 and higher--FREE!; http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/)
Eudora (Qualcomm; http://www.eudoramail.com/)
Messenger (Netscape; http://www.netscape.com/messenger/)
Your Web Hosting company may provide an auto-responder feature for your e-mail accounts. This auto-responder can be set up to automatically let anyone sending you a message know that you've received their message and are currently processing it. With a little creativity, you can set up specific e-mail boxes and their appropriate auto-responder messages to take some of the burden off your club with questions that are asked most often. For example, an e-mail box like firstname.lastname@example.org can be set up to automatically let visitors know your schedule.