Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Student Organization Tip: How to Create a Website

A common problem that student groups face is how to create a website. This should be obvious, but nowadays, it's important that an organization have some kind of a website. Students often look to a group's website as an indication of the group's strength and efficiency. Not having a website suggests the group isn't good enough for a website and does little. As well, a poorly designed website says that you don't care about your image. And worst of all, a website with outdated information tells students that the group is defunct. Keeping an active website is crucial to any organization's success in today's world. If you don't have a website, it's time to get on the bandwagon.

So, assuming that you want to create a website, there are four ways to effectively do so without spending enormous amounts of time on the project. (I am only going to cover the ways to create a website in this blog post. The design/layout of a webpage will be covered later on if enough people are interested in that question. For now, though, I leave it up to you to decide what layout you prefer.)

First, if you have a friend who is good with computers, can design high quality websites, and is willing to create a site for you, then go for it. What you want to avoid in this situation, though, is creating a situation where the website is built and never updated because your friend doesn't have the time to make changes. You should be able to revise pages as necessary, especially for when contact information changes from year to year. If you don't know how to edit websites in html, though, you might want to consider having your friend set up the website in WordPress format, which allows for simple editing on your part.

Second, you can rely on Facebook to act as a group website. Creating either a Facebook Group or a Facebook Page is very simple and can be quite effective. Group members can join the Facebook Group or become fans of the Page so people see your strength of numbers, you have the ability to message everyone easily, you can have open forums, students can post pictures and start discussions on issues they care about, etc. The downside is that this still suggests your group is not important enough to deserve an actual website and does not look professional. Deciding between a group and a page is also an issue you will have to decide upon, and which has raised debate already.

Sample Facebook Pages: Cato Institute Facebook Page, Reason Magazine Facebook Page

Sample Facebook Groups of Pro-Liberty Student Groups: Drexel Student Liberty Front Group, Philadelphia Forum for Freedom

Third, you can create a group blog. I am a fan of Blogspot because of its very simple platform that takes little technical knowledge to work. This is a step up from a Facebook creation in my mind because you can find it just from Google, you have a little more control over the content, people can still hold discussions, and it provides some kind of purpose to the website (i.e. people have a reason to return to the website to see what your most recent blog post is about). It is not exactly professional, but it's also not a bad start.

Sample Pro-Liberty Student Group Blogs: Columbia College Libertarians, University of Nevada Reno Students for Liberty (I am unsure how they do this, but the combination blog/full website is very interesting0

Fourth, you can use Weebly to create a website on your own. I know what you're thinking, the reason that creating a website is so difficult is because you don't know how to create a website. I empathize; I am technologically illiterate. But even I am able to create a quality website in under an hour using Weebly. Just go to the website, create an account, and start designing a site. You pick the layout you want, drag different parts of the website together that you want, and the system builds the website itself. If you don't have a website already, can't deal with html or anything intense with the internet/websites, but want a professional-looking site, Weebly is the answer. What's better, you have two options for your website domain name. If you don't want to pay anything, you can create a domain that includes the name Weebly for free (e.g. www.studentsforliberty.weebly.com, which I created in about 15 minutes without much content). But, if you've bought the domain for your organization, Weebly can set up the website right there in the domain you've already purchased. Note: You don't assign the domain name until you're ready to publish the website.

Options 1 and 4 are the best options for creating a high-quality website. It is only recently that I heard about Weebly, but I am already a big fan and would recommend it to everyone out there. With Weebly, there is no reason student groups shouldn't have a well made website anymore.

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