Web Site

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A convention's web site is an opportune location for people to find up-to-date information about the convention. It is relatively easy to update and is therefore an important communication tool.

Tools

A Content Management System (such as Drupal, Slashcode, Typo3, Scoop, and many others, which can seamlessly integrate public, semi-public and private information) transforms your web site from a publication whose owner has to pester the other staff members for information into a collaborative tool which the entire concom can use to communicate with each other and the world.

Layout and Appearance

The appearance of your website should reflect the theme or style of your convention. It should be attractive and laid out in a manner that makes it easy to read and to locate important information.

The front page should prominently feature the name, dates, what kind of event this is and the location of the event, as well as the names of any Featured Guests. This information may also appear in other places, but it should be very easy to find on the front page. Make sure to include this information in full. For example, saying your event is at Elfton University is next to useless and forces the user to Google to find where this is. Instead write: Elfton University - Auditorium A (343 Glover Street, Elfton in California, USA.)

If your web page has different sections, it is common practice to provide a navigation bar either across the top or down one side of the page. The navigation bar is consistent from page to page and provides the visitor with easy access to all the areas of the site.

For clarity of layout and appearance it is best to have a single person responsible for defining the look and feel of the site, even if many people are generating content.

Content and Organization

Convention web sites range in complexity from a one-page site that basically serves as a convention flyer to a developed community portal.

Organizations with multiple activities may wish to have separate sites for each activity. You may wish to have a site for your convention, a site for the other business, charitable, or scholarly activities of your parent organization, a site for the specific use of your staff, and/or a site or sites for historical information about past conventions or organizational activities. Consider the use of vhosts as an organizational tool.

Similar to designing a flyer, when you design your web site you should consider how you are presenting your convention. Do you say up front that it is a science fiction convention and invite people to sign up for the Writer's Workshop, or do you advertize the dance, the concert and the beer? The information you present and the way you present it will affect who you attract to your convention.

Web sites are not just to attract newcomers, however. They also serve as an information resource for people who have already decided to attend your event, or who are familiar with it but need information specific to this year. Visitors may be there to register, to make hotel reservations or request Party Suites, to get directions so they can make travel plans, to sign up for Babysitting, the Masquerade, the Art Show, or a Dealers table, to volunteer to be on programming or to work in another department, to find out the program schedule and participants so they can plan for their time at the convention, or to contact the chair or other committee members about some other topic. The web site should support all of these functions as much as possible.

Changes to convention plans (or to the website itself) can be highlighted in a News section. If you are making a dramatic change to the way a convention is run, it is advisable to inform your members of this change in advance. The web site is one place to do this.

With Worldpay, PayPal and similar organisations providing online payment mechanisms, it is becoming more common for conventions to accept membership and other payments via the convention website.

An area on the convention website (usually protected by passwords and/or other security measures) can be provided to Committee and Staff to hold standard convention graphics and fonts, copies of hotel contracts and letters sent to Guests and Program Participants, and even a membership list with contact details for use by Program and other areas, depending on your local area's rules on Data Protection and restricting access to information so that only those that have need of particular information can access it). This private area can hold the rough program before it is ready to be release, the current timeline for the convention, lists of volunteers that haven't been assigned areas to work on etc.

Publicity

Once the site has been established, it is important to make it widely known. Print advertisements should definitely include the web site address. There are professional and amateur Portals that will list links to your site, as well as the popular web search engines. In addition, many other conventions will link to your site in return for you linking to them. This forms what is known as a Web Ring, not to be confused with the organization of the same name, and is a powerful means of finding and being found by other conventions.

Timeline

Immediately after previous convention

Update web site with new Guests of Honor, hotel, and registration info. You may wish to have a new page ready to switch over.

At registration deadlines

Update registration pricing information and any related forms.

At final registration deadline

Remove any remaining pre-registration forms.

At intervals during the lifespan of the convention

Update the online membership list (if you have one), perhaps weekly if more than a few people are joining each week, otherwise shortly before other major conventions plus perhaps monthly, and certainly keep it updated in the weeks before a price hike. People join conventions if they see their friends are already members.

Right after the convention's over

This is the one almost all event websites miss. If possible, you want to set these pages up before hand, since everyone will be too tired to write the copy afterwards. Minor tweaks can be made before taking the pages live, and you can update further over the few days following the con -- and you should; the site will be part of the memories of the people who attended.

Additionally

Regularly update the News so that the site remains fresh and people will keep returning to see what's new.

Add any Progress Report updates (including, say, PDFs of the PRs if appropriate).

Keep the Program pages updated with new items, changed items and (when available) the latest program grids.

If you have enough various means of (especially electronic) communications, you may need to detail an entire body to this task, just as with the Dispatcher position in Communications.