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Bradford on Avon Lions Club - e-Clubhouse website

1. Introduction

UPDATE Bradford-on-Avon now have their own website produced in-house - see www.boalions.org.uk but many of the issues below, highlighted by the late Bill Dewar, still apply.

The Bradford on Avon website was launched on 24th March 2011 and is based on the FREE Lions
e-Clubhouse template as endorsed by International President Sid L. Scruggs III in March 2011.  There appears to be another 156 British & Irish Lions Clubs using the same e-Clubhouse template.

www.e-clubhouse.org/sites/bradford

Whilst limited in scope, the benefits of this template and in-built web authoring - e-Clubhouse Content Management System (CMS) - are that only a limited knowledge of web design is required; the Lions International links on the right hand side of the frame are automatically updated, and a website can be set up at ZERO cost to the club.  The CMS interface has recently been updated, but at the time of writing the instruction documents are for the older (2009) version!
 
2. Objective

The objective of this note is to demonstrate how the Lions e-Clubhouse template can be further enhanced.

It should be pointed out here that - even if the webmaster has limited expertise in web design, the e-Clubhouse CMS will allow the creation of a fairly reasonable site, and can be further enhanced by the use of Google Sites to ‘add' extra pages, which is free and reasonably user-friendly.  However, to utilise a lot of the tricks that we have used, some knowledge of HTML and preferably some additional web authoring software may be required.  We have also used another free Web Hosting site to add pages, where there were design limitations of either e-Clubhouse or Google Sites.

For ease of authoring, some of the pages were created and tested using web authoring software (Dreamweaver) and then copy/pasting the code into the e-Clubhouse page.  If webmasters feel comfortable editing website HTML code, then details on where to find the various 'cribs' and 'work-arounds' are in the ‘Techies' section at the end, or can be obtained by e-mailing our Webmaster via the link on our Home Page.

And we are still exploring what can be done.............

3. Limitations

The template contains only 10 main pages - some can be titled as desired.  Based on the criteria used in past District Website Competitions we have chosen:

Home
Calendar
Club Projects (with a link to District Projects)
Photo Gallery
Contact Us
Fund Raising
Service & Youth
History, Purposes and Ethics
Social Events
Site Search, Videos and Useful Links
 
Limitations of e-Clubhouse noted so far are:

a.  The Calendar is a fixed format and entries cannot utilise hyperlinks
b. The Photo Gallery is a fixed format and can only hold 10 pictures - a major failing
c.  Whilst the CMS software will allow some HTML code that would normally be placed in a header section (E.G. JavaScript) it automatically deletes other entries such as ‘title' or ‘keywords' - so any generated sitemap is of little use.
d.  A statistics package is not provided
e.  The basic e-Clubhouse ‘frame' doesn't do well against W3C & CSS validation checkers with a minimum of 60 reported errors even on a fixed format page - but it still works well!
f. Additional pages cannot be added, either to the public or members section
g. In the members section, with the exception of Members Home Page and one other, what remain are inflexible fixed format pages and in the main would seem irrelevant for most clubs.
h. The website URL is not as easily identifiable (to both the internet user and search engines) as would a purchased domain name.

4. Our Design & Enhancements

Home Page

a.  Where possible we have used corporate Lions colours.

b.  Welcome message at the top - this changes based on the time of day.

c.  Scrolling banner message - used to draw attention to facts/events.

d.  A main image that is updated as required.  Currently, we use a mouse ‘rollover' to change the picture of local scenes.  At Christmas we used an animated Father Christmas gif and for fun, we introduced roll-over sound effects - "jingling sleigh bells and Ho! Ho Ho! Merry Christmas everyone".   This was followed by a link to our ‘Christmas Programme' (hosted on another external FREE site) which again used corporate colours and played background festive music.  It also included a snowy countdown to Christmas - should anyone be in doubt!

e.  We use a Featured Items section which can be used to link to various internal or external pages.  For example, at Christmas we linked to our President's Christmas Message and to other festive websites to amuse any children (or adults). 

f.   We have added a table of the various ways we encourage people to donate or raise funds for us via the Internet.  All 5 items listed are totally FREE with no service charges or cost to the club.

g.  The count down to one of our major fund raising events is a bit of fun - roll the mouse over it to reveal the date.

h.  The current weather and time/date are self-explanatory.

i.  To overcome the lack of statistics within the basic template software, we have introduced Flag Counter - there are many other free counters available.   To my mind Flag Counter enhances the International nature of our organisation.  Click on the Flag Counter to drill down into more detailed stats. 

j.  This is followed by our own version of a site map which also provides a link to our external Picasa Photo Archive - lots of photographic history here.

k. We have activated the ‘Translate' feature (how's your Malaysian?),

 
Calendar
Fixed format.  Whilst hyperlinks cannot be used, links can be made to a pdf file within our e-Clubhouse space - look for the underlined 'View Flyer' link(s).  Dates drop off the top of the list as they mature.  The ‘Featured Event' facility can be used to highlight specific events which show on the Home Page ‘frame'

Club Projects
Fairly self-explanatory and URL links, images, etc. are used.  We may come a cropper if the URL to the Districts Project page changes - something we have to keep an eye on.

Photo Gallery
Fixed format.  The size limitation is a problem.  This page can be switched off/on as required but is fixed format and cannot be re-titled.  However, since we are now using slide-shows on various pages we have just utilised a URL link to our main Picasa Photo Archive.

Contact Us
Our webmaster has created a link to a smart Enquiry Form in Google Docs with a drop down selection menu where each type of enquiry is emailed to the appropriate responsible club member.

Fund Raising
We have decided to use this page to host activities in the current Lionistic year - both the amount we have donated and the events that we have run.  Naturally this will change for the next Lionistic year.   For donations we have included a link (more....) to the organisation's own website should anyone want to know about that organisation.

We have introduced a slideshow featuring some of our Fund Raising activities - to our mind much better than scrolling through individual photographs, and can be far more comprehensive.

Service and Youth Activities
Much the same as Fund Raising with a grouping of our donations that span past Lionistic years.  Again we have introduced a slideshow that emphasises donations to local youth and other local organisations, so is specifically aimed at our local public.

History, Purposes and Ethics
The current format is the result after many hours of discussion - just how much or how little do we need?  One of our Charter members was keen to include something about the white cane.

Social Events
This uses the slideshow technique once more and is largely confined to the current Lionistic year - but our 40th Anniversary was rather special!

Site Search Sites, Videos and Useful Links
We have a Google ‘Search Lions Sites' facility, plus we've added a facility to search only our own website.
Lions links include the other 4 clubs in our Zone, MD105 and MD105D.
Other links refer to the town and ‘What's On' information.

The Videos on our website are each a page on our Google Site - mainly using embedded YouTube links, and accessed by a URL.

URLs for each District have been added to the map of the British Isles and Ireland.

Members Area (password protected - albeit not very secure, as it is everyone's email address as username and the same password for all!)

Members Home Page
This contains:
Members Directory including Club Roles
List of Friends - addresses, e-mal address, telephone numbers etc. (again a link to a Google Doc page)
Blank Forms
Club Inventory
Copies of Monthly Club Newsletters
Copies of Friends Newsletters.

Member Directory
This is somewhat limiting, being a fixed format, and not very user-friendly.  However, this must be used, in order that members can have access to the Members Section!

Member and Group Recognition
The only remaining free-format page -which is used for club presentations, awards etc.

5. For the Techies

Google Site Search - http://www.google.com/sitesearch/
 Creates the HTML code for a site search based the URLs you select

Search your own site only - http://freefind.com
 Creates the HTML code for a search engine (and site map) for your own site.

Google Sites - http://www.google.com/sites/help/intl/en/overview.html
To create additional pages that can be linked to your site - see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHACOdtMfbI

If you use external sites to hold additional pages then it is a good idea to create a diversion page that will automatically divert users, who might stumble across the URL - E.G. ours at Google Sites is https://sites.google.com/site/bradfordonavonlions/ - to your main site

Google Docs - http://docs.google.com/
 To create forms, spreadsheets etc that can be linked to your site

Picasa on-line photo albums - http://picasaweb.google.com/
 To create on-line photo albums that can be linked to your site, including via a slideshow.

Note that - although Picasa has the facility to create HTML code for a flash slideshow for your site, this is fairly ‘buggy' and we have instead used a ‘gadget' that linked by an RSS feed - see http://sites.google.com/site/annuairevin/media-rss-feed-slideshow/

An advantage of storing images in Picasa, rather than uploading to the e-Clubhouse site is that - to spread the workload - another member can be responsible for that part.  As slideshow albums are added to/updated in Picasa, the RSS feed will automatically update the website slideshows.

Site Statistics
 Code available at http://flagcounter.com/

Weather Forecast
Code available at http://www.weather.com/services/


"CONTENT IS KING"

Lion Bill Dewar