Building a website
Big or small, websites get the word out about guiding - and keep key information and updates in one place
How to create an online hub for your area
You don't need to have a huge website to make an impact. Simply by having an online home with key information about guiding in your area, you're automatically more visible to potential members.
You can use your website to share things like news and blogs, events and opportunities, administrative information and even recruitment materials. Having everything in one place will make it much easier for your audience to find what they need.
Unfortunately Girlguiding HQ doesn't have the capacity to provide individual country, regions, counties, divisions, districts or units with their own websites. However, we have put together some basic guidelines to get you started. Your local communications and PR team can also support you with advice on all things digital.
Check our Digital safeguarding policy to make sure you stay safe online.
If creating a website from scratch, you will need:
- A domain name – for example, ours is www.girlguiding.org.uk
- A server – the place where your website files will be saved
- The website itself, including design files and pages of content
If you've never created a website before, you might find it easiest to use a service that provides you with all of the above, such as Wordpress or Wix. These companies offer a free and easy way to create a website – and you won't need any technical skills to get started.
Designing your website
Once you've chosen your new platform, you'll need to plan how your website is going to look. Most out-of-the-box solutions will give you a number of themes or templates to chose from, where you can change things like fonts, colours and basic layout.
Now it's time to create your content. Whether you're writing a blog or creating an update about the annual subscription process in your area, follow our guidelines to ensure each page is as effective and engaging as possible.
You must include a short statement, so you are clear on who owns the content. For example, you could say: 'the views expressed are those of Girlguiding 'insert name' County'.
People often read online content differently to how they read print publications. Since many people arrive at a piece of web content from a search engine or function, they tend to be looking for specific information.
The best web content helps the user to find what they need quickly and easily. Here are some simple things you can do to ensure your audience can do just that.
- Put the key information at the top.
- Use sub-headings so people can scan your content and find information they need easily.
- Use short sentences and keep paragraphs short – three or four sentences maximum.
- Use simple language and avoid Girlguiding jargon wherever possible.
- Use bullet points to make things clearer and easier to digest.
- Avoid making links that say ‘Click here’, and instead hyperlink descriptive text. For example, ‘You will need a Residential Notification Form’ is better than ‘Click here to download a Residential Notification Form’.
- Be direct. Use ‘you’, ‘we’ and don’t be afraid to tell people what to do – for example, ‘apply here’.
Don't forget to follow our writing guidelines too.
There's no recommended word count for the ‘perfect’ webpage. However, keeping word counts to a minimum is a good idea because:
- users only read about 20 to 28% of a web page
- when users want to complete their task as quickly as possible, they skim even more out of impatience
- pressure on the brain to understand increases for every 100 words you put on a page.
Keep your users' needs in mind, and don't overload the page with things they don't need.
At Girlguiding, we use lots of terms that might not make sense to those outside of our organisation. As many people who come to our websites are part of guiding, we may be tempted to use jargon and complex terminology to avoid having to explain everything to them. Research has shown that:
- higher literacy people prefer plain English because it allows them to absorb information as quickly as possible
- 'subject experts’ - for example, our Leaders and volunteers - will still plump for plain English if given the option and the more complex the issue, the greater that preference.
Passive language - where you don't directly speak to the user - is harder to follow, but we use it very often. The below sentences have been rewritten for clarity – and make use of an ‘active’ voice - talking to the reader directly - to make the text easier to understand.
Complex - The recently implemented categorical standardisation procedure on waste oil should not be applied before 1 January 2015.
Simple - Do not use the new waste oil standards before 1 January 2015.
Complex - Maintaining proper accounting records is a legal obligation of all those who handle charity money.
Simple - If you're responsible for handling a unit’s finances, you must keep a full record of all accounts. This is a legal obligation.
There's a lot of content on the internet competing for your audience’s attention, so ensure your pages are as engaging as possible. Here are some simple ways you can bring your page to life.
- Use quotes and case studies - add a personal edge to your page by bringing in a quote that supports the content.
- Frame content around lists - lists are very easy to digest and help to break up content.
- Pull out engaging facts and figures - got a strong quote or statistic? Pull it out of the text to highlight it.
- Don't forget pictures - show what's great about guiding with an image. You can download a selection from the Online Print Centre.
Making your website accessible
Making your website accessible means that people with additional needs can use it. Try not to clutter up your website with images and distracting text, provide alternative text to images, videos and audio, and make sure pages conform to the W3 accessibility guidelines.