Getting your bulletin on the WebArnold Wade, PROBE WEBMASTER
Are a lot of your members online? Does your chapter have a Web presence?
Many, if not most, seem to in this dawn of the 21st Century. Is your bulletin on the Web? With the increasing ease of use of computer programs and the increasing availability of server space, it's almost a question today of "if not, why not?"
What seems at first to be a daunting task, is really not that difficult if you know your limitations, know your abilities and resources, and know what you'd like to see. A bit of advance planning can make the process (nearly) painless. While each of the following areas have a number of options, the process really can be completed fairly simply.
In this article, I'm simply going to list some of the primary items that should be considered when making your decisions.
Name. What kind of Internet address do you want to have? Does it make a difference to you? If you want www.MYRAG.org, you'll have to register the domain name "MYRAG," and pay approximately $35 a year for the privilege.
If www.servername.com/MYRAG (for example) is acceptable, you can find a web host for as little as $10-$15 a month, which will provide a number of other services such as keeping track of how often people look at your site, e-mail addresses, etc. Or you can use one of the increasingly available free servers made available by Barbershoppers around the country. If you're satisfied with a longer address such as www.myserver.com/~arniewade/MYRAG, most people who have an e-mail account, also have enough free server space provided to host your bulletin.
Budget. You can spend as much or as little as you have, or want to spend.
With your own domain name on a fast, guaranteed server, you can easily spend $500-$700 a year or more, plus, of course, whatever you may want to spend for a professional web designer to design and maintain the site. On the other end of the spectrum is the PROBE site, which costs the organization nothing because of donated server space and volunteer labor.
Appearance. Do you feel a need to duplicate your printed bulletin? Improve it? Just get basic information up? There are a wide variety of methods of turning print into Web-based material. A good flatbed scanner can literally take a picture of each page, which can then be transferred to a Web site. Computer files can be translated into Portable Document Format (PDF), which is a Web readable file maintaining your formatting (see the Style Guide on the Society Web site for an example). Or, if you have someone in the chapter knowledgeable in writing Web pages in HTML, they can do a Web edition from scratch. (It's really not all that difficult. I learned the basics, and put my first page up over a weekend of fairly concentrated effort spent with a basic primer.)
Plain or fancy? It's easy to overdo Web pages with pictures, cute graphics, and such, but they slow down the loading process. For informational publications, plain is probably better, at least to start.
Sam Vigil Jr. of Portland, Oregon, along with Martin Grandahl and Eric Gustafson have written a style guide to barbershop web pages and placed it on the Evergreen District site. It is an excellent resource for the beginner, or for anyone wanting to change their site. Check it out at: http://www.evg.org/~webdesign/.