Make Your Patrol Website Awesome (Part 2 of 2)
Get Started: Create Your Patrol Group Website
- Keep the site clean, well organized and polished. Emulate your favorite websites, or at least those you have found pleasing to look at and easy to navigate. You want your site to be obvious with regard to finding important information.
- Keep the site updated! This is critical. Training schedules from two years ago are useless and make your patrol appear less organized.
- Display your logo. Or the NMBP logo. Something visual should be prominent. Don't make your site just words. Eyes will glaze over.
Checklist of important items to have on your website:
Click on linked items for good examples.
- What is the bike patrol? What is your organization's purpose?
- What is required to be a patroller in your group? And what is expected after joining?
- How can a person join? Lay out the requirements step-by-step.
- Info on the trails and/or events that your patrollers support.
- What is your group's association with the local club (if there is one)?
- General info on the land management agencies that your group works with.
- If your patrol is sponsored in any way, make sure you thank those sponsors clearly on your site.
- Links to other useful information: IMBA, NMBP requirements, local park website, trail conditions, weather, local club, local First Aid certification, etc.
- Pictures. People like pictures. Video is even better because, as we all know, no one reads anymore.
Timely Information (Do not neglect to update these items regularly!):
- Contact information if someone has questions or needs to reach the group leader.
- Calendar of events: training schedule, group rides, social events, other volunteer opportunities.
- Trail status updates - conditions, closures, etc. (Optional if you have this capacity. Works well when anyone can update the trail conditions, not just the webmaster.)
Other options to consider:
- A separate patrol blog section that is regularly updated with local patrol stories, photos, tips, tricks, lessons learned, etc. It's possible to give multiple people permissions to post on the blog without letting them touch the rest of the website.
- A forum. (But be careful that you don't let it breed negative sentiments.)
- A photo gallery.
- A calendar with info from the local club as well as your own patrol events.
- A webform or survey form for submitting patrol reports. (Often third-party sites can host basic ones for free.)
- Warm fuzzies: Letters from race promoters, riders or land managers thanking the patrol; positive newspaper articles; IMBA recognition. Publicity that makes your patrol group look good should be collected and shared.
- Low-impact and share-the-trail riding tips.
- Training tips.
- Information on where patrollers can get their CPR/First Aid training, as well as advanced back-country medical certifications, should individuals so desire.
- Trail maps, if you're able to post them directly to your site.
Good examples of patrol websites, from the simple to the elaborate:
Patrol pages that are part of club websites:
- Diamond Peaks Patrol, part of the Overland Mountain Bike Club
- Boulder Mountain Bike Patrol, part of the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance
- GROC Mountain Bike Patrol, part of the Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists
- COMBO Patrol, part of the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization
Time to create a site. Where do you turn?
The simplest path is, of course, to piggyback on the site of your local IMBA club or chapter and ask to have some pages dedicated to your patrol group. If you want your own site, you have some options.
A Blog-Style Site
It used to be that creating a website was expensive, time-consuming and for professionals only. Not so any longer. With the advent of WYSIWYG (whizzy-whig) editors, meaning "what you see is what you get," creating content for websites is as easy as word processing.
Free options include blog hosts such as Wordpress and Blogger. The templates have improved dramatically in recent years, allowing even the free sites to have sub-pages, calendars and contact submission forms. Customizing colors and heading photos and adding additional pages to your site is now a simple, point-and-click process.
If you want to take it a step further, you can purchase your own domain name and have Wordpress or Blogger host it. You can also purchase fancier templates to load onto those sites that offer more flexibility, even for the HTML-challenged.
In fact, just explore the themes available on Wordpress (like the one on this page) to see some examples. I think you'll be amazed.
- With a blog-style platform, even "non-computer" types can easily manage the patrol group website.
- Pages can be updated instantly by almost anyone.
- You are limited to the capabilities of the free templates. it's more difficult to integrate advanced features.
A Standard Website
If you still want your own, built-from-scratch site, then it's a good time to reach out to the community. Maybe you have a patroller or local club member who is great at building websites. Maybe there's a company in town that would be willing to sponsor your patrol by building a site for free or at a reduced rate. Or, maybe there is a college in town that might have some enterprising web design students willing to do an "internship" for your patrol that means building your website to support their portfolio.
- Endless options. Anything you can dream up can be created and built into the site by someone who knows what they're doing.
- You may end up with a single soldier in charge of all of your website's content. If you have to submit content to one person and wait until they are available to upload it, things can get backed up. You also may have to pay the person regularly to maintain your site. Make sure you can afford it.
Beyond this, just use your best judgement and rememeber WHY your patrol group should have its own site. Good luck!