Thoughts on a District Website

I’m the chairman of the local scouting district, and our new district executive has taken the lead on moving our web site to a content management system. The council is using Dot Net Nuke for this, so we just had a morning of training on it.

So I’m taking some time here to write down my thoughts on how to organize a district web site. These observations take a particular eye towards using Dot Net Nuke as the host platform.

I think the district web site represents a fairly generic sort of web design problem faced by lots of volunteer organizations, both in scouting and out of it. I always like to start with a statement of objectives:

  1. The main users are volunteers or youth members looking for details about something that’s unique to our district, like a district event or district-specific procedures.
  2. The users need to know how to contact district leadership
  3. The events schedule should be easy to find and navigate
  4. There shall be up to date information on all upcoming events.
  5. If there is a computer file (a flier, list of rules, planning guide, registration form) related to an event, that file is posted on the web site, too.
  6. We want to be able to distribute the responsibility for keeping the site up to date.

Given that we’re going to get rid of one web site and replace it with this one, my focus is to ensure that we don’t lose anything we had on the old one.

District-specific information

OK, what types of events do we have?

  • Roundtable, a monthly get-together
  • Training events – it seems like there are 2-4 every month.
  • District committee meetings, also monthly, but nobody attends them except committee members
  • 2-3 outdoor youth events: Camporee, Klondike, and Expo. We may add more, especially for cubs.
  • Scouting for Food
  • Kickoff cornfeed every fall, district dinner every spring
  • Order of the Arrow – elections, Conclave, monthly meetings @ Roundtable

What other things are specific to our district that we need to post here?

  • Process for approving an Eagle project – the rules say the District has to approve it, and this tells scouts what to do to seek approval
  • Process for Eagle Board of Review – again, the rules involve the District, and this explains how we implement the rules
  • District boundaries – it’s good to tell people what our geographic boundaries are.

Given that we want to share the work – have more than one or two volunteers typing in updates – then we need to be sure we can give them update rights without having to give them full administrator rights. So there are questions as to how much a person can modify if we give them the right to modify a page. I’m assuming that if someone has edit privileges, then that person can change the page name as well as its contents.

Home Page

I think it’s best to do a home page similar to what we have now. The page will be dominated by lists of links that are sorted according to audience:

  • Scouts
  • Parents
  • Volunteer Leaders

We should also have an “Announcements” feed, which I hope can include links to other content on the site. The Announcements feed should highlight updated information about upcoming events.

Top Level Menu

Here is a cut at the top level menu:

  • Home – it has to be there, of course
  • About the District – this can have contact info and administrative details.
  • Events – this would be the main listing of district-sponsored events, with one entry per event. For each event, the submenu would include links to fliers, planning brochures, registration forms, etc. (Should OA Conclave be here?)
  • Roundtable – schedule and map and, if the info is available ahead of time, a schedule of events.
  • Training – this would include a list of upcoming training events, and links to fliers about them. The training committee is pretty good about creating MS Word fliers. We can post them, or look at other approaches.
  • For Units – this is for other district operations, like recruitment, FOS, or unit assistance through the commissioner staff. I th ink this will serve as a catch-all for information people need that doesn’t fall under other headings.
  • For Scouts – a place to capture youth-specific things like OA and Path to Eagle. This is different from the “For Scouts” listing on the home page, since this menu won’t link to youth events.

Next-Level Menus

Here are how I see some of those menus above working out at the next level. The main page for each event should include things like what, where, when, who to contact, and what unit is organizing it.

  • Events
    • Kickoff/Corn Feed
      • Kickoff Overview (link back)
      • Kickoff Flier (link to PDF with registration form)
    • Camporee
      • Camporee Overview (link back)
      • Camporee Flier (link to PDF)
      • Camporee Guide (link to PDF)
  • For Units
    • Unit Problems? (how to contact your commissioner)
    • Fall Youth Roundup
      • Roundup Overview
      • Critical dates
      • Planning Guide
      • Whatever Linda Needs
    • Friends of Scouting
      • FOS Overview
      • Critical Dates
      • Unit Planning Guide
      • Community FOS (links back elsewhere in site)
  • For Scouts
    • Order of the Arrow
      • OA Overview
      • Conclave Flier
    • Path to Eagle
      • Path to Eagle Overview
      • Eagle Projects
      • Eagle Board of Review

Open Issues

  • We need to talk to the Training people to figure out how to organize the Training section. There are a couple dozen training events every year. At some level we should have a menu entry for each event. Maybe we organize by month after that, or by type of training.
  • It would be nice to have page that listed which units had organized which district events – a sort of Roll of Honor.
  • I’m inclined to suggest we include the date (year) in event names (i.e. “2008 Camporee”) so we can keep track of which pages have been updated. If we have undated page names, then visitors aren’t going to know if the information is up to date or not.
  • I’m not sure if it really does make sense to have year-specific folders for documents after all. It might be enough to follow Clint’s suggestion and just prefix the yyyy-mm-dd on the front of each file name. Visitors don’t see the file names anyway.