Setting up a website for your union campaign

I see a lot of union campaign websites. Some are good, some are not so good. One of the things I consistently hear is concern about the cost, the difficulty and the time.

This article is about how to simply, quickly and cheaply set up a website for your campaign. There are lots of resources out there on how to create a website that are useful for people with few technical skills. I personally don’t have advanced HTML or coding skills, but I have set up several campaign websites for my union, and for other groups.

For me, there are three steps to setting up a campaign site:

  1. Decide on your content management system
  2. Get a template design
  3. Customise your design

Decide on your content management system

The WordPress CMS Dashboard

Most campaign websites have a relatively short life-span and don’t have complicated structures. There are a lot of content management systems that are very powerful, with loads of features – most of them are quite technical and complicated. I’ve written about content management systems for unions here.

In my view, for most union campaign websites either need a simple CMS or, even just plain HTML (i.e. no CMS at all).

WordPress is an excellent CMS that is feature-rich and simple. It is very user-friendly, especially for people without technical IT skills. Using WordPress, you can create more than just a blog. In addition to managing images and media, handling comments, and categories and tags, there are literally thousands of excellent plug-ins – many of which are free – that extend WordPress. There are also loads of great design themes.

WordPress is also relatively simple to install – and it comes with a clear, easy to follow guide on how to do it. Loads of Web Hosts include free services that will automatically install WordPress. I personally recommend Digital Pacific – an Australian web-host that is both carbon neutral and very reliable. I have also found their technical support to be very

Alternatively, you could look at doing a plain HTML site. A HTML site is one that just uses files that end with pagename.html and has no built in management structure. If your campaign site only has one or two pages and no special features, HTML may be appropriate

Get a template design

Woothemes and Themeforest are great places to get high quality website templates

Seth Godin, a best-selling online entrepreneur and marketer, has some good advice on creating websites that is applicable for union campaign websites:

For most people, that’s all you need. A website that’s good enough. Not that breaks new ground, establishes a new identity, discovers new ways for people to interact online. Just a good enough website that didn’t kill you to launch. … There are more than a billion pages on the web. Surely there’s one that you can start with?

For this reason, most union campaign sites should be content with any number of literally 100s of high quality templates. Good places to start include Themeforest or Woothemes – both of which are sources of excellent WordPress themes (as well as Drupal, Joomla, Expression Engine or HTML themes). Themeforest or Woothemes templates are fairly inexpensive – between $10 to $80 depending on the themes.

If you use an external designer for your online campaigns, using a template can cut costs significantly, as you don’t need to pay for development of a unique site. And to be honest – does your union campaign really need a unique design?

Customise your design

Using a template makes customising the design faster and cheaper

I recommend using templates because you can use one to launch a website in just a day or so – most premium themes can be used “out of the box”, meaning they don’t need lots of coding or design work to be presentable or usable.

In fact, unless there is a strong reason to spend a lot of time customising your theme, a template theme will probably just need the theme colours changed to your campaign colours, and the campaign logo added.

During the customisation of your site, it’s a good idea to test for usability. The design you’ve chosen may look neat, but if it doesn’t do what you need it to, then it should be scrapped. Checking your website with just five people will find most of the “problems” with usability of your site.

[box type=”info”]Read more about setting up an awesome campaign website here.[/box]

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