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the shortlist / results / presentation / judging criteria.
The Website of Surrey Border Film &
by Neil Cryer, webmaster
Why have a club website?
There are of course many reasons for having a club website. For me
the main one has to be to attract new members. This may surprise you
as perhaps a more obvious purpose would be to keep members informed.
However, my experience is that when members have a query, they go to
great lengths emailing each other and scratching their heads rather
than looking at the website which would invariably provide the
If a website is to fulfil its main purpose, and indeed all its
associated purposes, it needs to look clear, competent, friendly and
professional, both in content and appearance.
In my view the content of a club website needs to be chosen to show
- this is a club where members help each other,
- significant professional expertise is available within the club,
- the club has a strong track record for producing significant and
award-winning films, and
- there is an on-going social element to the club.
At Surrey Border Film and Video Makers, we are fortunate that, thanks
to the commitment and expertise of members, our website is able to
perform well in all these areas.
Club and Guardian website compared
Commercial websites spend thousands of pounds employing designers to
come up with suitable layouts. However, there is absolutely no need
for clubs to spend such money. Instead just look around at various
websites and find one with a layout that you like. Then analyse what
it is about it that you like. Look at the layout, the columns, the
boxes and how the sections are separated etc. Also look at the fonts,
the use of colour and the use of graphics.
Next take your club’s publicity material and fit it into the style of
your ‘model’ website, using all the layout characteristics that you
The website of Surrey Border Film and Video Makers is based on that
of the Guardian Newspaper. Take a look, and compare with our club
site. You will surely notice the influence. The colours are of course
different because we feel that our club colours are part of our
‘corporate image’ as shown in our banners and various displays.
Website design software
Web design software is, in my view, essential for creating a website.
Which software you use is not important provided you can achieve the
design you are looking for. I happen to use Microsoft’s Expression
Web, which suits my purposes admirably. I hear that people also
genuflect to Dreamweaver. These software packages enable one to view
both the code and the design, which I personally would not be without.
There are a number of cheaper and less sophisticated packages
available, but I have no idea how good they are. When I first started
web creation, I used FrontPage, but it produced code which was riddled
with errors. Fortunately it is no longer available!
Incidentally if you are stuck on how your ‘model’ website achieves a
particular effect, you can always view its code. All browsers can show
this, usually by right-clicking on a page and choosing ‘Source’ or
When you think you have a page looking right it is worth checking out
the layout on various browsers. I have Chrome, Firefox, Internet
Explorer 7 and 8 and Safari installed.
Maintaining and monitoring the website
It is crucially important that any website be kept up-to-date. Surrey
Border Film and Video Makers is an extremely active club with
something going on somewhere most of the time. Much of this is
reported in our monthly magazine Border Post which has now reached its
219th edition. Each edition has articles, illustrations and
photographs from members providing a vast resource for the website. So
I do not have to solicit material. Indeed there is a backlog of such
material waiting to go up. My task as webmaster is to convert it all
to web format. Fortunately this is fairly quickly done by copying an
existing page with a suitable layout and then amending it.
Once I have produced a new page, I like to validate the code because
it is all too easy to make mistakes, however careful one is. I use the
free W3C validator. This type
of maintenance work probably averages about an hour a week, sometimes
more and sometimes less, depending on what comes in. With the passage
of time, though, the website can appear jaded in appearance and I get
the urge to modernise its design. A complete redesign can be extremely
time consuming. The redesign based on The Guardian website took
several hours a day of concentrated effort for about a month, as every
page needed attention. Our website has 253 pages and is growing: it
includes 90 members’ articles, 86 press reports, 37 copies of our
magazine Border Post and 20 films.
I use Google Webmaster
Tools for monitoring the functioning of the website, and StatCounter
for monitoring the activities of visitors. Both are free. Google
Webmaster Tools tells me how often Google visits my site; any errors
it finds; the keywords that find the site and other important data.
StatCounter tells me the number of visitors to my site; how long they
stayed; the pages they visited; where they came from; which pages were
the most popular; and much more.
To help visitors find their way around a website, Google has two
suggestions. One is for a page called a Site Map which is similar to
the Contents Page of a book with links, shown under general group
headings. The other is a ‘You are here’ link system on every page
called a Breadcrumb, by which visitors can quickly link back to the
group heading and the home page. I have included neither (yet) as I
feel that the site map is partially covered by the drop down menus
across the top of each page, and that the breadcrumb would spoil our
particular page design.
I do, though, provide a search box for visitors. There are several
free versions on the Internet. I use one from Google.
Google asks webmasters to supply what is called an XML site map to
guide it to all the pages on a website. This is invisible to visitors.
There are various free XML site map generators on the internet,
including one under development from Google.
A Google advert
Visitors to the Surrey Border Film and Video Makers website will see
adverts down the left-hand-side of most pages. These earn money each
time a visitor clicks on one. In the first year the adverts produced
an income which covered the annual website hosting fee, but in the
current recession the income may not reach the hosting fee. Certainly
adverts do not make a fortune. However, I feel that they do not
distract provided that one opts for colours that are in keeping with
the style of the website and chooses the option of no flashing
graphics. In some ways it can be argued that adverts make a site look
more professional. At least they reduce its financial burden on the
Google site and page rankings
Page rank button
How important is Google site and page ranking*? I scratch my head and
discuss with other webmasters, but cannot fathom how Google is
thinking on this. At one stage I thought that the number of pages in a
site was important, and indeed Google considers a site as ‘small’ if
it is less than 250 pages. But I have found no evidence that size does
affect Google ranking. To quote some statistics, my wife has six
websites of which three have a ranking of 5, and three - like the club
website - have a ranking of 4. The three sites with a rank of 5 have
fewer pages (about 80) and poor code (a hangover from FrontPage which
she has not bothered to update) and only 2-300 visitors a day, whereas
the sites with the rank of 4 have perfect code (as indicated by W3C),
around 300 pages and about 1000 visitors a day. However, what the
higher ranked sites do have is links to them from other sites of high
ranking. That seems to be worth thinking about. So get your local
university, council or whatever to link to your site.
Having said all this, it is not at all clear that site rank is the
only factor of importance. What I am convinced of, however, is that
satisfying Google invariably means also satisfying other search
Is it all worth the effort?
Our club members during a refreshment
Remember my main purpose for our website? Well, the club has a small
but steady flow of new members who all quote the website as how they
have found out about us. Other means of publicity like the regular
reports of club meetings in the local newspaper and a club stand at
local events do also produce new members, but the website has been the
most consistently successful. So the club will continue to develop and
evolve its website as we puzzle over how to make it still more
- written and laid out by Neil Cryer, webmaster of
Surrey Border Film & Video Makers Website,
which won the first award for Best IAC Club Website at BIAFF 2011.
Images taken from that website early in April 2011.
* Google PageRank (named after Google's
founder Larry Page) assigns a numerical value to a web page.
"When Google was founded, one key
innovation was PageRank, a technology that determined
the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other
pages link to it, as well as other data. Today we use
more than 200 signals, including PageRank, to order
websites, and we update these algorithms on a weekly
Wikipedia quotes an earlier Google statement:
"PageRank reflects our view of the
importance of web pages by considering more than 500
million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we
believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank
and are more likely to appear at the top of the search
An easy way to find the PageRank of a page is
to use PRChecker
Company Limited by Guarantee No. 00269085. Registered Charity No. 260467.
Authors' views are not necessarily those of the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers.
Art work by Tony Kendle.
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