Websites are a popular and effective way to communicate with your community, your province, and indeed the world.
Manitoba's heritage community is no slouch with regards to seizing the opportunities afforded by this dynamic new communication tool. And the reasons are obvious: a wealth of information can be presented in easy-to-use and interesting formats; information can be easily added and updated; community and group activities and attributes can be profiled and promoted; visitors can be tracked and engaged to comment and contribute.
The development of the Heritage Manitoba website was inaugurated exactly with this kind of thinking in mind. It was conceived as an easily accessible resource available to anyone interested in developing an effective heritage project or enterprise.
And it was designed to be comprehensive and with reasonably deep content so that communities and groups could get at the kind of information, tools and guides that would allow for the development of contemporary heritage projects that would make heritage work in Manitoba's communities as strong and meaningful as possible.
Some key issues to keep in mind when considering the development of a website:
- Websites can be inexpensive to develop – there are established computer programs to aid in design and technical production. And even costs for launch and annual hosting fees are reasonable for small communities and groups (about $500 for a launch and $100 annually for hosting).
- But groups and communities need to think about the content and presentation qualities that are necessary for a good website. That is, do you have enough content to merit the development of a website? Is the content interesting and relevant? Can it be presented in an attractive and useful way?
- Content needs to be short, effective and resonant. A website is not a book, with chapters and a linear progression from start to finish. Websites often are more interactive in their content presentation, with a great deal of care taken to how information is organized and how it is reworked into bite-sized pieces.
- If you can't get the text ready yourself, give to a good local writer/editor to help out.
- Get youth involved in as many aspects as you can – they are also a prime audience.
- Design is a major aspect of website presentation, but also of communication – people will immediately downgrade your site if it doesn't have an appealing and fresh look.
- Logos are often an important part of your community's or group's graphic branding aspect.
- Most website have lots of images. And images of high quality. There are many opportunities for local input into this aspect of a website, and the easy availability of digital images will be a great opportunity to keep the site current.
- Consider options for public engagement, via digital cameras, smart-phones, blogs and other tools and resources that undoubtedly will be developed as websites get more and more sophisticated and interactive.
- Keep it fresh. There needs to be new content so that people will keep coming back. This new content doesn't mean a complete overhaul of the site, but there must be something new and even newsworthy that can be added to the site every few weeks.