Advice on setting up a brass band website 
    
 
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Advice on setting up a brass band website

Getting started
Design considerations
Promotion
Nigel Horne's website tips


1. Getting started

You don't need to have extensive computer knowledge to set up a web site, but of course it is helpful for the more complicated aspects. It is quite possible to establish a perfectly respectable, interesting and convincing site with very little knowledge, most of which can be obtained from others. Various tools and facilities can also be used to develop a site.

The Harrogate Band web site started small and simple, and has grown in size and complexity since its launch in June 1996. New information, features and technologies have been added, as appropriate, as they have been acquired or understood.

Here are some steps towards setting up a website. (You can, of course, commission someone else to do this for you, either a commercial web design company, or a keen amateur who may be connected to the band!)

The links indicated below are only suggestions - there is a host of advice and guidance available on the Internet itself and a good starting point for any research are the entries in Yahoo given below.

There are some online services that provide a basic framework within which you can put your details, add pictures and construct a basic site. These are usually limited in their scope and features, and restricted in the format they use. They also can include a relatively large amount of advertising or promotional material on your pages. However, they do give a free, quick and easy means of getting your site together. Examples of this are MSN - http://communities.msn.co.uk/home. (see e.g. Haydock Band), or a more local based setup, Communigate - http://www.communigate.co.uk/ which has the benefit of being able to be linked to your region/county. (see e.g. Epping Forest Band)

If these services are not to your liking, or you wish more control, flexibility and scope for your site, then you will need to consider the remaining options.

  1. You need a PC to design the site on. A website consists of:
    • a number of text (HTML) files containing your information about the band together with codes which define the structure and placement of the information on the pages.
    • graphics files to hold and pictures and other visual information. These can be borrowed/copied from other sources (with permission where necessary), created yourself, or scanned in (in the case of photos)
    • other data files - for a band web site this is most likely to include music files, samples of recorded music stored in one or more of a number of standard formats that can be downloaded and listened to by visitors to the site.
    The text files can be written using an ordinary text editor or word processor (as long as they are save in text format and given the correct .HTM or .HTML filetype) or developed using one of the many webpage authoring tools available. These tools remove most of the necessity of learning the HTML language and codes but, in some cases, they can limit your flexibility.
    However, understanding HTML, the code language to structure your webpages, is very easy, using it is also straightforward, for simple pages.

  2. You must have a browser (Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer) to try out and test your web pages.

  3. You need a host to hold the web site for you and make it available to the outside world. Many organisations now offer free website hosting, or you can pay for a more professional, supported web hosting service. Once you have your first web page(s) ready on your PC, you can then transfer (upload) the HTML coded files and any graphics etc. to the host, where it will be available to the Internet at large. Additions and changes to the website can be designed and tested on your PC then the changes uploaded to the host system. Most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) such as Freeserve, Free Online, BT, Virgin, etc. provide free, or nearly free, web space for their users. You can also make use of some free web space providers who provide online site building tools, such as Yahoo! Geocities, Homestead, Tripod, Freeservers, Angelfire, or Moonfruit.
    There are also now companies that provide "e-commerce" for you to sell your products - Freemerchant is one that gives you a free online shop.

  4. You need to announce your site. This involves submitting information about your site to various search engines and directories on the Internet. You can also publicise your web site through traditional media - e.g. the local press.

  5. You need to maintain it on a periodic basis to ensure that repeat visitors get something new - the period will depend of course on the type of site and information on it.


A good approach would be to:

  1. Find out about HTML - from magazines/books - there are plenty of basic guides available, especially in the monthly Internet/PC magazines. Some of these also give good advice on how to set up a website from scratch.

  2. Ask your friends and colleagues, some of them may well have gone through this already and created a website. Also, check out other local bands with websites - I am sure they could help with their experiences and advice.

  3. Look at other sites and see how they have done it - THIS IS THE BEST WAY!! Beg, borrow and reuse ideas! When you are online on a particular webpage you can either
    • Save the HTML file to your PC by the FILE/SAVE AS menu option in your browser, and view/edit it later at your leisure to see how a particular coding works - it is basically a text file.
    • View the source (HTML code) online by using the VIEW/DOCUMENT SOURCE menu option.


  4. Look on Yahoo - there is a wealth of information on the Internet on web page creation / design / HTML / free graphics / etc.... And this is only the starting point!


Try these Yahoo categories to begin with:



For free resources, tools and advice try these sites:



The Chinnor Band website is one of many good examples of how easy it can be to set up a basic site. For others, just browse the brass bands in the "Internet Bandsman's Everything Within".

See also Nigel Horne's "Tips on creating a band website" for some additional useful pointers.




2. Design considerations

There are no hard and fast rules for good design in websites. Everyone has their own opinion about what looks professional or amateur, what is aesthetic and pleasing, what works or doesn't. Aside from the general points below, a good approach is to list the attributes of sites you regard as having a "good" design - this will help you to identify what you should/should not do on your site. A lot depends on personal preference.

There is plenty of advice on the web and in web/computer magazines about website design. Most of it agrees in what it says - though there are obviously differences of opinion.

Well designed sites usually have the following attributes:
  • consistent design, similar features used throughout the site
  • effective and logical navigation
  • complementary colour schemes
  • content that is relevant, up to date and changes (to attract visitors back)
  • does not make unneccessary use of flashy new technology (e.g. Flash/Shockwave/Audio plugins) which tend to annoy/distract visitors unless they are expecting it (and have a high speed line!)
  • limit use of large graphics - preferable to use smaller ones and link to high resolution versions.
  • use text and fonts appropriately - avoid clashing colours and blinking
  • make use of some graphic images for particular important text elements - e.g. major headings - but use sparingly, otherwise your site will never load.
  • arrange items on the pages in a consistent (though not necessarily identical) way. If appropriate, think of the site as a series of physical pages in a book/magazine and treat it as if you were designing that.


Key components of a good website
  • Know who your target audience is, and design the content appropriately
  • Make sure the main elements of your identity, message, brand, location, services etc. are clear (it's surprising how many sites have to be scoured to find even basic information)
  • Do provide relevant, up to date and, if possible, a range of contact methods for people to get in touch with your band.
  • Do state where you are located: town, county/province/state/district, and country!
  • Where you provide details of your engagements and concerts, try and be specific in the details. For example a local person may know where and what "ABC Park" or "The George" is, but it is probably no use at all to visitors. And remember to put in the year in the date - so at least visitors will know if the list is current or not. (You'd be surprised how many band websites omit the year!)
  • Get someone outside the band to "idiot test" the website and give critical feedback and comments on its useability, content and design - we are all guilty of having a blinkered view of our own creations!


3. Website promotion

There are services that will sting you for a largish number of $ or and promise to do it for you - but realistically all they will do is use automated submission tools. You can equally do as well, or poorly, on your own with available free tools and brute force.

  1. Have a look at www.searchenginewatch.com - lots of advice, news etc.
  2. Look at the various how-to and advice sites on Yahoo e.g. uk.dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/World_Wide_Web/Site_Announcement_and_Promotion/
  3. Make sure your meta tags on your pages provide correct and appropriate information and keywords for your site. To see other sites' examples, look at their HTML code when at their page, using "View/Source", and look for the Follow the submission instructions for each engine - and resubmit if you hear/see nothing with the specified time period - keep at it!
  4. Most of the big engines now spider or worm the web - i.e. search out web pages - which is why (3) above is important
  5. Look out appropriate specific directories (e.g. for musical sites, brass sites etc.) and submit there. Have a look at those I have referenced in the IBEW under "Internet Services/Directories"
  6. Keep your site up to date (and interesting hopefully) to persuade visitors to a) return and b) make links to you. This latter will help you in some search engines. Provide cross links to other appropriate local/similar sites to foster improved traffic


I hope this information is of some help. Please let me know if you have any further questions. I will try to answer them (and update this page where necessary!). Any suggestions or contributions for this page are most welcome.
gavin@ibew.co.uk