Website Design vs Information Flow Design

There’s plenty of challenge for any bellringing webmaster, as they consider the design (or redesign) of a ringers’ website. Menus, hotlinks, how to best showcase photos and video, creating maps for a Guild, District, Tower or Event. Quite enough there to keep us happily occupied for months on end.

Yesterday I was participating in a Guild Event, so I was miles outside my own turf, website-wise, and this always affords an opportunity to reflect and, most of all, to listen to what other bellringers are saying about their experiences.

Over lunch, someone (I’ll call him Dave) commented that he didn’t know if his tower had a webpage. I was just about to reply when I did a double take and remembered he rings at St. D’s, in my District, and I built the page a couple of months ago. I couldn’t hide behind any excuse that he was a technophobe – he’s my age, a busy working professional, smartphone user and regular ringer at St. D’s. Nor could I imagine that the page is unknown in his tower, as one of his friends co-built it with me and tweets regularly onto it….. I couldn’t wallow in any guilt about lack of publicity either, as only about 6 weeks ago, every tower notice board in the District was decorated with a poster aimed at non-website-users, telling them what it was all about.

So why the lack of awareness?

One of the biggest pitfalls for any webmaster, I am beginning to think, is to believe that “If it’s on the website, then the members have seen it”. Maybe I have been lulled into a false sense of security by the site’s quite healthy usage figures – posts vary but the most successful of them can be read 40 or 50 times. All posts are advertised in our Facebook Group, on Twitter, and by email to the “followers” in various ways. But none of this had reached Dave, why?

The single biggest route for visitors to the site is the Facebook Group. Dave is (like many ringers) not a Facebook user, by choice. I am aware of this and it is why I provide a choice of ways of receiving emails as well. Dave, being unaware of there being any news from his tower, had naturally not signed up. Perhaps the oddest thing is, he is quite friendly with my 2 contacts at St. D’s, both of whom Tweet and use the Facebook group, so perhaps I might have imagined they were doing a bit of a sales job, or mentioned the page that we had co-built.

I was going to go on to look at some possible “solutions” to the “problem” that Dave isn’t (yet) a regular reader of news on the website, but having mulled over the problem by blogging it, I realise that I should be celebrating, not feeling sad.

Dave had driven about 50 miles to spend the day on a (very good) Guild Training day on Stedman Doubles. He described very enthusiastically that he rings not just at St. D’s, but down the road at Squealing too, and hugely appreciates the support and teaching they are giving him. The Squealing band are an impressive bunch of Surprise Ringers whose only sadness is they have currently got no learners, so I’ll bet they are loving helping Dave to progress (he cracked Plain Bob Doubles within very recent memory, so his presence at the the Stedman course is a glowing testimony of the quality of support he is getting both from the band at St. D’s and at Squealing).

Also on the course with us was our District Secretary, who had efficiently passed the posters about the Stedman Training, from the Guild Education committee, on to every single one of 23 towers, all of whom had displayed it. She still prints and posts posters to 4 towers who, usually because the contact doesn’t own a printer, can’t receive them by email.

I need a reality check, I think.

Utopia isn’t a world where every member of the District reads and enjoys every new post on the website.

Utopia is a world where every member of the District believes in, and gets pleasure from, their own ability to ring, is confident to spread their wings either into new methods, new towers, or simply by standing behind another ringer. In this world, although the original knowledge (of a method, a tower or an event) may come from a website or the printed page, the most important factor is the friendships which enable ringers to give each other the right hint, at the right moment.

Someone signed up to receive emails from the website this morning. Since I showed Dave his tower’s page on his phone over lunch, it might well be him. I don’t mind either way, because Dave is already a success story, measure against the real objectives of the website.

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