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Ottawa Wins Best Website Award
By Phillip Johnson, EAA 378381, Webmaster, Ottawa Chapter 245, EAA Canada Council Board Member
December 2021 –I asked Phillip to write this, and he reluctantly agreed with his typical modesty. It's worth celebrating this brilliant achievement of being “best in class” not only in Canada but across the world. As you will read, he's a very thoughtful, analytical guy who was the perfect choice to fix their website. Webmasters at other chapters could learn a lot by reading this, and probably increase your membership, too. A quick review of some chapter websites out there will reveal the truth about what a turn-off stale websites are. Using only the EAA-provided tools is a great piece of advice. Next time you see Phillip, give him a pat on the back, or buy him a glass of something nice. – Ed.
I will start off by saying, “I’m no software engineer and I can’t even spell HTML.”
I’ve taken a number of positions across our chapter executive, starting as secretary, vice president and then president, before resigning from the executive because I became a Canadian snowbird spending my winters down in Southern California. I felt I could not do these duties part-time. Anyway, our membership coordinator decided to move on and our now-new president was going to take on that role, too. At that point I stepped in as I was sure I could do the membership thing remotely. As it happens, I managed to streamline the process and worked closely with our treasurer. So, with that under my belt, our finances improved because we were getting membership dues from all our chapter members.
Having taken on that role, COVID struck and our relatively new webmaster went AWOL and no amount of phone messages, emails, or texts seemed to reach him. I decided to investigate doing something with our website even though I knew nothing about web design. I contacted Megan Hart at EAA in Oshkosh and she set me up with the password and necessary details to use the EAA web editor. Still not knowing how to even begin, she pointed me at the videos that Charlie Becker had done for EAA webmasters, available here: Chapter Websites. I found the website and went through most of the videos and then set out to re-build the Chapter 245 website. I did a few bad things and I think I broke the system in Wisconsin because I found a new and unapproved way of adding pictures. After a few days of Megan and her support group fixing some major issues, I followed the rules and I got into a routine which was very simple, albeit a little long-winded.
When I was chapter president it always bugged me that our website was both boring and not up to date. I wondered why anyone would want to go there and at one of our general meetings, someone suggested we dump the chapter website in favour of Facebook. I disagreed, as I always felt that while Facebook was great for keeping up with the news, a website was where you kept information pertinent to the chapter and to also act as a resource. With this in mind, and now that I was in control of the website, it was going to be done my way.
The homepage needed to be dynamic, i.e. it needed to change regularly and provide the doorway into the chapter. Up front and foremost I needed to tell the reader when, where, and what was going to be at our next general meeting. If the reader was not a member, then how does he/she become a member? I also wanted to thank the presenter for the previous meeting, so this was shown immediately below the upcoming meeting. I try to get some graphics for each presentation so that it gives a visual change and, most importantly, the dates for these events needed to be there. I’ve seen so many sites where there is a picture of an event with 13 June, or 26 July, only to find these were from 2016 or 2017. Let people know this is current.
So as the chapter membership coordinator, I wanted to make it easy to become a member. I’ve seen so many sites where it is hard to find how much membership costs, what benefits there are, and how to join. So, I made sure access to the membership page was only one click down from the homepage. Likewise, I wanted to show the faces of each of our executives so that new members would be able to pick them out of a crowd/meeting.
Our chapter is very fortunate in that we own our hangar and clubhouse, and we have a machine shop with a mill, lathe, dynamic propeller balancer, scales, and many other specialist tools. I created a page, Chapter Tool Crib, showing most of the significant tools. Last year we picked up two or three new members just because of this one page.
There is too much to talk about each page but just by looking at the tabs listed in the attached picture, one can see at a quick glance what is available, e.g. the technical library is full of manuals for engines, avionics, aerodynamics etc. The pilot tools tab is a quick connect to all the relevant websites to get you up in the air. The Members Aircraft and Status page shows just one picture of an aircraft, or a project, that is owned by a chapter member. Potential new members can see how active we are, and if someone is building, or has built, an RV-14 or a Cozy. Okay, the Cozy is mine. We’ve gained a few members because of this page, too.
Trying to keep this short is difficult, but the take-home is our chapter has grown as a direct result of this website. Members are kept up to date about all events and members are included in the site.
The key is to use only the tools given by EAA so that anyone can follow on if you get hit by a bus. Keep it simple, give lots of pertinent information, and keep it changing, in particular on the homepage.
I guess this is why I won the 2021 Web Editor Award.