Website Suggestions
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Suggestions for Websites, especially Masonic websites

The following are suggestions to make Websites, especially Masonic, more particularly Grand Lodge and Scottish Rite Valley websites, more useful and interesting to Freemasons.

These are just suggestions offered by various people. Everyone can consider them, and apply them or not as you wish.

Make the first webpage of your website (your homepage) quick to load. More details and graphics can be included on other pages, but the first webpage should load quickly so viewers, even those with slow modems, can quickly see which website they are at, and hopefully become interested.
Include on the first webpage of your website, and somewhere (possibly at the bottom) on all pages of your website: (a) the name of your organization, so there is no doubt even if someone has gone through several pages and has forgotten the starting page, (b) the name and email address of the webmaster, so viewers can contact you easily from any page, (c) a means to quickly get back to the original page of your website, or a navigation bar to move around it quickly. 
Put a copyright notice on every page of your website, to protect you and your organization from those, particularly antimasons, who might otherwise steal your information or misuse it. Make sure your copyright notice includes the latest year.
On Masonic Grand Lodge websites, include, if at all possible, at least the following information: (a) name and email addresses of the Grand Master and Grand Secretary, and other elected Grand Lodge officers if possible, (b) dates and places of your Grand Lodge's upcoming Communications.
Place at least one nice Square & Compasses on your first webpage of your website, and possibly on other pages.
If your website is for a Grand Lodge, include links to websites for your local Scottish Rite and other Masonic groups, and if your website is for a Scottish Rite Valley, include links to your local Grand Lodge and other Masonic groups.
If possible, try to avoid using free website hosting services that include pop up ads, which annoy viewers. It is now possible to find website hosting companies that provide very inexpensive services, and the cost of a domain name (www.xxxxxxx.org) is extremely small.
Include addresses (including city and state -- not everyone is familiar with your area) for your Grand Lodge's (or other organization's) office, and other sites of interest to viewers. Also consider including links to Yahoo Maps or a similar site where viewers can see a map of your location and obtain driving directions to get to it.
Include a graphic of your Grand Lodge (or other organization) official seal, preferably in color, somewhere on your website -- but not on the first page, as that might take too long to load.
If your website is for a Grand Lodge, try to include a listing of all the lodges under your Grand Lodge, with addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, or other means for people to contact each one.
Consider including some general information for non-Masons about what Freemasonry is, and how a non-Mason could find out more information and a petition to join.
Include on your website a sitemap, table of contents, or similar item so viewers can easily find out everything that is available.
Consider including on your website the text of items that members might need to see quickly, such as your Code, petition and other forms, and similar items.
Consider the benefits of an email group, and a button or similar method to join your email group through your website. This way your Grand Lodge could send information quickly to lots of members when necessary. They are free and easy to use at Yahoogroups.com
Consider including copies of your official publications on your website, including past copies.
Resist the temptation to include too many graphics, especially moving or blinking graphics, on your website. Some viewers find any blinking graphics to be too many.
Update your website. If a viewer finds information that is out of date, it is likely you will lose that viewer forever.
If you change your website address, and there is no harm in doing that, be sure to keep your old website address in operation for a while (possibly a couple of years) with a simple way for viewers to get to your new website address.
Do not use frames. Many people find them annoying or worse, and you cannot give a page reference for a specific webpage since all have the same url.
Do not use music on your website that stars automatically, and even worse cannot be turned off. Many viewers will never come back to your website because they find this annoying. If you wish, feel free to have music but only if the viewer can turn it on or off.
Put the name, address, phone number, and fax number of your Grand Lodge or other organization on the first page of your website, where it is very easy to find. Some people may be looking at your website just to find the phone number to call.
Include an invitation for viewers to comment and make suggestions for improvements in your website. You don't have to do whatever everyone suggests, but you should give the chance for suggestions to be made to you.
Somewhere on your website, include a simple list of all your elected and appointed officers and their titles, and keep this up to date. Some people look at Masonic websites just for this information.
Don't have webpages that go on and on, requiring lots of scrolling. Break information up into many different webpages, with links to get to them, so viewers can easily find what they want and see it easily.
Consider using a guestbook. Lots of viewers want a method to leave a message after looking at your website. There are many good, free guestbooks available.
Consider including a hit counter on your website. Even though they are often said to be unreliable, and the webmaster can artificially change them to show millions of hits, many viewers seem to like seeing these counters. Some providers of hit counters also offer statistics, such as days and hours when your website is viewed most often.
Check your links often. It is annoying to viewers to click on a link, only to find that it no longer works, or takes them to a non-existent webpage.
If you use Adobe Acrobat files -- which is a good idea, because you can keep these pages looking exactly as you want them (but the program is expensive) -- tell viewers that they need Adobe Acrobat Reader to see them, and give them a simple link to download this free reader program.
Include on each page of your website the date when that webpage was last updated. This will show viewers how current the information is.
Try to find a balance between a boring website that is too plain, and one that is too busy with different colors, fonts, pictures, etc. Neither extreme is good.
Use spell checker on all pages of your website, and also ask others to look at it and check the grammar and spelling. Nothing makes your website look as bad as misspellings and bad grammar. Pay special attention to particular Masonic terms such as "brethren" (not bretheren or brethern), "altar" (not alter), "marshal" (not marshall), and "steward" (not stewart).
Some websites, including some Masonic Grand Lodge websites, seem to have a code or something else that prevents a viewer from using the "back" button to return to the previously viewed site. When you click "back" nothing happens and you cannot leave the site you are looking at. This is very annoying, and forces the viewer to close the browser to view something else. It should not be used.

Copyright 1998-2015 by Paul M. Bessel - all rights reserved

If you have any suggestions, comments, or questions about this website, please feel free to send an email message to me:  paulb'at'bessel.org 

To see an index of other webpages with similar information, please feel free to click on the following:  http://bessel.org/webindex.htm

Please note that I no longer am updating the webpages about Freemasonry. I still maintain my memberships but otherwise I am not active.