Announcing a New Course
We are happy to announce a new course that we will be offering soon, to provide the basis skills to build and maintain your own museum web sites. We will be using the WordPress libraries for this, which are available for free, and we will provide a free domain registration for 2 years and free hosting for two years as a part of the course fee, this being one free domain per museum. We will also develop a mini web page for our XtownX system, which is a local search engine to allow visitors to find information quickly.
Our research has shown that there remain a large number of museums who do not have a web site, or whose web sites are out of date, and many others with web sites which are not up to date with modern trends.
Whereas a few years ago creating a web site was an expensive undertaking, it is now possible to create a simple web site with minimal training, and to ensure that this web site is accessible easily from desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. for the past few years we have been helping museums to build their web sites, and from this year we want to pass this knowledge back to the community, so that you can learn to build and maintain these yourself.
Building web sites is a complex undertaking for more detailed requirements, and it is not possible to give you all of the knowledge to become experts in the short space of this introductory course. There are a range of issues beyond the simple web site, including elements of design, branding, and content management, as well as creating a linkage to your collections and other data that you wish to make available. Thus this course is to get you going, as quickly as possible, and to end the course with a fully-functional web site on which you can build.
Given the large number of requests we have had for this over the past few years, we have decided to develop a new course, designed specifically for the museum community, in how to create and manage your own starter web site.
Who is this for?
This course is for anyone who is tasked with communications in the museum. For small museums this may be the director or curator, and for larger museum structures there may be a specialised communications and public relations unit. No matter how large or small, this is an important task. Your web site is a key element of a communications plan – for how you interact with the world – how they find you and what you want to tell them about yourself.
We recommend that many people from a single institution should attend, since it is possible to distribute the work of maintaining the web site throughout the museum.
What are the Outcomes?
There is a lot to cover in a small amount of time, and it has been our decision to push this into a two-day course, since one-day is simply too short, and anything more than two days may make this course too expensive.
We want you to develop both an understanding of web site development and maintenance, as well as to have sufficient skills to carry on by yourself after the course with your initial simple web site.
It is for this purpose that we are using WordPress, which is freely available as a tool, but which does require much background knowledge on web sites to use properly.
The outcomes include the following:
- a knowledge of the web, sufficient to see how the web works and where web sites fit
- an understanding of best-practices from the international museum sector, as well as exploring not-so-best examples of problems in museum web sites
- HTML, as the language of the web, sufficient to understand the web site, however WordPress protects you from most of this details
- CSS, how to style the web pages
- themes, how to select themes, and the difference between free and paid-for web site
- front-page, how to make a from page which is both attractive and informative
- pages, managing the static content on the site
- posts, building up a regular set of news to your readers and interested parties
- content – what should a museum be telling to the world and what people expect
- media, how to include images to make your web site better
- responsive, how to make the web site look good on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones
- content management – how to keep the web site updated
In your preparation for the course you will be required to do quite a lot of background work including:
- obtaining a range of content about your museum, to use as the basis for the initial web site
- getting some good photographs to highlight your museum
- all branding information, such as logos, fonts, colours which are in usage
- you will need to bring a laptop with you, which has access to the Internet
This is only the start of your venture into web site development, and there are many elements beyond this which we will include into an advanced course in the future. Some of these are:
- galleries – how to include galleries of pictures
- categories and tags – how to structure your content into categories to enhance navigation and access to the content
- social media linkages – how to connect to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts
- advanced media – how to include video and audio content
- plugins – how to add new functionality through the WordPress plugin framework
- analysis – obtaining and acting on advanced information about usage
- publicity – how to ensure that your site is discovered by the search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo
We are planning to schedule this course for March/April, and then to run this another 3 times during 2015 throughout the country. We would very much like to know who is interested, and where you are located, and we will shortly provide a schedule. If you would like to organise yourself with other local museums, we would be happy to make the trip to you wherever you are, and we would welcome such requests.