Website Content

Hey guys,
Our team has been working hard on our website recently but were unsure about a few things. What pages, types of pages should a FRC team web site have? There’s no documentation, requirements, or any type of guidance when it comes to the website award, and we’re pretty confused.
Thanks in advance!

Here’s the criteria for website evaluation used in the 2010 season:

FRC Website Award Criteria

I doubt that it will change dramatically next season.

P.S. Go look at some teams that have won Website awards in the past: i.e. Team 16 Bombsquad

We keep a very content-rich website, which by-and-large serves as the team’s design book, news, current events, history and scratch-pad. Out of the ordinary, as we are using a wiki format.

http://www.wiki.team1640.com

This is one of my favorite FRC websites:
http://www.penfieldrobotics.com/

I have 3 reasons:

  1. It is loaded with information that is easily accessible but not overwhelming.
  2. They keep it current, even as events occur/happen that impact their team, community, and FRC/FIRST. That takes extra effort but it is valuable.
  3. They appear to have a clear understanding of adding/tweaking rather than completely reinventing the wheel each time they want to update or expand their website. I think teams get bogged down in starting from scratch when it isn’t always necessary and can actually impede progress/development.

Jane

My suggestion is to start by deciding on some goals for your site, and make content decisions based on those goals. I think it’s best if the content serves your team’s own goals and priorities, because those can differ from team to team.

First, who is your audience? (Or, who are your audiences?) In a way, the FIRST judges will be your audience, but in reality your audience may be your own team, other FIRST teams, parents, teachers, school administrators, current and future team sponsors, community members, future FIRST members…pick one or more of these and focus on them.

Then, these questions can be helpful in identifying goals and content:

  • Why are those people visiting your site?
  • How did they arrive at your site?
  • What do they need to know?
  • How much or how little background info do they know?
  • What action do you want your visitors to take, if any?

a suggestion on content delivery as well: I’ve had a couple of judges say that they really like to see twitter feeds in addition to however you deliver team news on your site. a facebook page is pretty handy as well, I find that I can have media and news up a lot faster between the two than I can on the website, at least with the way we currently are set up. though none of this is necessary and is completely up to your discretion

otherwise, I’d recommend:

  • team history (if applicable, might not be if you’re a young team)
  • how to join
  • information on FIRST
  • current news
  • information on the competitions you’re attending
  • resources that would be useful to your own members and other teams (tutorials, references, etc)
  • pictures of people, the robot, people working on the robot, etc, though keep it relatively sparse on content pages. save the large batches of images for a gallery so you don’t overwhelm your viewers

and make sure you keep it up to date as best you can. the more stagnant it becomes, the worse (I’m guilty of this myself. I’ve become more interested in my project to replace it that I’ve been neglecting our current site a bit). the social media helps a bit with this

As a bare minimum, follow the Website Award criteria. Not only will you be in the running for the award, but you also have a good set of guidelines for building a website that other people will want to see.

Everything that has already been mentioned is good. I would add…

-A small amount of information on your team structure (such as what your sub-groups are)
-If there’s anything that is unique to your team - such as interesting mascots, logos, WFFAs, etc - you should probably include a little information on that. We have a page about the history of our logo, which is something that a lot of people know us by and ask questions about. It’s a page that I link to a lot when I get questions about it online.
-Be sure to recognize your sponsors!

A criteria for past website awards is to have links to resources that are helpful to other teams.

It’s always better to have original resources to link to, presentations your teams have done, useful documents, training videos, ect…

Linking to resources on other teams websites is OK, but doesn’t have as much of an impact as original work.

Copying resources from other places and linking them on your site is not good and should be avoided.

Thank you all so much! I’ve already started working.

Our team won Long Island the last couple years (don’t have a link…we’ve had some trouble maintaining the site). Here are some tips we had posted on the site:

Content – to get full credit for content, you must have each of the following pages (or cover all of this content in one way or another):
• FIRST page
• Sponsors, Volunteers, and/or Mentors page
• Team Story or Team History page
• The 20__ Season page, with pictures and text, perhaps some videos, about the build season, and the competition season
• Media pages with videos, animations, and/or music
• Resource page that contain information that will help other teams (some should be original)

Of course, having all of this content is one thing. To get anywhere near the maximum points awarded for content, the team’s personality, motivation, and values must shine through all of the information provided. How the team interacts with the greater community is also important, as well as how the team internally interacts. Additional content could surely be added to accomplish this. For example, pobots.com has an alumni page, a community outreach page, and a team mission page.

I agree with everything that has been stated already. Lots of good info. That is what CD is all about. Here is my $0.02 worth.

User Experience

Your website is what 99% of the public and other teams will know about you. It is a resource for your team, your school, team parents and your sponsors. Design your site with that in mind. You want your sponsors to brag about you and link to the team site. You want the team parents using the site. Keep your audience in mind when you design.

Make the design a team effort. Web design is usually a solo job, but the team needs to agree on what the site says about them. Using other sets of eye balls will only benefit the outcome. What you might think looks good, may not to others. Compromise and don’t take suggestions as criticisms.

Websites are never “done”. They are a fluid, living extension of what your team is up to. Keep it up to date, but don’t overload it with posts that don’t benefit the reader. Content is the reason people visit and return to the site.

Social media is very important. It is one way of showing how you communicate with your team. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google groups or what ever you use link to it. Please note that content on those medias reflects onto the team. I will follow links extensively to see what you are sharing with me.

The internet is built on the premise that we will link to outside sources of information. An important aspect about FIRST is this great community we all belong to. Links to other teams, Bills Blog and most importantly Chief Delphi will always enhance the user experience.

Under the hood

First impressions are important. You need to grab the users attention, by balancing what they see first. Don’t make too large a header, get content and pictures on the screen the user will see first. Newspapers call it “above the fold”.

Make your navigation very easy to understand and in a technology that will work for all. Remember most users are not web-savy and don’t have great hardware. If you use flash, make sure there is backup code that will kick in.

Test your site in all browsers. Most web developers don’t use IE as their default browser, but most users do. Test in IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. If something does not look right in one of these, don’t hesitate to look for a simpler solution.

Make sure your site validates. The W3C has a unified validator that will test both html and css. Fix as many problems as possible. Hint: Start at the top. Errors cascade. Fix a few and revalidate. Also run cynthiasays to check your accessibility.

Check your links. Having broken links hurts the users. I use Xenu. It looks at everything.

You don’t need to spend big bucks on a program to make your site. There are many free ones like NVU that you can use. The high end programs all have limited time demos if you want to go that route. (Perhaps FIRST should get software donated for this)

Copyrights. If you use outside images on your site, you must give credit to the copyright holder. Almost no one acknowledges that the FIRST logo you use on the site is owned by FIRST. A page linked from your footer is a good place for this. You sponsors logos all belong to them. Give them credit.

FIRST logo. Read and follow the usage guidelines for using the logo.

Spell Check.

Just a note on this, FIRST was able to provide us with special copies of their logo for use with the background color of our website (we did give them credit). Most teams don’t have a problem with using the black or white backgrounds for the logo, but if you do (which means you’re like my team, who doesn’t use a white background, and didn’t want to put a little square of color around the logo on our header), you should email FIRST and ask them about it.

FIRST is great to work with on the logos. Just ask for help.

They do provide some of the logos on transparent backgrounds if you need it.

Depends on what your goal is? To promote robotics education or to promote FIRST. Think about that and FIRST’s web requirements. Plenty of teams (that do more than FIRST) have been penalized and criticized on this issue. I’ve been told by previous web evaulators that you should remove certain content right before your site is evaluated.

Take that into consideration.