It's very tempting for anyone creating a website for a local veg group to start uploading all sorts of things - fancy graphics, clever technical tricks, articles about why everyone should go vegetarian.... but, before doing anything at all please stop and think: 'Why am I doing this?'
Websites are simply a means of communication - so the basic reason for doing it is because you want to communicate something to other people, hopefully lots of others. So who are these potential visitors to your site?
There are three basic audience types:
Let's consider those groups in more detail.
- Members of your society
- Non-members living in your area
b. meat eaters
- The rest of the entire planet
Your own members
Your website could be used as an online newsletter, to give members all sorts of information, upcoming events, contact details, local restaurant reviews etc. - but there is a snag: sooner or later you run into the conflict between promoting vegetarianism, and promoting your local group...
Non-members living in your area
If you give out all that info for free on your website, why should anyone bother to join? It's a bit like sending everyone a free copy of your newlsetter whether they join or not.
If you just want to provide a free information service that's fine, but you'll need to think of other incentives to persuade people to join your group - like strictly-members-only joining in events, discounts for members from local stores etc. All of that can usefully be advertised on the website to encourage more people to join. It's just a case of getting the right balance between what you give away to promote vegetarianism, and what is for members only.
The other, usually much bigger, group of potential readers in your area are the meat-eaters that you want to reach out to. The temptation is to write lots of articles about why they should all go veggie, what to do about calcium etc., but the great thing about the Internet is that your local meat-eaters can just as easily read a website on the other side of the world as they can read yours.
You can be sure that whatever you want to write about 'why everyone should go veggie', someone else will have already done it, and probably better. Why waste time duplicating it when you could just put in links to other high quality sites.
What your local meat-eaters need from you is to know how easy it is to go veggie in your area - more info about local restaurants, shops etc.
The rest of the planet
The only reason that someone on the other side of the world would be reading your website is because they are thinking of visiting your area. What they will be looking for is accommodation, and yet more about local restaurants and shops. they might also like the idea of contacting your group while they're in the area.
So what are the priorities?
If all IVU member societies follow the above guidelines then we would have a network of sites providing local information all over world. Unfortunately, what we tend to get is lots of sites all saying exactly the same thing about why everyone should go veggie....
- Local veg information - restaurants, shops, hotels etc, not just lists but reviews by your members. And details of who to contact from your group for even more local info, all the above types of visitors want this.
- Information about your group to enourage more locals to join. Details of events, campaigns, social activities, discounts - and personal contacts, give then some personal details about members with smiling friendly pictures.
- Links to more information about your area, tourist info, weather reports, availability of sports and social activities, theatres, cinemas etc - you don't have to provide any of this, just put in links to other local sites so that your site becomes a 'portal' for local information.
- Information about vegetarianism - unless you really have something different to say, don't bother. Put in links to good quality articles on other veg sites and let them do the work for you.