Some Tips for Webmasters

I’ve been sick for the past week, which means that in between naps (and other, less savory aspects of the flu) I’ve been able to dedicate some time to catching up on my data entry. (An important tip: make sure your freezer is full before you get sick. Preferably with a variety – I am so tired of chicken.)

As always, I was quite impressed by the number and variety of events out there. A con chair who’s been running the same con with the same programming year after year could do many worse things than to dig around on some other con’s sites looking for ideas. (Along with the voice actors, did you know anime cons will frequently book a show’s director? Would that appeal to your attendees? I saw Harve Bennett at Farpoint [SF/Media] a few years ago and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after his story about Ingrid Bergman.)

What also surprised me though was the number of events where the web site is either missing basic information, or else makes it hard to find. Consider these bloopers:

  • One convention prominently announces their 2009 dates on the home page. Updates dated 2009 list new guests. And as of July of 2009, the artwork in all the page banners still refers to the 2008 event. So is the con defunct? Or is the web site just out of date?
  • This one happens way too often: The home page announces the upcoming event’s guests, location, and everything you could possibly want to know except the dates. Sometimes they’re buried five clicks deep on the site, but if you want potential attendees to work that hard to find your dates, you’d better have something they really desperately want to see.
  • A similar problem: “Well, we know where we’re located.” A convention will list their venue as something such as “The Airport Marriott” and neglect to mention what particular town that would be in. (Lots of airports have a Marriott.) Sometimes you can get this information by visiting the hotel page and clicking the link to the hotel’s web site, but often that link is missing too.
  • One big blooper: throwing away your Google hits. Just this morning, I found a con where they had done something very right. They had tons of big name guests, all in their core genre; they were listed prominently in a very selective, well-respected convention list (Mine is no where near as high-profile); and the web site is simply exquisite. Unfortunately, all of the site content lives in image files. Google can’t read image files and since they didn’t include any alternate text, Google won’t return any search results for their guests. An opportunity squandered. (As a side note, for US-based conventions, this also opens you up to possible litigation since people with visual disabilities won’t be able to read your site, even with the appropriate assistive technologies.)