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The Resiliency of the Three Column Page at ClubRunner

Discussion in 'Best Practices & Showcase' started by John Borst on Feb 5, 2021.

  1. John Borst

    By:John BorstFeb 5, 2021
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    In preparation for a major rethink and redesign of our Rotary club’s ClubRunner based website, I did some research into the design templates and colours other clubs were currently using. What I discovered was the resiliency of the three-column “Home” page.

    Compared to when it began in 2003 when three columns were the only option, ClubRunner’s Content Management System (CMS) now offers a wide range of templates and layouts for both the home page and custom pages. One, two and three columns are now possible, as is, a combination of all three arrangements. In other words, the arrangement of space is only limited by one’s imagination.

    To write this article, I went back to the sites I reviewed, specifically, the 35 of 36 Rotary Clubs listed under “Live Sites” on the ClubRunner.ca website. This time I recorded and classified the data. I found that twenty-two or 63% of the sites still used the three-column template. Seven (20%) used a combination of columns. Six (17%) used two columns and only one club used a single column.

    I should explain, however, that about a third of those using the three-column format are using it more creatively and not in the traditional format. And you may ask, what is the traditional format and why might it be a concern to ClubRunner?

    When the Dryden Club first purchased ClubRunner, it was 2010 and ClubRunner Version One was still in effect. The foundational navigation system was organized around the concept of the site page and its subpages. As I recall from January to June of that year, ClubRunner CMS had no pull-down menu.

    Although this 2007 Richmond BC example retrieved from the Wayback Machine shows they did have a menu, I suspect that they may have been a beta site so ClubRunner could perfect the menu system.

    Richmond BC-2007 1000x643.png

    As you can see the site did not fill the entire screen. A wide central column is flanked by two narrow columns. In this example the About Our Club site-page has four subsite pages. The presence of the sub-site names and links appeared on each sub-page. It was and still is a means to navigate the website without the need for Pull-Down Menus. In my Dryden experience Pull-Down Menus were released with ClubRunner Version Two in the summer of 2010.

    On December 31, 2013, the Dryden Website looked like this, with the About menu opened:

    Dryden Dec 31 213 1000x1310.png



    Looking back at the 2013 Dryden Rotary home page, I have come to realize there is much repetition between what appears in the column widgets and the pull-down menus. The widgets tend also to be embedded with considerable text.

    This continues in sites still using three columns, as these two examples from the "Live Sites" list show.

    BRampton 3 Column. 1000x1760.png

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    Chatham 3col 2021 1000x900.png

    Given the effort, ClubRunner has put into creating new more creative and flexible templates based on widgets, the fact that 65% of exemplary Rotary clubs still use three-columns, is a disappointment.

    Considering that the current trend in home page design is towards:
    • simplicity in design,
    • greater use of graphic content and
    • a limit of one or two key messages,
    our clubs have a need for more training in the purpose and design of the public-facing portion of the site.


    Further analysis indicates that the three-column format creates the impression that:
    • The major audience is Rotarians.
    • The goal is to make it easy to find information relevant to Club members,
    • Pull-down menus are of little importance.
    • We ignore the potential to use our Club website:
    o to establish a relationship between a Club’s website and social media sites.
    o as a tool to grow membership.
    o as a means to draw non-Rotarians to a Club website as a way to educate people about Rotary and the service we provide within a community.​

    As members of the ClubRunner Community, we are among the more engaged Rotary volunteers in website design. We are here because we want to improve our sites and to learn how to use the site to its maximum capacity. This requires discussing more than the technical issues that predominate in this space.

    We need to discuss more often and more thoroughly the three potential uses listed above.

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    Zach likes this.
  2. Barb McG

    By:Barb McGFeb 18, 2021
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    Thoroughly enjoyed your article. While my comprehension is my biggest issue, I always take something away and try to apply it. Thanks for your time, effort and support of Rotary.
     
    John Borst likes this.
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