Colloquium on streamlining the LIRNE network websites

Posted on July 17, 2007  /  0 Comments

LIRNEasia decided to use a blog as its website rather than a conventional website. Website has done well so far; about 3,000 comments so far.

Some issues of importance:
Front page changes every two days, due to number of posts. Scrolling nature means that sometimes the most important topics do not remain at the top for long.
Weaknesses concerning retrieval of documents (unless you know exactly where it is).

Proposed structure:
Our website should be designed to meet Asia Pacific needs. Anything that does not fall under that purview will be handled by the other websites in the network.For this it is important to identify where do we get most of our traffic from?
Based on statistics from Google Analytics, most of our traffic is from the Asia Pacific, then Latin America and the least from Africa.Within the Asia Pacific, South Asia is the main source of our traffic.

But we have very little hits from Africa. And we should visit their website more often too – if they are doing good work, we need to link to them.

Indi: Corporate blogs – need to be a business card, lots of static pages. Document management on blogs is very difficult; its more efficient to outsource this part to another website. Any content that you can outsource is good.

Threee keywords you need to mention when developing a website:
1. web standards – because people access your sites from a variety of media (mobile phones, computers, Google, etc) web standards will ensure that the page looks similar across all media.
2. content management system (CMS)
3. open source – this does nothave to be open source but it is the preferred option.

Nuwan: Does Google catch stylesheets better than static pages?
Indi: No, Google does not catch stylesheets.
Nuwan: But if you have web standards, then would Google catch the page and data better?
Indi: Stylesheets just describes how the pages should look; has to do with all the colours, fonts, etc. Google doesn’t “care” about these details.

Another important thing, as an organization employees should not focus too much on how the site looks, what is most relevant is content. Staff need to write well and regularly.

Headlines are most relevant. Studies have shown that people mostly glance through the headlines, not the headers.

Need a static part of the website, like a front page, where things like training course announcements are seen, rather than pushed further and further down the page.

HdeS: Perhaps we could have two columns, one is static, one is blog-like.
Indi/Nuwan: perhaps we can have two sites; if you are a first time user, you are taken to a static page; if you are a returning visitor, then you’re taken to a blog site; this is enabled by cookies.
SG:The ‘features’ tab on may be useful.
RS: This may be good for a less dynamic research organization than LIRNEasia.

CW: Sometimes the front page doesn’t really matter because you can access a site from anywhere, not necessarily the front page only.

RS: How do you measure success on your (Indi) blog? Criteria that I use is by running key search terms (e.g. ‘India USO policy’), and see how high we rank in Google searchers. This is a good qualitative approach. Pure readership/number of visitors doesn’t cut it.
CW: Two approaches. Using key words – most number of search terms and least number of seach terms. On one hand you aim for number of hits, on the other…(?)

RS: What about using Google advertising?
Indi: I have Google advertising on my site, so if I write something about LIRNEasia and you have advertised with Google, then I’d have an ad on my site about LIRNEasia.
RS: We should advertise our training courses with Google.

RS: We need to step back a minute, and consider the larger question that we are trying to address: we’re doing a blog; if we have something interesting to say or show, then we out it up, and see how it flies with our readers; will it energize them? We don’t know. In actual fact, about 95% of our posts don’t have comments. Secondly, we’re trying to disseminate our papers/research; for that we are using DSpace.

Indi: adding the ‘related posts’ feature can help to increase the number of pages viewed (by the same set of readers); but to increase the number of visitors, you need to produce good content.

RS: What do we want to do with the website?

NW: You have to start a discussion, but continue it. Its good to use the website as a filing cabinet.

HdeS: Hits aren’t everything – even a useless website can get 1,000s of hits; the main point is that we haves something that works. Maybe we need to clean it up a bit (business card function of the website) but why change it?

RS: What recommendations should we make to the other sites in the network? We need to find out what exactly they need done before we can provide our inputs.
We have come to a stage where many of our papers are not on our site. We need to think of ways to document and record our PPTs and documents etc. Slideshare is a good way to put up PPTs.

See for more information.

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