20 November 2011

What Do I Want From A Genealogy Society Website?

Did I happen to mention that I recently was appointed Secretary for the California State Genealogical Alliance?  No?  Well now you know.  I am so thrilled to be working with Alliance to further genealogical endeavors in the State of California.

The California State Genealogical Alliance Blog  is our current endeavor to reach out to not only the membership, but to the entire genealogical community.  Managed by Gena Ortega, there are currently four bloggers:  CSGA webmaster, Cat Nielsen will be posting about  CSGA webite news.  Special Projects Chair Cath Madden Trindle, CG will report on Alliance projects , the Online California Research Guide and give reviews of California resources.  Legislative Watch Chair Junel Davidsen, CG will keeps us updated on legislation that affects the genealogical community and present a "Find of the Month."  And me?   I will be contributing to the blog with a monthly spotlight on member societies and present a Volunteer of the Month.  Do you know of a volunteer that deserves special recognition for their efforts?  Please contact me by either leaving a comment or email me directly at  :   sherifenley at gmail dot com    so I can make them a rock star.

Writing the first post that spotlights a genealogical society got me to thinking - what do I want to see on a genealogy society website?  I am tech-challenged beyond mortal comprehension so I am not sure how difficult it is to make the items on my list happen, but for what it may be worth here is what I like to see on a genealogy society website:

I adore sites that have  a clean, sharp, uncluttered  look and are easy to navigate.

The landing page of a society's website should tell me exactly what I am going to find on the site and clearly labeled buttons for me to click and take me there.  Example:  Let's say I read somewhere that Our City Genealogical Society has an obituary index located on their website.  When I arrive at the website I do not want to have to spend time looking for it. There should be a button for me to click on and whisk me away to the index.

One of the first things I look for are PHOTOS - photos of special and even not so special events and meetings that include the membership.  Photos that show the benefits of membership.  Photos of smiling genealogists enjoying time spent with others who share the same interest and passion.  Photos that make me want to belong.

Another section I really enjoy is the History of the Society.  When was it established?  How many people are currently members?  Who was the first president?  Special achievements?

An important part that I see lacking on many websites is the Contact Page.  It does not please me when the only way to contact the society is to mail  a letter to a P.O. Box.   Who are the current board members and what is their email address?  I appreciate the convenience of  a contact form right there on the site to fill out.

One of the best ways to get the feel for a society and the way they run things is to read their Newsletters.  I understand that the most current newsletter is a benefit of membership and have no problem with that. However, a sample of a  newsletter from the last year is not an unreasonable request.   I have come across quite a few society websites that only have newsletters from 10 years ago.

And last, but certainly not least is the section about Membership.  In a perfect genealogy world, one could become a member simply by filling out an online form then click a button to pay the dues online.  Having to print an application form, fill it out by hand, write a check, buy a stamp and mail it practically guarantees that I won't be a member of that society anytime soon.  I am lazy that way.  Make it as easy as possible for people  and I'm going to bet that you will see membership numbers rise.

So there you have it.  My rants and raves.  What about you?  What do you want from a genealogy website?
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