This post is long overdue, but here it goes.
The new website of the 505 American Section has been officially released! This update brings a lot of new changes that I think will help propel the 505 fleet into the new year and beyond. usa505.org
Here is a list of the notable changes
- Attractive home page focused on creating new members
- Combined TankTalk and the American Section website
- Automated Classifieds
- Mobile friendly
When I was elected Information Officer in 2017, I had a vision of upgrading the fleets online presence. I took over from Craig Thompson and quickly learned about the issues that plagued the existing infrastructure. Craig did an amazing job of setting up the classifieds, but it was entirely managed manually. That means every time a boat was posted, Craig would update the site. Every time you asked about a boat, Craig would respond. A fantastic resource for the fleet, but a total nightmare to manage.
The problem was that there really wasn’t an easy way to automate the system. We were running on Google Sites. It was super easy to get started with, but we quickly outgrew it. The new site has been migrated entirely to WordPress. If you’re not familiar, WordPress is an incredible system that powers 30% of the internet. It has a ton of plugins and is very extensible, and from a webmaster’s point of view so much easier to manage.
JB launched Tank Talk 2.0 back in 2013. The spirit of the written TankTalk lived on in digital form. The only problem was that this was on blogger.com and was separate from the American Section website. When I posted content on the blog, users would read and leave. It would be awesome for visitors to stick around, check out the classifieds, and even get in touch with a fleet captain if they were a new member.
Another one of my goals when I was first elected was to combine TankTalk with the American Section website. WordPress was originally built for bloggers, so blogs are a first-class citizen in the system and so well supported. It’s so easy to publish a regatta report, interview, or boat project.
This is important because one day I won’t be the Information Officer and someone will be in my shoes. The easier I make my job the better because that means the easier it will be for the next victim (did I say that out loud?)
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
There has been an insane amount of work put into the fleet by previous members: articles, boat projects, regatta reports, you name it. I couldn’t just simply throw that work away. I’ve talked to Paul Scoffin who recently has gotten into the fleet down here in San Diego and he says one of the reasons he has gotten into the fleet is because of the number of resources that are available to new members. These pages may not get a lot of attention, but I firmly believe they are one of the fleet’s most valuable assets.
These resources live on in the Library. Now that I have finished developing the new site, I want to work on curating new content that is relevant to how the boats are being sailed today. It’s no secret that we, the American 505 fleet, have been dominating the international circuit for a few years now. I want to tap into this national talent and share the knowledge.
Attracting New Members
Being completely real, we need new young members. The new homepage is built entirely for that purpose. I worked with Courtney Starks to develop the page to stand out. Function is also built into that beauty. Large call-to-action buttons are wired up directly to regional coordinators. When a visitor says, he’s interested in sailing in Maryland, the Region Two Ambassador is notified to follow up personally.
These personal relationships are something that Paul Von Grey sites as the success of local fleets. Just look at Region Six and how well the Bellingham fleet is doing. It’s a case study that us as the national committee is learning from and trying to emulate across the country.
Wait, didn’t the site already launch?
Well, sort of. I did a soft launch of the new site in October. I wanted to slow roll this update out just because everything is brand new. It also gave me time to get good feedback from the other officers and regional coordinators. I also spent a lot of time doing boring but necessary backend work to make sure the classifieds weren’t going to get spammed to death, and to make sure the site was fast. As you all know, speed is king.
Now that the site up and running smoothly, it’s ready for primetime. I’m going to start advertising and generating page views, which in turn will hopefully help sell boats and generate new members.
The new website is here. It serves new members and old. It’s mobile friendly and is built to be viewed in a dinghy park. At the end of the day, this is your new website. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me by email ([email protected]). I’d be more than happy to take feedback or answers questions.
Good luck to the team traveling to Fremantle, and have a Happy Holidays!