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In response to member feedback and the increasing technological advances in website development and social media tools, the Vancouver Metro Soccer League is looking at ways to upgrade its website. The purpose of this proposal is to examine social media best practices and the advantages of the various tools available and help determine which platform would be the best option to use. The findings are used to make recommendations to the Board of the Vancouver Metro Soccer League.
Overall, the findings dispel the misconception that social media requires a large budget and a specialist to conduct, provided the tools are chosen strategically and in conjunction with expert advice. The initial cost of redoing the website will be the largest expense and varies depending on which platform the VMSL chooses. The cost of upkeep will decline over time and as the experience of the VSML's webmaster increases.
By investing in the website, the VMSL will be investing in future players; the new site will serve to attract new members to the league, increase overall support and player and public interest in the sport.
As a result of this study and proposal, it is recommended that the VMSL undertake an RFP process and choose a web development firm to redo the website, adding in several social media tools. Overall, the full process is expected to take approximately four and a half months with the budget dependent on which platform is chosen.
The Vancouver Metro Soccer League (VMSL) is an established association with ten different divisions of players, from semi-professional to amateurs. The organization's website (http://www.vmslsoccer.com/home_frame.htm) is out-dated and lacking in a number of key elements that would assist players in joining, volunteering for, and managing the league. Specifically, VMSL is in need of the means to engage players and organizers through online communication. An online forum, social media tools, and information systems would help VMSL achieve its goals.
PURPOSE OF THIS PROPOSAL
This proposal demonstrates the specific recommendations for web development, marketing rollout, team training, and implementation plan for the VMSL. This includes a step-by-step guide to developing the site, as well as how to engage VMSL members in using it, and training the VMSL board and staff in updating information. The objective of the proposal is to develop the methodology needed to create an easy-to-use forum and communication strategy so that players can connect with each other online, change practice or game dates, update contact information, and plan events. The primary target audience for this proposal is the VMSL Board of Directors and representatives of the league from all of its ten divisions of players.
SCOPE OF THIS PROPOSAL
Due to the lack of the expertise in the computer science field, this proposal will not discuss too much about the technical details of developing the forum. For the same reason, there is a slight possibility that this proposal contains some technical problems which can only be defined by a computer expert. The main research sources of this proposal come from the internet, David Lam business databases, and interviews with members of VMSL. Using these sources, recommendations for VMSL will be both effective and efficient.
ANALYSIS AND RECOMMANDATIONS
It is clear that the way that the Internet and communications have changed significantly in just the last five years. There is a need for the web to be exceptionally simple and easy to use. This means that the web interface and how it is developed must take into account every single step that a user may undertake in looking for information. This is why the current VMSL site does not work. In addition to researching the leading web development and business literature, I have also interviewed members of VMSL. In general, they are very disappointed in the current site and have outlined their personal recommendations for changing it to suit their needs over the next few years. Based on these findings, I have determined the needed components of an online forum for VMSL, social media tools, and information systems that would help VMSL achieve its goals.
The Need for Dynamic, Interactive Content
In Shaping Web Usability: Interaction Design in Context, Badre recognizes that websites are very complex and must include dynamic content that sometimes suits a broad and diverse audience with an intolerance of steep learning curves. Optimizing the user experience should be the ultimate aim of every web designer.
With the arrival of handheld devices, business plans and website site maps must incorporate a longer-term approach that takes into consideration where sites are viewed. "The last year has seen the mobile internet mature rapidly as larger screens and devices like the iPhone have made browsing easier." (Browsing) This is also an important sign for VMSL because of the fact that many players use handheld devices to view their schedules.
Usability is paramount to the creation of a new site, and if the main site - the one intended to be viewed on a home computer or laptop - is navigation heavy, a mobile version of the same site must be included.
Just as usability is important to consider, the audience we intend to view the site is as well.
The VMSL site will need to provide information for prospective players and the general public, current players and league captains, fans, and the VMSL board. Each of these audiences have very different reasons to visit the site, and different needs once they arrive.
Overall Site Strategy
The proposed site updates and changes are intended to bring the VMSL website to compliance with current Web 2.0 tools and give more functionality to the site for users. When the site is focused on usability, the more people will use it and the more interest that can be generated from outside sources.
In Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, Nielsen discusses the need for sites to allow users to find information quickly and easily. Nielsen is the leading guru of Internet usability, and he helps business people understand that they must build what he calls an environment for empowerment, in which the user who clicks the mouse is allowed to decide everything. He has two main principles: "1. that web users want to find what they're after quickly, and 2. if they don't know what they're after, they want to browse quickly and access information they come across in a logical manner." (Nielsen 5) Based on these two principles, it is necessary to integrate several Web 2.0 tools into the new site.
What is Web 2.0?
The term "Web 2.0" (pronounced "Web two point oh") is "commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, hosted services, web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups and folksonomies." (Web)
Users are allowed to interact with each other or to modify website content on a Web 2.0 site. In contrast, users are limited to view the information that is provided to them on non-interactive websites.
Although the term implies the innovation of the internet, no update to any specific technology is needed. It only requires software developers and end-users to change the way they use the Web.
In What is Web 2.0, Tim O'Reilly teaches businesses how to incorporate social media into the creation of web experiences for users. He gives clear examples of what the 'traditional' Web 1.0 tools are, and what the updated tools used in Web 2.0 are.
In some cases, the term or tool has simply evolved (in the case of personal websites becoming blogging or publishing now being called participation), but in others, there is a complete shift in the way the tools are used. O'Reilly has provided several suggestions for businesses adopting web 2.0 strategies that have been incorporated into this proposal.
Robert Scoble, a technology evangelist, author and blogger, created the "Social Media Starfish" to show the different channels that people are now using to interact online.
The diagram above was created almost exactly two years ago, and while many of the tools are still in use, some like Pownce, have shut down already. The internet now moves faster than ever before, and time is an important factor in creating the VSML site.
Social Tool Recommendations
Based on the 'Social Media Starfish' above, there are several Web 2.0 tools that the VSML should implement, both into the new site and also as external tools in order to make the site more user-friendly. This will give the players and leagues tools to connect, arrange schedules and share information. Moreover, by using these social networking tools, the target audience can be expanded under limited funds. (Kopulos 10)
- The first of these is a simple forum or discussion board that can be used by all registered members of the site, to share information, post announcements or simply converse. This will allow inter-league friendships and connections to prosper, as well as provide a record of the correspondence for use by the VSML if needed.
- A Google Calendar (or similar tool) should be incorporated into the site redesign, allowing players to submit their game schedules or changes to be published.
- The VMSL needs to begin publishing a blog on a regular basis. This can be used to publish league news, overall soccer news, opinion pieces, and to showcase players or teams.
- Start a Twitter account and add a widget to the VMSL home page serves several purposes. Not only will this bring new users to the League, it will also raise awareness, introduce the sport to new players and invite additional sponsors, advertisers and media attention to the league.
- Use Upcoming to publish the league's schedule to continue to engage new people to come out to the games and to support the teams.
- Creating a Flickr pool will allow fans and players a place to upload any photos or short videos taken at the games for everyone to see. This not only continues to increase awareness of the league, it also assists with the Search Engine Optimization for the VMSL.
- Creating a YouTube channel acts much like the Flickr Pool does, only for longer videos. Contests can be run from this account as well, which promotes the League and teams.
- Facebook pages, both for the teams themselves and the League, as well as event pages for the games. This acts almost as a duplication of the content from the main site, but it serves a new set of consumers who may not visit the League site.
Much of the Web 2.0 tools are free to use, but will require someone actively using them to gain any benefit. There will need to be a portion of the web development production put towards these duties for the new site to be successful.
There are some open source software tools that can be used for much of the site, including Ning, Google Docs, Basecamp, Wordpress or Drupal, all of which can handle much of the backend database functionality that will be required, however in all cases, a web development firm would need to be retained to ensure quick and correct implementation.
As you can see, there are several options for all levels of budget, and it just depends on what kind of functionality the VMSL would like in the new site. Based on the feedback received from members of the VMSL, the site needs to be useful for the next year or more. Investing in the site at this time will also allow for fewer resources to be expended over a longer period of time as it will be built correctly without needing serious changes for some time.
This is not an overnight project, and will require some time for the Board of Directors of the VMSL to approve, create and send out the RFP, choose a web development company and for that company to complete the work.
The approximate timeline for website development are:
While, on whole, this is not a short process, it will produce rewards shortly after deployment and in the long run. The VSML will benefit greatly from redoing the site, by bringing in new players, more visitors will come to a site that is easy to use, current players will also use the site more often when the functionality is second nature.
This proposal outlines the steps that the VSML needs to undertake as well as summarize the considerations the Board needs to think about.
- Badre, Albert N. Shaping Web Usability: Interaction Design in Context. Boston: Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing, 2002.
- "Browsing Habits" New Media Age (2009): n.pag. ABI/INFORM Archive Complete. Web. 13 Nov. 2009
- Kopulos, Mimi. "What's In Your Toolbox." Women in Business 61.4 (2009): 10-11. ABI/INFORM Archive Complete. Web. 1 Nov. 2009
- Nielsen, Jakob. Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. Thousand Oaks: New Riders Publishing, 1999.
- O'Reilly, Tim. "What Is Web 2.0" O'Reilly. N.p., 3 Sep. 2005. Web. 30 Oct. 2009
- Scoble, Robert. "Social Media Starfish" Scobelizer.com. N.p., 2 Nov. 2007. Web. 30 Oct. 2009
- "Web 2.0" Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2007. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0>