WordPress.com – in cooperation with Polldaddy – has made it easy to include polls on your site. Polls offer you an opportunity to get feedback on a particular topic, program or feature. It doesn’t cost you anything to create polls but you will need to create a free account with Polldaddy to do this. Visit the Settings > Polls section of your Dashboard to complete the account setup.
Here you see a sample poll. Choose your preferred option then click the Vote button. Next, click View Results to see what others think.
Because they only ask one question, polls are easier to design and build than surveys. And, because they are embedded in a post, there’s plenty of room to explain the purpose of the poll and the available answers. For example, in the sample poll the first choice has $$ after it and the second has $ after it. You could use the text of the post to provide more detailed information about those options – like how much extra members would have to pay for those publishing options.
To get started, open a new post and click the Add Poll button just above the formatting toolbar.
If you don’t already have a Polldaddy account, you’ll be directed to create an account there. It will cost you nothing. Once your account is created and linked to your blog, you’ll see a screen similar to the one above. In this example, I’ve already created one poll and it appears in my list of polls until I delete it. Note that the commands related to a specific poll are hidden until you mouse over that poll in the list.
To create a new poll, click the Add New button at the top of the panel. The Edit Pole panel appears with fields for the poll’s question and answers.
In this example, I am only using four answers for this question. If I had more, I could add boxes for them by clicking the Add New Answer button. I can also delete unwanted answers by clicking the “x” icon to the right of the answer. The blue arrow icons to the left of each answer are used to reorder your answers. Click on the arrow icon and drag that answer to the location you want it.
The Poll Style panel provides options for the appearance of your poll on the page and the sidebar panels have options to further customize the answers, determine if visitors can vote repeatedly, set the length of time the poll will remain active and show the poll results to your visitors. When you are ready, click the Save Poll option to save your poll. Click the Embed in Post button to add the poll to your post or page.
In addition to embedding your poll in a page or post, you can also use the text widget to put it in you site’s sidebar.
From the Polls list, mouse over your poll to display the menu and click on Results. The screen you see here is displayed.
Be aware that you don’t control who can participate in the poll. If your site is open to the public, you can request that only members vote, but you can’t enforce that.
Self-hosted WordPress users can install the Polldaddy plugin to create their own polls.
Genealogy news is a good way to make your society’s site an information center for your membership. There’s lots of news out there. You just need to learn how to find it. The best tool for that is a newsreader. A newsreader is a pleasant and efficient way to keep up with a large number of news sources. Today, one of the most popular newsreaders is Feedly.
This guide explains how a newsreader works and how to get set up in Feedly. It also walks you through the process of subscribing to useful sources. Use the link at the bottom of the embed to download a PDF copy of the guide for reference.
Don’t stop here. Look for local archives, educational institutions and ethnic archives. As you see in the list above, many use blogs to share news and tips that can be very useful to your membership.
Instead of constantly bombarding your members with individual news postings, you may want to publish a weekly news post. The commercial archives frequently offer special deals or free access to certain collections. These are often short notice items and should be posted quickly so members can take advantage of the opportunity.
Here’s where Feedly can be especially useful. Whenever an interesting news item pops up in your newsreader, just tap the Bookmark icon to save that story in the Saved for Later section of your Feedly account. Then, when you are ready to create your weekly update, you’ll have all of those stories waiting for you in one nice group. After you’ve added them to your post, you can quickly delete them from Feedly.
Tap/click the bookmark icon to save the article in Feedly’s Saved for Later section.
You know your society needs a web site, but you don’t have a clue where to start. Here are some functional and affordable ideas that will help.
Set goals. What do you want to accomplish with your site? Defining those goals will determine choices later on. For example, if you want to use your society’s site to attract and support “online” members (members who don’t live in your area but are researching ancestors who did), a directory of local research resources could be very useful. Do you want to use your site to reduce costs by distributing content now being printed and mailed to members? Offering RSS newsfeeds and/or email updates to keep all members informed about society and genealogy news not only reduces costs, but allows you to deliver timely information such as discounts or upcoming events.
Recruit help. Do any of your members have blogging experience? If so, ask for their ideas and help getting organized. You need help in two areas – site management and content management. Site management requires a higher level of tech experience than content management, however once the site is built it’s mostly routine maintenance – backup, updates, etc. Using a hosted service or hiring a site management service may be your best option. The content on your site needs to be monitored with fresh content added regularly. Managing content will require much more time and effort. Good writing skills can be as hard to find as good technicians.
Get training. There are a number of free and affordable training opportunities – especially for the more popular platforms like WordPress. Sites like Lynda.com and Udemy have online training for all kinds of programs, platforms and services. WordPress.tv has lots of free video lessons to help you get started with that platform.
Create a content plan. This is an outline of the content you will post to your site along with who is responsible for providing that content and how often it will be reviewed. For example, your program chair may be responsible for providing information on each program/speaker while the education chair provides research tips and news about the commercial archives. Will you have a site editor to oversee the content managers, review content before it’s published and develop documented workflows on how to make it all happen?
Build your site. Your planning and budget determines where and how the site will be built. Once the site’s up, it’s time to add content. Build user accounts for your content managers and let them get comfortable posting content as they build the static content and the initial news items. Get feedback from your staff and make adjustments as necessary.
Announce the site. When everything is ready, announce the site. Let your members know how to find the site and what to expect when they get there. Even better, have handouts ready with the site address and a “tour” of the site content.
Building an effective web site is a major project. Once built it will require lots of time and effort to keep the content fresh and useful to your members. All this effort has its rewards. With an effective web presence, your society has a reach you could never imagine otherwise.
WordPress is probably the most popular content management systems for building web sites. WordPress comes in two “flavors”:
an online service where you can create your site by creating an account and selecting a few setup options (WordPress.com)
an application you install, configure and set up in your own web hosting account.
The hosted WordPress.com offers both free and premium sites. A fully-functional site can be set up in a matter of minutes. If additional features are needed (such as a custom domain name, theme customization or more storage), they can be added individually or as part of a package. Using the hosted service, most of the site management functions are performed by WordPress.com. You can stay focused on your site content.
Setting up a self-hosted site gives the site manager more flexibility. There is a huge library of plugins that can be installed to provide additional functionality such as storefronts, editorial calendars and database backups. Along with that flexibility comes more responsibility for maintaining the WordPress application.
Note: This site is hosted at WordPress.com using a WordPress Premium package.
Recently my genealogy society decided they wanted to begin the move from a printed quarterly newsletter to an email newsletter. As I began researching options, it suddenly dawned on me we already had the perfect platform in place. Our site runs on WordPress with Jetpack letting us offer email subscriptions to our readers and we already have a significant number of subscribers. Why go looking for a new platform, spending the time to learn how to use it and then forcing our existing subscribers to move to a new system? All we need is a bit of planning and a little design effort to create a newsletter just as impressive as any external platform.
Our current site plan includes posting a weekly article discussing a research topic and a weekend article with the latest news from the archives, deals and other items of interest. In addition there are posts to remind members about upcoming meetings, calls for journal articles and other such announcements. The Jetpack email subscription plugin sends each of these posts to every subscriber. Why not reduce those postings to just two a week – the weekly research article and a weekend newsletter – and let the newsletter pick up the other “newsy” topics?
The research article will be forwarded as any “normal” post but the weekend newsletter gets a design overhaul to look more like a newsletter. It will be more graphical with a masthead and topic dividers. Instead of a “long-form” article, the newsletter is a series of short news items and links to other sources. Instead of separate posts calling for articles or meeting reminders, include them as “feature” items in the newsletter.
What about the people who don’t have emails or refuse to subscribe? Print out the weekly newsletter posts and mail them to those users once a month – on a date scheduled early enough to update them on the next monthly meeting. For those without computers or emails, they won’t mind missing the latest deal from the online archives. For those who just refuse, missing those deals might just inspire them to subscribe.
Moving from a quarterly printed newsletter to a weekly digital update means we can continue to provide a professional-looking newsletter that includes functional links as well as current news on things like new collections added to the online archives, recommended reading, society news and any deals or special offers – things that have often expired by the time a quarterly newsletter is published.
Once you decide to try Jetpack’s subscription service, you’ll find it operates a bit differently from normal distribution. The first thing you need to do is insure that every graphic included in the newsletter actually resides in your WordPress media library. While an image that physically resides on Flickr will appear in the newsletter article posted on the site, it won’t appear in the email message your subscribers receive. You will need to do some experimenting to determine which design elements work and which don’t. Fortunately, this learning curve is a lot shorter than taking on an entirely new service.
You may also want to create some custom graphics to use in your newsletter. For example, you may find the standard HTML horizontal line (shown between the first two paragraphs above) a bit too plain for your newsletter design. It’s easy to create a custom one instead like the delightful rabbit doodle I found in an old book. Once it’s added to your WordPress Media Library, you can easily use it over and over again. Choosing a standard naming convention (for example: newsltr-icon, newsletter-divider and newsltr-masthead) make it easy to find those graphics when you need them.
For those comfortable using WordPress, these few extra steps to a professional email newsletter will be easy to adopt. Your site will look as good as ever and your newsletter posts will impress your subscribers as well. It’s a whole lot easier than tackling an entirely new platform.