There is a big glitch in how non-professional Rotarians looking after ClubRunner based Club websites and how ClubRunner professionals intended stories to be laid out on the home page.
Back in the early 2000s when Content Management Systems like WordPress, Blogger and ClubRunner were just getting started they had to conceive of creating websites for non-professionals who just wanted things to work while they wrote stories, especially opinion pieces.
In doing so they had to conceive of how to structure what those stories might look like in the future on a home page. By and large, they got it right because all kinds of sites still use that same basic format today some 15-20 years later. And that is a long time in website design.
Let's look at what ClubRunner intended when they created the Stories Widget.
ClubRunner, as far as I know, is unique in the way it has set up its Story Editor in three distinct parts.
Story Settings + Story Brief = Home Page Story Component.
What too many club websites demonstrate is that they do not understand or appreciate the relationship between the Story Settings and Story Brief.
The “Story Setting” at the very least should show the Headline and thumbnail feature picture. In my opinion, the author’s name and even more importantly the date. The reason for this will have to be left to a future post.
The “Story Brief” ONLY shows the lead sentence of your story. Brief is just that: not long, concise, short!
I simply cannot stress this too much.
As a guide write the lead sentence no longer than the vertical size of the thumbnail picture This has the added benefit of making the Story “come on” visually clean and attractive.
This is an example of how a story should appear on a home page.
All of the “Content” of the story or more technically the body of the story goes into the second or lower text editor titled appropriately “Story Content”.
Frankly, if I managed ClubRunner I would set the limit of the first text editor at 250 characters, not the 20,000 characters as set at present.
Reasons for adopting a home page story blurb.
I want to validate ClubRunner’s decision and encourage all users of ClubRunner to adopt this method.
1. Variations of it are the practice in all newspapers and like it or not a Rotary Club website is more newspaper than a business website.
Toronto still has a competitive newspaper market, and each of the four papers has a variation of what ClubRunner designed into its platform: (from April 22, 2021) (from April 22, 2021) (from April 22, 2021) (from April 22, 2021)
You will notice that modern newspaper now give more emphasis to the headline than the lead sentence.
Both the headline and lead sentence are still important. But it is the headline that visitors skim first. It has to be written with skill because it has to move you to click on it.
The Problems Created by Putting All of the Story in the First Text Editor
Many clubs are putting the whole story in the first text box. This does a number of things that have negative results for a website.
  • All you learn, if you are tracking the number of visitors that your home page was visited. You have no idea what was read. That is why you put the headline/lead sentence with a picture on the home page only. When a visitor clicks on that headline the full story opens up and Google, Bing etc. reads that and records that the article was opened and the records how long the visitor stayed on the page. It also records how many times the article was opened. Eventually, you discover what kind of topic generates the most traffic for your site.
  •  The Home page becomes text-heavy, so visitors turn off, do not read and leave. This is even worse when seen on a mobile device. You simply must become aware of the need for white space. If it is true inside a story, it is even more true for the home page.
  • There is an increase in scrolling, needed to get to the next topic whereas using ClubRunner’s Story Brief you can view up to four-story headlines and lead sentences on one screen and choose the one you want quickly. Speed of choice is an important factor, something those using a whole story in the Story Brief text editor seem to forget or ignore.
  • The above problems are intensified if you are still using a three-column home page format. Scrolling is intensified as the content text has less space and therefore appears long with more scrolling. Additionally, the central story can get lost amount all the competing images and words in the columns to the right and left of the feature story.
  • Since you have to put the pictures in yourself there is an increased chance of errors such as wrong size or position, lack of white space borders between the text and pictures to name a few.
  • Using the formula Story Settings + Story Brief = Home Page Story Blurb may also increase the likelihood that you will use one font style and size and one headline size and format across all Blurbs whereas a review of full story home page postings often shows a variety of fonts, styles, sizes, and intensity (bold vs regular), and sometimes even a change in colour. All of which is a no-no!
  • Lastly, as you know, what appears on the home page appears on the Story’s Archive page (Story Library in the editing end). This creates a problem when if you have formatted something. Let's say a chart of the narrow column on the home page and you then view the story on the wider story list page or the story pages wider column the chart is now distorted or appears on the wrong side of the page. Use the Settings and Story Brief as they were intended will avoid the problem.
As you can tell I am not a fan of those who put a full story on the home page. Although I did not track this factor when I analysed the 130 sites for their number of stories, I will say with confidence that the majority of sites, especially those using the three-column format are putting too much of the story on the home page.
In the story titled  The Club Website: poster, club bulletin, or marketing centre? I was not trying to put down the Poster concept. Imagine instead a really good poster style home page with the addition of a dynamic Home Page Stories widget and you have a “marketing centre” capable of expanding your presence in the community and growing your club?