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Preparing Your Race Website

Just a few short years ago you would need some decent HTML programming skills to build your race website and create the content and images. Today, it is a fairly simple process that just about anyone can do easily.

Preparing Your Race Website

A simple informational website with images can spring to life on the world wide internets in just a few minutes. There are multitudes of platforms and templates you can utilize to streamline this task and create a visually appealing and functional website.

These days it seems many organizations and events have forgone creating a static website they control and instead have opted to utilize Facebook and other social media outlets as the primary bullhorn to communicate with the world. Believe it or not there are many people who do not "do Facebook". Shocker right? While it is necessary to have an effective social media strategy to cover all the demographic bases, your best bet is to have your own site as the primary home base for anyone and everyone to learn about your event. You can use all the social media channels to get the word out, but it is best to have your audience come back to your site where you control the message 100%.

How many times have you gone to an event's website and you found more questions than answers? We are not saying that your website has to be overdone in any regard, but depending on the type of event, people will have certain details they expect to know before they choose to register. Today in the RaceDirector blog we are going to focus on the content aspect of what information your website should have. In a future blog we will talk about some user-friendly ways to get the actual site up and running quickly. I bet you wouldn't be surprised that RaceDirector is one of those options!

When creating the content for your website, you need to think about the questions people are going to ask before they ask them. Besides, as the race director you do not want to spend all your time answering the same questions over and over again via email. A simple 5k for your local PTO will not require nearly the detail as a longer race, or more complicated event such as a 12-person relay running across the state. Know your audience and provide the details accordingly.

All events are going to cover the basics such as date, start time, distances, entry fee, registration deadline, etc. On the main page of your site be sure to make these details easy to find. Always draw special attention to registration deadlines as well. A link to register should always be easy to find from any page on your site as someone navigates around gathering the details they need.

If your event is simple and straightforward enough, then a one-page site might do just fine. If there is a bit more information to share, then it may make sense to organize the information onto additional pages that people can navigate from a simple menu that is available on every page. Most templates will give you this functionality. It is just a matter of how you choose to organize the information.

A course map is one of the key elements every site should have. People want to know exactly what they are getting into and many will even go out and preview a course just so it will be familiar on race day. Some runners may even train on portions of your course if it is a longer event or difficult terrain. This is especially true of trail races. If there is significant elevation change, be sure to also include an elevation profile so people can see that as well. Many race directors will also create a written description of the course including notable features, places where you need to exercise caution when crossing roads, aid stations, etc. MapMyRun and other sites will allow you to create these types of maps.

Speaking of aid stations: Be sure to be very clear about exactly what you will be providing at your race. If you are providing sports drink, be sure to tell people specifically the brand and formulation. If you will have gels, then make sure they know the brand. Water, ice, bananas. You know what we are talking about here.

The registration details are fairly key of course. If you have an increasing schedule of registration fees the closer it gets to race day, be sure to highlight this. As mentioned above, if you are using web-based registration, make the link easy to find on every page. Will you offer manual or mail-in registration? Clearly communicate the options. Here is also where you include exactly what is covered in the registration fee. If there are extras or add-ons, this would also be the place to list these options. We are talking swag, pre-race meals, after party, etc.

Race Rules are also very important. These are details that cover important aspects of your event that first and foremost will insure everyone's safety on the course. Your permit issuers may have stipulations for things they will and will not allow. Making sure your participants understand the future of the event depends on everyone being safe and following these guidelines. Is your race dog-friendly? Are jogging strollers allowed? Can a runner wear headphones? Other rules may address competitive aspects of the event. Are runners allowed to receive help, food, or fuel outside of aid stations? Can runners use trekking poles or other means of assistance? Whatever you come up with for this section, be very clear about what is expected as well as what the consequences are for failure to comply.

Having a solid website will also create a platform to promote your sponsors. As your event grows and the site evolves, it can be an asset in helping you attract and retain valuable sponsorships. Be sure to feature their logos and have links to their websites. If the sponsor is offering discounts or other benefits to participants, you can communicate those deals here as well. If nothing else, just make sure you give your sponsors a heartfelt thanks for getting involved in your event.

If people will be traveling from outside the area, it is useful to have a page with information and links to hotels, restaurants, and other points of interest in the area. Hint: These are good opportunities to try and get these business to be a formal sponsor of your race. Even if they do not contribute sponsorship dollars, any discounts they offer your participants will be a value add. Think of yourself as the local chamber of commerce or visitor's bureau on this page. Promote your community!

Having a page for a photo gallery of previous events or pictures that preview the race course is a good idea as well. If you utilize a professional photographer to take race photos, you can link to that also. See the previous RaceDirector blog regarding Race Photography for more tips. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Choose images for each page of your site that reflect the best of what your event has to offer.

In a competitive race, people want to see race results posted. Make sure they are accurate and make sure to get them up in a timely fashion. In general, people want to see how they stack up or how a friend did in the event. Runners considering your race will look at previous results to help them gauge the difficulty of your course as well.

And last but not least, make sure you have a contact page for participants to get in touch with you in the event they have a question you did not cover. You do not have to share a phone number, but if you only give people an email option, be sure to monitor it daily and get back to people quickly. Follow the advice in this article and anticipate the questions runners will ask and hopefully the phone calls and emails will be kept to a minimum.

Learn more about the simple, free race website included on RaceDirector and get your event online in minutes.

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