Guild Guide: What should you put on your guild site?
Shall we talk about your guild's website? I mean, you do have one, right? You are aware that Gamer Launch exists right next door in metaphorical Internet terms, yes? Why do you not have a website?
Joking aside, the reality is that yes, some guilds really don't need websites. If you have a guild consisting entirely of people who talk to one another in real life most of the time anyhow, a website may be just gilding the lily. It's something worth considering, but it's not really the most mandatory thing going.
But if you're dealing with lots of members all over the place with different schedules and a need to coordinate, a website should be a no-brainer. If you want any sort of structure, you probably want a website.
But the question once you have one is what you do with one. You could just toss some forums there and a few guild announcements here and there, but that's making terrible use of a great tool. So let's talk about what you should put on your site and why it should be there.
Rules, Officers, and Important Announcements
Let's start with the last one on this list first: important news should always be front and center on the site. A change in rules, a change in leadership, planning for expansion content, whatever - if it's big enough to qualify as news, it should be there right away, as promptly as possible, while it happens if you can. You want members to know immediately when big things are going down, and you want them to be able to find out about it without having to trawl through forum posts or any sort of website details. It should be front and center.
You also want to keep an updated set of the guild's rules and a list of officers equally available. All three of these things should be prominently displayed, so that members immediately know who is in charge, what standards they're being held to, and what big things are going on which might not be readily apparent otherwise.
These three things are the most immediately obvious needs for a guild site, and quite frankly, all of this can be done with the utmost simplicity. The annoying part is keeping everything updated, but it's a very basic responsibility of officers. No one should ever be confused about this stuff. Before forums, before calendars, before anything else, make sure that these three elements are prominently displayed.
Next priority is... still not forums, actually. Before you start having a place for guild members to talk, you want to make sure everyone has a place where they can see who is in the group and how to contact those members should it become necessary.
The goal here is to minimize any necessary daisy chain. If someone needs to show up for an event, if something is canceled, if someone just wants to chat with another player about something that happened, they should be able to do so. Not to mention the simple reality that it's helpful to know who is in and who is out.
It's also useful to include a list of former members and/or members who were removed; you needn't list reasons for the removal and so forth if you'd prefer not to dredge up old wounds, but it's a good quick reference so that someone isn't referred as a potential member when they've already been kicked out for behavior reasons.
All right. Let's say you have all of those things in place. Now it's time for...
Yes! Still not forums!
Some guilds don't really have events on anything approaching a regular schedule, and if that's the case you can probably skimp on any sort of calendar. It's still useful for marking major game events, though, so you probably still want one ahead of forums. And more than likely you will want the calendar for coordinating everyone to do stuff together.
As has been mentioned previously, one of the best ways to build group cohesion is to actually perform tasks together, not just existing in the same space. You want a clear and easily readable list of what the guild as a whole is doing, along with a way of having members flag participation.
It's also important to note that members do flag their participation rather than just showing up for the event without saying so in advance. The reason for this is simple - if you always just have events listed where no one signs up but people just show up at the right time, it's impossible to know what the overall participation level will be. My recommendation is to just cancel events that people don't sign up for in sufficient numbers, even if people said they were looking forward to it; the next time something similar rolls around, they'll know to sign up.
Application template and instructions
This is only slightly above forums because having applications submitted via forums is the generally accepted method of handling applications, and it's also a quick and efficient way to do things. But it's also perfectly acceptable to have a forum submission or some other means of receiving and reviewing applications.
Why does this rank lower on the list? Because we're getting into concerns that aren't really there for smaller groups. Every guild can benefit from a site listing officers, rules, and major announcements. A small enough guild doesn't need written applications to enlist new members; the officers can handle that themselves. But when you're getting up to this point, you start needing a submission method.
And that, naturally, leads to...
Yes, here we get into forums. By this point your site has all of the functional things that you're going to need, and you also likely have a group that's large and diverse enough that contacting people out of the game is both more necessary and less straightforward. At smaller sizes, you likely all know one another; at this scale, you have lots of people who don't necessarily run in the same circles outside of the game proper.
Forums represent a bit of an added workload, because someone - an officer, preferably - is going to need to moderate the forums and make sure that they don't become dens of horror. That's the downside. The upside is that it gives players a chance to connect, have running jokes, talk with one another, and learn more about the players alongside them. So, it's a good thing.
Forum functionality can also tie into the previous items, and that's a good thing. It can ensure that the site as a whole offers you some way of interacting with the most basic aspects of functionality, and it makes the site feel more like a hub.
These are all basic items, and pretty much every group can benefit from having these on a site. But what about more specialized features? What about specific content? There's more than this, right? The answer is that there are other things that can go on a site, but many of those features are more specialized for specific types of guilds and community groups. That seems like something that would fit into a follow-up column, yes?
It certainly does. So keep your eyes peeled for that the next time around.