Hello ChessJournal fans,
Its been a little quiet on the blog as we have waited to see what the reaction to ChessJournal v2.0 would be but also because I’ve been busy running email campaigns out to as many chess clubs as I could find!
We don’t have a large marketing budget here at ChessJournal HQ (thats why you should tell all your friends about us and share this blog post everywhere) so I have manually contacted the club secretary of over 400 chess clubs in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Canada. As a result I am becoming very well acquainted with the standard of digital design in the amateur chess club scene around the world…
Some chess club websites are great, some not so great. When just looking at the British chess club scene it is obvious that many well established chess clubs obviously set up their websites in the mid 90’s and have not touched them since. This is understandable given the pace of change in digital (for those that don’t know, working in digital is my day job) and that running a chess club is very much an amateur activity. However, in my long slog through every British chess club website I was astounded by three common pitfalls that a lot of clubs are making:
- Expired Domains: Kind of fundamental to running a chess club website is to actually have a working website in the first place. I would argue that the number of broken links or expired domain names across all British chess club websites I visited was around the 10-20% mark. Im pretty certain these clubs still exist but it must be very difficult for potential new members to contact them.
- Missing or hidden contact details: Assuming the website was actually working, I was again astonished in 2017 how many chess clubs did not have clear and obvious contact details (telephone or email) for potential new members to get in touch. I noticed how many clubs were obviously fearful of unwanted spam by either posting broken email addresses deliberately (e.g. jon – at – chess journal.com) or using layers of CAPTCHAs that were unreadable to even the human eye. Essentially as a new visitor to (I’m afraid to say) the majority of British Chess Club websites, I often had to work very hard to get in touch.
- Not suitable for mobile: In 2017 many modern websites receive over 50% of their traffic on mobile devices. Again the lack of modern design skills or web templates in the British chess club scene meant that visitors to these websites on mobile phones had to work very hard to use them. Often having to view text very small or rely on pinching and zooming to find poorly designed links.
I realise my above points might sound overly negative but I trust by now that regular readers know that my heart is in the right place and I really want the amateur chess club scene in the UK to thrive. The three points I make above would go a long way to helping potential new recruits join chess clubs across the country. Right now , I suspect many clubs don’t realise what a difference a good website design could do to their membership.
It wasn’t all bad however! On occasion I would stumble across a club that had obviously invested in its web presence. I thought I would pull out in my opinion the top 5 chess club websites in the UK:
- Jersey Chess Club: Well done Jersey! In my opinion the best chess club website I found in my long search to contact club secretaries. Clean, modern and responsive for mobile devices. Clear navigation and prominent contact details. I felt the design of Jersey’s website had a touch more class than other top five entrants who were more clean and simple. http://www.jerseychessclub.com
- Glasgow Polytechnic Chess Club: An absolute delight of a chess club website from this active club in Scotland. Great layout, clear links, works fantastically on mobile and a nice nod to the Lewis Chessmen. It was very close between Glasgow Poly and Jersey but I think Jersey just nick it! A close run thing across the entire length of the British isles! http://glasgowpolychess.weebly.com/contacts.html
- Hammersmith Chess Club: A really nice designed site that is clean and clear with not just prominent contact details but also upcoming events which really made you want to visit the club. Links to a vibrant social media presence also helped raise Hammersmith into second spot for me. http://hammerchess.co.uk
- Battersea Chess Club: Again a nice clear web template with prominent navigation and contact details. Uses a nice responsive template that adjusts to whatever device a new visitor is using and my favourite part was how new and fresh the content was on the site. http://www.batterseachessclub.org.uk
- Forest of Dean Chess Club: Gatecrashing into the top five, this website does exactly what a small chess club needs. A simple one page website with contact details that reach through your phone screen and hit you in the face! Admittedly the webpage is not optimised for mobile but its such a simple site that this matters little as all the immediate information I need is right in front of me. For a small club this is exactly what you need. A pleasant surprise in my quest to visit every chess club website in the UK. http://www.fodcc.org.uk
A couple of honourable mentions must also go to Newport Chess Club in Shropshire (http://www.newportchessclub.com) who for a moment I thought would win until I realised that the website was so heavy that it took about five minutes for every luxurious page to load. Looked great just very hard to use effectively, a shame. So close! Also Brighton & Hove Chess Club (http://www.brightonandhovechessclub.org) have made a great effort. Great looking site that captures the essence of Brighton and the beach. Unfortunately its almost impossible to find the contact details which in my opinion is kind of fundamental. But a much stronger design effort than the lions share of British chess club websites.
So there we are folks. Whilst I probably haven’t visited every single chess club website in the UK in the last 4 weeks, I certainly feel like I am a knowledgeable authority on the standard of digital design in the British chess club scene.
In other news, its been a month since v2.0 of ChessJournal launched so here is a massive thank you to the hundreds of wood pushers who have downloaded and registered with ChessJournal so far. A special thank you to all the Facebook comments, emails and tweets we have received telling us how to make ChessJournal even better. Myself and Matt have already scoped out a number of changes based on your feedback and we aim to deliver v2.1 to you all very soon. I will blog about all the new features being added in the next release as soon as I can.
If you haven’t downloaded and registered with ChessJournal yet then visit our main website here:
I hope you have enjoyed my rambling, tongue in cheek journey on today’s blog!
Until next time
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