Creating A Race Website

After my long-awaited victory in getting a permit for my race, I had a new mission: an updated race website. I had previously put up a quick and dirty placeholder website, but that said little more than “Hey, a race is coming!” Before I could move forward with telling more of the world (like potential sponsors, volunteers, and participants), I wanted a more “real” web presence.

With that in mind, I would like to unveil the newly revamped Rim To Rim Trail Run race website. There is still work to do and some content to add, but all the building blocks are in place and anyone visiting the site should be able to get the majority of their questions answered. Please look around, I’d love to hear any and all feedback. And don’t hesitate to point out any errors or oversights. The earlier I get those fixed, the easier it is to pretend they never existed!

For anyone thinking about putting on their own event, I’d like to spend a little time on the specifics of my choices for the website itself; what platform I used, who I’m using for hosting, and what I like and dislike about my choices so far.

The blog you are currently reading is a WordPress blog, hosted and managed on WordPress.com itself. For other web properties I created, I’ve used GoDaddy.com for domain registration, hosting and website management. They have a variety of options, and I’ve explored two: Website Builder and Managed WordPress. So far, I’ve found GoDaddy to be a great one-stop solution for basic website needs, though it’s not without its pain points.

My background includes software engineering and website development, so I was of course tempted to create my own full website solution, utilizing a 3rd party like GoDaddy just for domain registration and maybe server hosting. However, my primary aim with this blog, my trail run coaching business, and the race website was not to make them a technology showcase. I wanted to focus on the business itself: blogging, race directing, coaching. The best way to accomplish this was to focus on finding helpful tools to help me create the content and get it out on the web. As a race director, I want to direct a race, not spend half my time coding and supporting a website.

I first tried out Website Builder for my coaching website, and was basically pleased. It is a very basic WYSIWIG website creation tool, focused on starting with a theme and editing the components (images, text blocks, etc.) exactly as you want them to appear on your website. I would recommend this solution, especially for users with a small number of pages and/or little to no technical background. There are definite limitations to the tool, and you don’t have direct access to the HTML and CSS for your site. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you don’t have any experience with the technology side of the web. You can get started with a year of Website Builder (including a free domain registration) for only $12, so if you’re considering this at all the barrier to entry is very low. One warning: because it is so inexpensive there are a lot of a la carte additions for making your website mobile-friendly, SEO help, etc. It’s still a reasonable cost, just something to be aware of.

For those with a little more patience, I would also recommend the Managed WordPress option on GoDaddy. That is what I ended up using for the Race To The Rim website. Even though WordPress is a blogging platform, it works just fine for creating static web pages, and there is a fantastic array of WordPress themes available for a small fee. There are also countless plug-ins designed to provide additional functionality to the basic WordPress installation. A couple of caveats: this is a hosted installation of the WordPress software and database. You shouldn’t have to do much with this, but it’s not as invisible as it would be with a blog on WordPress.com. Also, regardless of hosting, WordPress has a ridiculously large number of menus and options. There are tutorials and videos to help you along, but there is a certain level of technical sophistication required to get the most out of the platform. The upside of that is you actually have options for customizing CSS, working with the HTML on your pages, and doing other, more advanced things with your site. If this doesn’t sound too daunting, you can also get Managed WordPress and a free domain for $12 a year. Again, very low risk for anyone wanting to experiment.

GoDaddy and WordPress are far from the only options out there, and I encourage any race directors to look around and find one that fits with your technical experience. In the end, the website platform is just a tool. As race directors, we want to get the message about our event out to the world. In 2014, having a website is a mandatory part of getting that message out. Find a tool that let’s you do that with a minimum of friction so you can focus on the rest of your (very long!) to-do list.

Have any thoughts on good/bad/interesting website tools for race directors? Let me know in the comments.

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