Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Creating a website for your research (Jane Kelley)

Liver fluke is endemic in Australian dairy cattle and has detrimental impacts on milk production, weight gain and fertility.

Our aim is to develop techniques to identify the true extent of the issues associated with liver fluke infections within Victorian dairy herds, with the aim of improving the profitability through the implementation of a liver fluke control program.

A key component of our grant is communication with our stakeholders to create awareness, provide access to information, build understanding within the community, provide opportunities where stakeholders can provide feedback, and make research findings available.

We decided our primary point of contact would be a website, as it would be accessible to both our primary (dairy farmers), and secondary audiences (service providers, dairy organisations, research community) and serve as repository for all project related information.

Why did we choose a website?

I have found that a centralised point of contact is really advantageous, a busy farmer might misplace your business card or cannot find the newspaper article they read, but they will be able Google my name or “liver fluke control” and find the website. You can also refer to the website in print articles or social media posts, so the audience can seek more information if they’re interested.

Where to begin?

Initially, I didn’t even know what platform to use. I read a RED blog post relating to promoting surveys that also discussed website platforms. After a short email exchange with Jason Murphy and Tseen Khoo, I settled on WordPress.

How do you create a website?

Well, Lynda became my best friend! If you have not already discovered Lynda, the university now has a subscription. There are thousands of tutorials that focus on website development. I selected WordPress Essential Training with Morten Rand-Hendriksen.

Stop!

Before you start building your website, you first need to draft the outline and content! It takes a long time to draft, particularly if it needs to be approved by your supervisors, industry partners and funding bodies. If you rush ahead like me out of excitement, you end up wasting a lot of time later editing content, updating links, changing the order of pages, and location of images.

What is a website outline?

We’ve all been to a website that is hard to navigate because the contents aren’t organised logically.

An outline is the skeleton of your website, it determines how the content is going to be broken down into pages.

Each page has a focus or topic. I selected things like:

  • About 
  • Researcher profiles
  • Research focus
  • Resources, and 
  • Contact (See example). 
Thinking about the layout, contents, and navigation at the start of the process will make it easier for you to create your site and for the audience to use.

Now, draft the content

Once your outline is approved, then it is a matter of writing the content and selecting images, videos or maps that help convey your story. I created a folder for each page, and then saved all the relevant media into that folder.

Select your theme


WordPress has thousands of themes!

I selected a theme based on the requirements of my outline, content, and how much the theme could be customised.

Hint: Use the demo mode to see the functionality of each theme prior to selecting.

Create your pages

Now all you need to do is upload the media from the folder, then copy and paste your content!

The customizer:

Once all the pages have been created, use the customizer to order and link the pages, and change the colours and backgrounds. Select colours that area easy to read, and consider that some people accessing your site might be vision impaired, so avoid green, red, brown, purple, and grey.

I also added the following widgets to my site: a subscribe button, a researcher photo gallery, and my Twitter account - @jm2kelley. By linking to my Twitterfeed, visitors can see in real time what I am working on.

Indexing

Throughout this process I opted to have my site private. I didn’t realise at the time that search engines would then index my site as private! So, when the site was launched, information describing the website was not shown in search engine results.

You have three options: 1) Keep it public 2) Contact the search engine or 3) Just simply wait for it to be re-indexed. I chose option 3 and, a few weeks later, the issue resolved itself.

Success!

I launched my website in June and since then the website has been viewed 390 times. There have been 77 visitors and 5 people subscribed to the website. The visitors have mainly been from Australia, but the website has also reached a new international audience featuring Canada, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Denmark. The next stage of our communication plan is to use blog posts and social media to further promote the website and its content.

This will be the theme of my next post!

All the best creating your website!

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Jane Kelley grew up on a farm in Gippsland, and has always wanted to work with farmers. 

Jane completed an Associate Degree in Environmental Horticulture at the University of Melbourne, later completing a Bachelor Degree in Agricultural Science with honours at La Trobe University. Jane’s honours project focused on drug resistant parasites in cattle, and she won the dairy sector Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Fishers, Forestry and Agriculture. 

In 2014, Jane commenced her PhD investigating ‘The epidemiology and management of liver fluke parasites in cattle in irrigated regions of Victoria’. This research led to a $340,000 grant funded by the Gardiner Foundation and Dairy Australia. 

Jane tweets at @jm2kelley.

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