Thursday, January 31, 2013

Publicize Registration through Social Media

For many of you out there, you’re in the middle of registration for the upcoming season. Here are two easy ways to spread the word about your registration events through social media: 

Send a tweet and “mention” your local press. For example: “AYSO Region 22 in Lakewood, Fla., has a registration event this Sat! [for more info] @LakewoodDaily @FlaPress” 

I often see local newspapers and other press tweeting about AYSO events. If this isn’t happening for you, find these publications on Twitter and mention their handles in your tweets! Hopefully, they’ll RT to their followers and help bring more families to your registration event.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tips for Creating HTML Emails

As the webmaster for your Region, there is a likelihood that you’ll be asked to create HTML emails to be sent to the parents. HTML emails can be tricky because they don’t always display the same in every email client (similar to how an HTML page can display differently in different browers).

Here are some things to keep in mind when creating an HTML email:

Layout with Tables
Your email should be programmed in a table layout to make sure that everything displays the way it should. DIVs are not recommended because of the limits that certain email clients put on the use of style sheets.

Use Inline Styles Style sheets placed in the headers of an HTML email don’t always work, since some email clients (mainly Gmail) limit the types of style sheets accepted. DO NOT use an external style sheet. It won’t work. The best way to use styles is inline in the HTML. Stick with simpler styles, as some email clients are very restrictive. CSS Support: The Ultimate Guide is a good reference of which CSS styles will work with various email clients.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Get Your Fans Engaged with a Facebook Contest

Facebook contests are a great way to get your Region's Facebook fans engaged with your page and willing to spread the word to their friends. However, it is against Facebook's Terms of Use to use any standard Facebook functions to host a contest.

For example, you can no longer ask your fans to "LIKE their favorite photo and the photo with the most likes will win" or "Leave a comment below to be entered to win."

Luckily, there are free Facebook apps out there that allow you to hold a fun, professional-looking contest for your fans, without having to hire an outside designer or web developer. One that I use for the AYSO National Office page is Napkin Labs.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Make Your Website the Right Way…and Keep People Coming Back!

People depend on the web today for a fast, simple way to access the most current information on any topic. If a site is designed poorly, or doesn’t contain good information, people will stop coming and you’ll lose your audience. Audience is very important in AYSO because if we lose parents, we lose players. Here are some points to keep in mind when working on your website to ensure that it’s the best it can be:
KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

This is a mantra used throughout user design. No matter how simple YOU think it is, there are people out there who won’t think it’s so easy to use. Test your designs before implementing them by choosing a few (non-tech) people to test it out. Gather their feedback and design it to fit their needs and not yours. Here are some ways to keep it simple:
  • Create a clear visual hierarchy on each page
  • Take advantage of conventions
  • Break pages into clearly defined areas
  • Make links obvious
  • Minimize distracting elements
  • Use common sense

Keep It Focused and Purposeful

Users have a reason to visit a website and it’s usually to find specific information. Anything that gets in the way of that purpose is counterproductive. Eliminate “landing pages”, including introductory animations/slideshows. People don’t want to sit and wait for something to load just to click through it anyway. Let them get in, get their information and get out. Keep your content up to date. Parents will not continue to visit a website to read the same information as their last visit. That doesn’t help the parents stay informed. Know the purpose of your website and don’t stray away from it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Join the #AYSO Conversation

What’s the last television show you watched? Did you happen to notice a hashtag at the bottom of your screen?

For all of the non-Twitter users, hashtags "#" in front of a word or words (example: #awesome) and are Twitter’s way of making their user-generated content searchable and conversational. If you want your tweet to be discovered by others tweeting about similar things, simply add a hashtag! For example, one of your Region’s parents is on the sidelines watching their daughter play and tweets the following:

“Love watching my little girl play soccer. She scored a goal this morning! #AYSO #Region54 #GOAL”

To find this tweet, go to the “#Discover” section of your Twitter account. Search for either #AYSO or a hashtag that includes your Region number. If it doesn’t show up in the top results, click “All” and it will appear there. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Toggle Your Content in a Snap!

A common conundrum for web designers is how to make a lot of content easily accessible for their viewing audience. It’s difficult to navigate through a really long page with a bunch of jump links.

Here’s a clean and easy way to neatly organize your content so that it’s easy to navigate. We use the toggle method throughout the AYSO National website. If you’ve ever looked at one of the FAQ pages or the new Section Meeting microsite, I’m sure you’ve seen it!

jQuery Toggle Method

Let's use a FAQ example. You have a question with an associated answer. We only want to show the answer when you click on the question. With this method, clicking a second time on the question will hide the answer.
QUESTION: Where is the soccer field?

ANSWER: Down the street and around the corner.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Help Keep Your Region Safe

As your Region’s webmaster, you can help your Region’s families and volunteers stay safe by passing on some Wi-Fi best practices.

Free Wi-Fi is very easy to find these days – plenty of coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses now offer it for free to their customers. While Wi-Fi definitely helps make life easier, remind your parents and volunteers to use it properly.

Typically, free public Wi-Fi is hosted on unsecure wireless networks, leaving them vulnerable to outsiders and possible hackers. Because of this, it’s best not to log-in to any personal, password-protected sites while using unsecured Wi-Fi.

If your Region uses Wi-Fi at your registration events, use a secure network so it protects parents and volunteers. Secure networks ask for passwords before allowing users to connect.

Additionally, secure websites such as eAYSO ( should always have "https" in front of the website address, as opposed to "http." This provides an additional layer of security that both autheticates the site and encrypts information exchanged between that site and a local computer. Be careful that the spelling of the https website name is correct.

For more information, check out this article on using Wi-Fi safely.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Importance of Good Website Navigation

Website users, especially busy soccer parents, don’t usually have the time to sit and search all over a website to find what they are looking for. You can help keep your visitors on your website with clean, concise and organized site navigation.

There are two common spots for website navigation: the top of the website (horizontally across) or the left side (in a vertical list). These are the two places that most people will look for a list of links to navigate your website. Some websites will also offer a complete list of links at the bottom of each page. People are trained to go there for links as well (but usually as a last resort).

When designing navigation for your website, keep in mind the “Three Click Rule.” A user will click on an average of three links before they leave the website. Try not to bury your links so deep that you have to click more than three times to get to them. You want to get your user to the content they desire as quickly as possible. Note that long lists of links are just as cumbersome as hiding them ten layers deep. Organization is key when creating site navigation.