As members of the American Birding Association (ABA) we are delighted to receive their wonderful magazine, Birding, 6 times a year. Besides Birding, the ABA also publishes North American Birds, Winging It, and several bird-finding guides. The ABA has also set up the guidelines for â€œcountableâ€ birds in the aptly named ABA Area. There is even a “Code of Ethics” produced by the American Birding Association which provides concise â€œrulesâ€ that all birders should definitely follow.
As a leading organization in promoting birding and bird conservation, the American Birding Association is still somewhat lacking in their internet presence. The following are three proposed improvements for the ABAâ€™s website.
#1 â€“ Website Navigation and Three Sites in One!
ABAâ€™s homepage has a beautiful display of Mountain Bluebirds in a wonderful photograph by Bill Schmoker. The overall color scheme and look of the page is attractive but there is also a boatload of links to choose from. The main problem with all these options is that there are four different navigational areas:
- an arcing array of links with dropdowns
- an area with contact info, search box, etc. in the top left corner where traditionally a logo should be placed
- a series of large graphical links on the right side which take up a lot of space yet arenâ€™t really areas of â€œhigh importanceâ€
- a trio of rotating panels at the bottom that are distracting and are holding back the information they are trying to promote
Beyond the navigation, the ABA homepage could improve by using the darker blue color from their logo as the text instead of the lighter blue.
If you select an item from one of the navigation areas you are taken to what the unaware might think is an entirely different website. The design on these subpages does not follow that of the homepage. If you head over to the ABA sales area you are taken to yet a different looking site (which in fact is a separate site). So in a way the American Birding Association website is three sites in one.
The ABA should clean up their homepage with a more obvious navigation structure, eliminating the rotating panels and using a more typical header navigation with sidebar (or sidebars) that can also be for navigation. The rest of the site needs to follow the same styling as the homepage, even if not exactly. The colors and navigation need to be intuitive, especially since a lot of birders arenâ€™t necessarily that web savvy.
#2 â€“ Publish a Blog
Blogs have gained great popularity over the last few years and for good reason. Originally called â€˜weblogsâ€™ and now just blogs, these former diaries have become the perfect tool for businesses wishing to promote their products (or services). When done right they create an active community which in turn becomes a virtually free network of people that spread the word about these products (word-of-mouth).
The American Birding Association should create a blog, not to sell the products or even their publications, but to keep birders up-to-date faster than these publications can. With all the wonderful contributors to these publications, creating a few posts a week with wonderful pictures wouldn’t be too difficult or costly. Also, producing articles (posts) on a blog would improve the “freshness” of the ABA’s website and provide an easier feedback channel from birders (their customers).
#3 â€“ Create a Social Networking Site
Social networking sites are places where like-minded people connect with each other to communicate. Some of the more popular ones include MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. Their success is due to their ability to create a community of users from all over that often increase the popularity of the site at a rapid rate (so long as the service provided is useful).
The American Birding Association should create a social networking site specifically for birders. This would be a place where expert and newer birders alike could create profiles, discuss bird sightings, share life lists, and interact in a multitude of ways to help build a better community for birders (and of course, bird conservationists).
This new site should be part of the same domain (as stated above) but could have a slightly different look depending on the layout. The whole point would be to use the strong name of the ABA since so many birders are already members.
The American Birding Association is a leader in promoting birding so it is vital they keep up with internet trends. The internet has provided a lot of tools to build a large bird conservation community. If the ABA made good use of these tools, their website would be on par with the high quality and styling of their publications.