In making a website for Amtgard, a lot of people make major mistakes. I am by no means exempt from this criticism; I've probably made all of the worst ones in my time. But as I make new websites, I learn a lot about what Amtgarders need - and what they want, which is obviously vastly different from the first.
This is the first and most important tenet of any Amtgard site. While flash animations and a fancy PHP menu will score points in the aesthetics department, it has two major drawbacks:
1: It's easy to screw up. Maybe not for you, but for anyone else who comes in after you're done with the site for one reason or another. One line of code could mess up the entire site, making everything you worked so hard on for naught. Which segues nicely into number two--
2: Someone else will take over. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of reasons for your wanting to stop working on any given site, but if you've done your duty and created a valuable resource for your local group (or for the interkingdom community), you'll hopefully want to let it continue beyond you. The simpler the site, the easier it is for that to happen.
Along with simplicity is aesthetics - people come to Amtgard sites for information, and as pretty as your site might be it has to be effective at giving that to your visitors. Often, more crowded and graphically-oriented websites neglect that important aspect of their jobs.
What is your park called? What is Amtgard? Where is the event? Make sure to inventory the information that you absolutely must get across and make it easy to find, easy to access, and most of all easy to understand. Some common things that you'll need are: location of the field, time and scheduling, things new players need to know (waivers, rulebook links, anything of the sort), and who the people they'll be playing with are - autocrats, officers, anyone they can see a picture of along side a name and associate with 'leader.' There should also be a foolproof contact system.
Always have a contact that will answer quickly and promptly, preferably someone who understands at least the basics of spelling and grammar. This person may well be a large portion of your new players' first introduction to the people of the game, and should be chosen with that in mind. It may be you, as the webmaster - it usually is when I make websites, simply because it's so easy to update my own e-mail address if anything changes.
Often it is good to have an e-mail address associated with the site - for Amtgard.ca, I keep email@example.com ready at all times. It redirects to my normal Google mail account, so that I don't have another account to check every day. No extra fuss, a much more professional appearance, and it took all of five minutes to set up with my domain host. Well worth the effort if you ask me.
Community. The community and social aspects of Amtgard are its strength - and online need not be any exception. Many of the Kingdoms and even smaller groups have thriving web communities based on bulletin boards and forum systems, the most popular of which seeming to be PHPBB (a free interface available from http://www.phpbb.com/), though I prefer the more feature-rich Simple Machines Forum (http://www.simplemachines.org/). Either of these are simple to set up, free, and absolutely invaluable.
Photos. Pictures of your group at field, arts and sciences competitions, and ceremonies at court are a great way to spread stories, memories and spark imaginations. A great free open-source program simply called Gallery can be found at http://gallery.menalto.com/.
Links. There are a number of links no website should go without - first and foremost to the Online Record Keeper (or ORK, found at http://www.amtgardrecords.com/). The ORK is Amtgard's most valuable tool and every further link on the web could spark another group's regular use. Another link is to this very site, where articles and the biggest Amtgard community on the 'net can be found and perused at the players' discretion. A link to your Kingdom's site is always a good idea, and a link to the main official Amtgard webpage (http://www.amtgardinc.com/) is always helpful for new players.
The internet could be easily argued as Amtgard's greatest tool - it spreads information faster than any other medium in history, across a much larger base. Make sure your group has a website, and make sure it's kept up to date. Nothing kills a group like contact information for a Monarch that hasn't played in three years.
[ discuss on forums ]