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Communications | Communications Resources




How to set up a website briefing

Why get on the Web?

NOTE: This briefing is now several years old. It has been slightly updated in August 2010 but most of the hints and tips are still relevant.

UNISON is a trade union trailblazer as far as the World Wide Web (www) is concerned. The UNISON website www.unison.org.uk was the first UK national trade union site and UNISONScotland had the first regional website in UNISON.

Many branches are also now on the web. Most find it an exceptionally useful tool for information, organising and promotion of UNISON. Most UNISON members and non-members now have access to the www either at work or at home. Young people especially are one of the key target markets.


Like all communication, a lot of design and content questions can be answered by proper planning. Branches should identify:

Objectives - what do you want your site to do? To pass on information, to recruit non-members, to be used as an on-line resource? It may be more than one.

Target audience(s) - are we aiming this at branch members? Non-members? The public? The answers will dictate how you set up your site, and the level of expertise you can expect from visitors.

Information - The key. People visit websites for information. Looking good is important but people won't return if there is no information.

Logical layout - So visitors (and you) don't get lost. Identify what pages you need, and what links. Draw a website map i.e. a plan of the site. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/map.html is the UNISONScotland one.

TIP - Have a link to your home page on every page as an escape route.


Now you need to get your site online. Free hosting is available from many free ISPs (Internet service providers, eg FreeUK, Virgin.net etc) or free webspace usually comes with your broadband package.

You are then on to paying for a host. The Phonecoop is a long standing Internet co-operative that hosts many TU and labour movement sites like UNISON Scotland and UNISON City of Edinburgh. Poptel are very helpful and support is included in the hosting.

Web Design

Web designers are expensive. You get what you pay for. For £600 to £1,000 you will likely get a site you could have done (probably better) yourself. If you buy a site, you will also have to pay for updates, and you will lose control and immediacy.

TIP - One way of starting is to use the website templates created for you in the UNISON Communicate 3 CD (free from Communications Unit - stock no 1912). Soon, however, you will want to start authoring.


There are a large number of easy to use web-authoring tools around, many free. Browsers (MS Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera, Chrome) contain basic authoring tools in latest versions.

You can get MS FrontPage for about £80 and it is easy to use but a bit cluncky. Namo WebEditor and Adobe Dreamweaver are all comprehensive packages ranging from £100 - £600. If you have a programme, try it out first.

Getting Started

Create a folder (eg Website) on your hard disk and save any files there (this will make it easier when you want to 'upload".). Create another (eg Graphics) for all your graphics. This allows you to use a graphic in several pages, whilst it only loads once. Name your main page ''index.html' or 'index.htm'. ISPs recognise that as a default name for the home page.

TIP -Keep it small - Keep pages at less than 45kb. Use several small pages rather than one big one. People like to click! Not wait for huge pages to download.

Text - Remember, how text looks depends on what browser and what fonts the visitor has, so give them a choice. If you are not using the default font, give options like 'Arial, Helvetica, sans serif'.

Cascading Style Sheets - Some authoring tools allow you to use CSS styles. This means you can set a default style for the whole page and save time.

Graphics - Use .gif or .jpg files, for graphics and photos respectively. There are tons of free programmes (eg Ulead PhotoImpact) which will handle these. Feel free to 'borrow' any of the graphics from the UNISON Scotland site. Just right click on the graphic then click on 'save image as'. Don't distort the UNISON logo!

TIP - With gifs try them at 16 colours rather than 256. They will load much faster and you won't notice the difference. Jpgs can also be reduced in quality without much loss of clarity.

Tables - Use tables to place things on pages. To see how these work, go to the UNISONScotland main page. Look at other websites. Save the pages and open them in your authoring programme to see how they are designed.

TIP - In Internet Explorer click File-Save As and choose 'website complete'. This saves the page to your computer and you can open it in your authoring software.

Going Online

Look at your results in the two main browsers, Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator (both free). They display some things differently. You will have to compromise.

Your ISP will provide you with instructions and software to upload your pages. A basic but reliable programme to use is WSftp, from Cnet (www.cnet.com). Once you have done that, you're on line!

You can also do this using Internet Explorer. Instead of typing in (for example) http://.www.mybranch.phonecoop.net, type ftp://www.mybranch.phonecoop.net. You will be promted for your username and password and you can pass files across just like using windows explorer. With some providers you will have to be logged on via their connection to do this.

Now tell UNISONScotland, UNISON UK and the main search engines, so people can find you!

Domain Names

Your site will probably have a name on your ISP like http://www.mybranch.phonecoop.net. If you want a standard www.mybranch.org.uk, you will need to register a domain.

Poptel will do this for you, but most free ISP's can't. Another way is to go to UKreg.com (http://www.ukreg.com) , register a name and direct it to your site. There are easy to follow instructions. It costs about £10 for two years.


Further Information

UNISON Communicate CD3 (Stock No 1912)

Watch this space for a training school on website production

A mine of information is John Stevenson, Chair of UNISONScotland's Communications & Campaigns Committee. Contact him on



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Further Information

Click here for website templates from UNISON Scotland

www.shareware.com - find lots of the programmes mentioned in this Briefing. Some free, some trial versions.

Web Design Group tutorials - www.htmlhelp.com

Web Design Resource - www.pageresource.com

The World Wide Web Consortium - www.w3.org. Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who started it all and tries to keep it sane!

A mine of information is John Stevenson, Chair of UNISONScotland's Communications & Campaigns Committee. Contact him on webmanager@unison-edinburgh.org.uk