I admit it, I like to use the puppy analogy when I talk about certain aspects of online presence. Blogs, for example. If a client tells me that they want to have a blog set up on their site but I suspect they don’t quite realize that they’re setting themselves up for a time commitment, I give them The Puppy Talk. A blog is a great thing to have – care for it and feed it and play with it and it’ll reward you with customer engagement and SEO boosts. It’s an ongoing commitment, though – after a month the newness will have worn off, and if you don’t keep updating your blog, you might end up with a chewed up sofa and a mess on the floor. Or, you know, users coming away with a bad impression because your site appears abandoned. You get the idea.
You know what else is like a puppy? A calendar. Basically any aspect of your site that has time-sensitive information or claims that it will be populated with current content can easily take on puppy status. A page called “News” or “What’s New” or “Updates” had better have recent news and current, relevant information. A calendar is a particularly good illustration of this. An online calendar with zero events listed makes a sad, sad puppy indeed.
How can you avoid this scenario? First off, before you even add a calendar, be realistic about two things: whether your business or organization has enough events to warrant it, and whether you’re going to be able to keep it up to date at all times.
How active is your organization really?
Some organizations have great calendars filled with all sorts of events and information, providing a valuable resource for their users. The Google calendar on etmac.org is a great example – there are multiple events listed every week, sometimes multiple events in a day. This calendar displays events held by multiple different organizations, however, not just ETMAC’s own events. If your business or organization works with other groups and it would make sense to gather their events together with yours onto a single calendar, it could prove extremely useful to your users or members.
Not every organization has such a network of regular-event-having groups, though. You certainly don’t want to try to fill out your calendar by adding events that won’t be relevant to your audience. If you run a restaurant then you might want to display community events happening in the area, because they might encourage people to visit the area and as a result, your restaurant. If your business is a dentist’s office, however, then it might not be helpful for your users if you load up your calendar with Little League games.
But we do have some events – how few is too few?
Maybe your organization does have some events that you particularly want to highlight, just not enough to keep a monthly calendar from looking sparse. One option would be to have an Events page that groups events together into larger chunks – seasons, maybe, or even an entire year. You could headline the page “Upcoming Events” and give the pertinent information about the important events you have planned for the next year. If you go this route just make certain that you’re editing the page to remove events once they’re over.
Even with a single page, though, you want to make sure it doesn’t look empty – if you’ve only got one or two events going on then you probably don’t need either a calendar or an events page. You may just want to promote your events using social media and perhaps a call-out area on the main page of your website.
One important thing to remember is that you don’t ever want to use your website to try to make your business or organization look more active than it actually is. Users will detect that right away, and the impression they come away with won’t be a good one. Be realistic about your activity level and pick a method of displaying events that suits that level. Your users will appreciate it – it will make it easier for them to find the relevant information that they’re looking for. And whichever method you choose, make sure you don’t ever let it lapse and become outdated or you might start finding tooth marks in your shoes.