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Checking Your Website’s Gas Tank

How Are You Fueling Sharing, Remix, and Expression?

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(You can download this job aid as a handy, one-page reference)

Stopping to wonder why you have a website can be a valuable exercise. What’s the purpose of your site?

One thing they’re not is static brochures we revise every five or six years. Users’ expectations of websites is deep – they’re looking for vibrant, new, and fresh content every time they visit. It’s where they go looking for the latest news and events you’ve got planned. They’re looking for stories and messages they can share with others. And they’re looking for the raw material to make their own stories.

Your website can be a thriving hub of a much larger creative community by just checking the fuel gauge and seeing how full of good, useful content your website is.

Is YOUR website ready for an ACE road trip?

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A Little Bit About All the Characters in Your Park’s Story

A great short story about the “characters” in your park – think less than 300 words – offers visitors a chance to get to know your place. Think outside the box when choosing your characters. A species of tree or historic structure has a story to share. It doesn’t need to be a biography – just a tidbit on who that character is or was. Make sure your stories reflect the real diversity that exists in your place.

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Easy Access to the Amazing Stuff Your Park has Collected

Your park has great stuff! Sometimes it’s behind plexiglass or cooped up in boxes in the archives. Let it see the (virtual) light! Every object, artifact, and specimen in your park’s collection is another potential amazing thing for your website. Imagine the storytelling possibilities of every geological sample or historical artifact in your park’s archives, and share them with the world.

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Tons of Photos of What Makes Your Park Special and Powerful

The internet is often a visual medium. Users love to communicate in photographs. Load your website chock full of photos of your place – from the amazing to the banal. It’s a great way for visitors to take their own virtual stroll. Make sure the descriptions of photos are full of great detail. That helps make them accessible for all and easily searchable. Make sure copyright tags are correctly set – public domain photos are properly labeled – so visitors can easily reuse them wherever they want.

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The Raw Data for the Visitors to Find and Build Their Own Stories

Park websites aren’t just for telling the park’s story – they’re libraries of raw material for visitors to craft their own. Whether they’re writing an essay on a favorite hero or trying to track the impacts of global warming on their lives, visitors can take these materials and convert them into new and powerful stories. And it’s not just history and science – the stories and materials on your site could be the raw material for a visitor to build amazing and powerful new art inspired by your place.

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Encouragement to Share Their Own Stories (and a Concrete Way to Do It) 

What good’s a story if it’s not shared? Encourage visitors to remix our content into new and meaningful art. It’s the key part of an ecosystem of meaning making. Anywhere you can – right there on the pages of the raw material we provide – encourage visitors to build their own stories from what we provide. And offer them ways of sharing their stories back with the park so we can see it, appreciate it, and share it more widely.

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  1. Basic suggestions for keeping the website up to date and exciting for visitors. Perhaps some more specific suggestions could have been offered, but the general suggestions broadly outline some possibilities.

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