How would you like the new web site to look?

Submitted by Daniel Dillon on

We have engaged Monarch Digital to develop a new web site for NARGS. One area where member input is valued is around the "theming" of the site, which is the design or the look and feel. This would include page layouts for the various areas of the site, including the home page. It would also include colors, use of graphics, line styles, icons, menus, common header and footer, etc.

I invite you to contribute to the discussion of theming the new site. Maybe you would like to draw our attention to a nicely "themed" web site that you have visited.

Example themes to learn from:


Some things to consider:

1. All of these themes shuffle blocks around, and in some cases reformat them, to accommodate screen sizes all the way down to mobile phones. Re-size your browser window (or click on “Tablet - landscape” in the top right corner) to see.
2. An image slide-show is featured on the home page. Related text can accompany each image.
3. By including a feature image in each posting of content, the image can accompany the 'teaser' that appears on the home page listing or in a sidebar block listing.
4. Posted content can be illustrated with images.
5. Videos can be embedded anywhere on the site.
6. A content block can contain vertical or horizontal tabs, each tab containing different content. This saves space and eliminates the need to re-load the page.
7. Home page can have a different layout than the rest of the site.
8. Different sections of the site can be laid out differently. Forum, Plant of the Month, Encyclopaedia, Articles, RGC.
9. The color scheme need not be complex or vibrant to be attractive.
10. All content should be reachable with just 1 or 2 clicks.

What are your thoughts?


Submitted by Ben Burr on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 15:56

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for posting these examples.

Of those that you have posted, Frances and I think that the ThemeSnap examples are much preferable to the others.  We like the clean, white background and high functionality.  Our only suggestion is that the login be more accessible, but I image that placement on the page is something that is customizable.

One question we have is if the slide show active in the sense that clicking on a photo could take you to another page?


Submitted by Daniel Dillon on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 17:35

Yes, Ben. Pictures or any part of associated text in a slideshow can be linked to another page. This is a great way to promote something on your site; like "Join!" could take you to the new member registration page.

Hi Daniel
I love many of these. I think we need to consider both active members as well as potential new ones. I've found that with most plant societies, when I land on their page, I find navigation difficult, and access of information challenging. There is nothing I hate more than being asked for my password, or hitting a wall that says "members only' when I am looking for basic access. The Rocky Mountain Chapter site drove me crazy this summer - I was supposed to speak there, but I could not get into the site to find out basic information, I was locked out.

Photography is essential in the design, and I like to think of NARGS as possibly looking more like the National Geographic site, or The North Face, Patagonia, or another outdoor rec company than a plant society site. The core DNA of NARGS comes from a love of the outdoors, and I would love it if the visual direction of the site had the energy and tone which many of these outdoor/ active lifestyle companies illustrate.

I'll share more ideas soon, thanks for asking!

It looks like you are completely on the right track with these layouts, I can't wait to see the results!

Submitted by Mark McD on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 18:34

Daniel, hard for me to conjure what the NARGS web site might look like based on those 3 very similar generic schemes, as you say, the schemes "shuffle blocks around" but otherwise look alike. These are much too generic and context-unconnected to envision how it might translate to the future of  Can you suggest other "real" drupal-based web sites that could serve as potential examples for our membership to react to?

Submitted by Daniel Dillon on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 19:51

Hi Mark.

Yes, those 3 themes have similarities, and for good reason. They emulate a general format that works for content-based web sites. Pay attention to the details. They all have subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions. While we are shopping for a look, we can mix and match features and functionality from any number of themes or sites.

Here are a few more Drupal web sites (and one more theme)...

Submitted by Mark McD on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 20:16

I looked at each link; to me each looks so cookie-cutter and nondescript.  But, I bow out here, as my main concern is replicating the full functionality of the existing NARGS Forum, not the look and feel of NARGS.ORG web site, other than whatever "look" prevails for, basically gets replicated on the NARGS forum. 

Daniel, I do need to catch up with you and review in more detail the Drupal-version of a forum; I've been travelling, and then sick for a week, but I need to take a harder look and continue the dialog... will do so.

Submitted by Jeddeloh on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 22:13

I tend to agree with Mark that most of those websites seem very cookie cutter and lacking somehow. To me many of them seem a bit cluttered for some reason. I'm a big fan of the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle. If you cram too much on the homepage you detract from usability.

I think we need to look at how other hobby and club sites are set up. One of my favorites is Ravelry for knitting. It has an incredible number of features you can use but very few you have to use.  In effect you can customize it for your own needs. For example if you just like to look at the latest patterns or yarns you can limit your use of the site to that feature.  If, however you are seriously obsessive you can list all the yarn in your stash, all your projects etc.  You can choose what to make public.  The site has forms and groups and you can start new ones.  I realize it's not an essential feature but wouldn't it be nice to have a big seed germination database that members could add to?  If you look at a pattern on Ravelry you can see that anyone can post pictures and comments about their experience with that pattern. Let's say I want to make a shawl pattern called"Adonis" (flower names are popular). First thing I do is look at the Adonis projects that have already been done.  From people's comments I can tell if their are mistakes in the pattern or learn of other quirks.  If we had a similar feature or database it would be easy to look up everyone's experiences germinating Adonis seed.  Yes we do have a search function but why not put all the information together from the outset?

I've probably babbled one enough already but that's my two cents worth.  Oh, and please lose the black background.


Submitted by Tim Ingram on Fri, 12/07/2012 - 03:30

As someone for whom much of the mechanics of the website is like another language, albeit a very important one, I am with Matt's comment about how the site draws you in, and landscapes and the outdoors definitely do this. This is a huge failing of the AGS website in my opinion but it is the inevitable result of historical differences between different societies, and different outlooks. I greatly enjoy the NARGS site and I am also very appreciative of the thought and energy that goes on behind it.

Submitted by McGregorUS on Fri, 12/07/2012 - 07:40

A major difficulty for us is that if we are to spend $30,000 then there is a tendency to choose an upmarket rather corporate solution, rather than a more homely, friendly solution. We have to be wary of this – we are a society with high-powered  specialists, low-key generalists, photographers, growers, amateurs, professionals

Like others I prefer the ThemeSnap example of the first three. It’s clean, has effective and simple levels of access to major theme areas. The righthand sidebar offers an effective and simple range of activity. It’s also clear that the most important items are at the top and largest. With others these variously seem not to be as obviously true. The problem is that it could be a hospital or an upmarket university or hightech startup.

Looking at the comment by Jan about Ravelry I decided to look at that website only to find the frontpage asks for login and username etc immediately – there is no access to non-members – not friendly – non-members will slink away. This is precisely what we need to avoid. The website is our shop window (particularly for non-members) as well as (for members) our library, post office, photo book, and coffee bar.

Matt says:
Photography is essential in the design, and I like to think of NARGS as possibly looking more like the National Geographic site, or The North Face, Patagonia, or another outdoor rec company than a plant society site. The core DNA of NARGS comes from a love of the outdoors, and I would love it if the visual direction of the site had the energy and tone which many of these outdoor/ active lifestyle companies illustrate.

I agree with some of the sentiment about the style of these outdoor/active sites versus the style of plant society sites. But this is often because so many plant society sites are just really poor. But I think the comment about the “DNA of NARGS coming from a love of the outdoors” is offbeam. For some people it is a love of the outdoors. For others, at the other extreme perhaps, it’s a love of these “funny little plants” and how you grow them -- that is what they want. For some again, NARGS is people and meetings, journals and books, photography, website, seedex, forum and so on. For others again it is an extension of homemaking – in this case for plants – they want recipes and ideas; for others it’s the equivalent of stamp-collecting. NARGS has to be all this and more. The website needs to pick up all these in its range of imagery.

- great outdoors
- rock-gardening
- gardens as objects
- gardening as activity
- exquisite “jewel box” plants

Turning to the various sites mentioned in Daniel’s later email. Looking at many of the examples of sites in rapid succession I became aware that I dislike having to scroll down the frontpage to see all the material.  On the frontpage I want to see everything – or at least feel that I can – rather than having to keep onscrolling down.

I want my frontpage at least to be completely visible when I visit.

I want the major themes and volatile items to be obvious and I want volatile items to be clear and upfront.

There are a number of obviously but variously volatile items

1. Forum – continuously variable but there could be at least an item saying how many people are currently active on the forum to attract people in

2. Seedex – the seedlist is active for up to three months but there is acontinuously changing set of information for donors/users of the seedx

3. Quarterly – the latest issue should be on the frontpage – probably with a couple of displays from inside

4. Newsletters from Chapters (in good standing) – continually coming in – we should have the latest on display

Other items are very static as can be seen from looking at the current website

News – of the items on our NEWS page most are old news  - the only currently relevant news items are our election and the New Zealand rock garden study weekend. Much of the rest consists of obituaries and so on.

Ironically the Bulletin Board in the Quarterly has more news (certainly current news) than the website. This is something which members should look more to the website for - perhaps with the Bulletin Board becoming a feature which is constantly updated - much better there than in the Quarterly. And when something ceases to be news then it should become history. Nothing is worse than news that is very old news.

The item which I have the least clear picture of its role is the Wiki which seems to hang out byitself – a bit like Lonely George (some of it very old and very lonely) – and if it is to have life then we need it to feature better. There are some great pictures in the photo galleries but there are not always easy to find. Some parts of it have been overtaken  by parts of the forum.

We do need to be able to see usage of various parts of our new website – usage figures are so valuable in understanding what is being used and, vice-versa , what is never being visited.

Sorry this is so long - lots of points

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Fri, 12/07/2012 - 09:14

On the Wiki - at the moment when we refer to plants we nearly always go to Google because the amount of information is so immense. Where the Wiki scores is when you are writing more of a blog or diary about projects in the garden and illustrations can be drawn more intimately from there - many will do this from their own archives. There are some fine images on there and if they were referred to more on the Forum itself maybe more people would go to look at them? This is somewhere where the AGS Forum can score because the way it is set up is conducive to ongoing diaries even if few contribute these.

Submitted by Jeddeloh on Fri, 12/07/2012 - 20:07

So Malcom you don't want to take up knitting for those long winter nights? I know you have then on the other side of the pond. Sorry about the login business on Ravelry. I've been a member for long enough I'd forgotten about that since I have my computer set to stay logged in whenever possible. I completely agree that is one aspect of Ravelry we wouldn't want to emulate. Unfortunate people can't check it out without joining.

I think Malcolm has a really good point about having everything visible on the front page without having to scroll down. All the really good features should be clearly visible on the front page. People don't stick around if they're frustrated.


Submitted by Cockcroft on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 12:23

Thanks for posting the Drupal examples.  I have no personal favorite -- as already mentioned, they're pretty generic.  I don't like having to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find interesting links.  For folks with slower internet connections, the more scrolling that's needed, the less likely they are to explore the site. 

The BBG webpage is super -- an excellent example.

Submitted by Jeddeloh on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 12:35

I too like the bbg website. They did pull down menus right.  The background of each item changes when you hover over it so you know where to click.  Most excellent.  We've all dealt with websites with drop down or side pull menus that don't work or disappear if you're 1 mm off their dinky field.  Drives me nuts.  It also quickly drives me to better designed websites.  It's important to make sure any drop down or side pull menus aren't "touchy".

Also will our new website be ADA compliant?  Unfortunately we're all one accident or illness away from a disability.


Submitted by Daniel Dillon on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 13:12

Jan wrote:

Also will our new website be ADA compliant?

Hi Jan. ADA compliance is a tall order. Our web site is not required to be ADA-compliant and, unfortunately for the disabled, is outside of the scope of the current development contract. Elements can be incorporated over time, but this would have to be made a priority before any action would be taken. Here is a good list of ADA criteria:

no excessive scrolling - check
no dinky fields - check

Submitted by Ben Burr on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 13:39

Frances and I agree that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's site is an excellent one particularly for is very useful and easy to read drop down menus.  This is a clean, functional site and can accommodate Malcolm’s suggestions for what he would like to see on the home page.

I would also like to draw attention to another remarkable Drupal site that Daniel has suggested.  It is the site for the Pharmacy Department at UCSF Medical School, and also uses sophisticated drop menus where one screen space does it all.  This is both a remarkably simple and very elegant site that can easily fit our requirements.  The vertical tab bar and associated windows can handle the major features, the Forum and the Quarterly, for example, that we want to promote.  The horizontal bars, I am guessing, can be adapted to the login/signin and search utilities.  Lots of nice touches.  For example, the information about the background picture.

In case anyone has missed it Daniel Dillon is the both the brains and the technical moving force behind our new website project.  He has devoted a great deal of his valuable time and thought to this project.  NARGS is truly fortunate to have his help.


Submitted by RickR on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 20:24

I am completely in favor of drop down menus.  You can really cram a lot of links on a page without it looking cluttered.  What a joy it is to search for whatever you are looking for without having to download another page to see if it is there, then have go back and try another if it's not right.  Just mouse over the icon (or whatever it may be) and you preview without any hassle.  And for anyone with a slow connection, drop down menus are heaven!

Submitted by McGregorUS on Sun, 12/09/2012 - 03:23

Drop-down menus have a great role but whenever I have a choice I use the main icons on a page to navigate around. Like most people I don't go usually go looking in the menu if I have a really obvious straightforward choice.

I don't have any way of counting (unfortunately) how many people get to the Rock Garden Quarterly page on the website using the menu bar at the top of the page rather than the banner with the icon and the big friendly message but I would think most people use that once they find it.

And that is the point --- we use unfamiliar websites differently to familiar ones. When we start out we are exploring - we need different ways to find things. Once we are familiar with a website (or a computer application for that matter) we want to get to things in a really simple way - the iPhone and iPad are examples - there are whole sets of things hidden away but the most of the stuff (apps and functions) is immediately accessible from the icons on the screen which takes you to the appropriate area or app. Dropdown menus do have a place, and they have to function well and not be too sensitive and so on like Jan and others were highlighting, but I'm getting used to being able to find things much more directly and I'm sure lots of other people are the same.

Submitted by Daniel Dillon on Sun, 12/09/2012 - 08:03

Some good points Malcolm. It turns out that different people locate information differently. Some like menus, some like links in a summarized list, others like using search. Bookmarks are another popular way to get directly to your frequently targeted page. Here is a good page found googling "how do people navigate within a web site".

In the new site, we will have detailed stats that will show which links are used most and include counts of page views.

Submitted by IMYoung on Sun, 12/09/2012 - 09:18

McGregor wrote:

A site which does carry a lot of information and options on its home page

Sadly Malcolm,  speaking as a (part-time) BBC  employee, it may look good from the front page, but it is seriously dysfunctional otherwise-  and I get the complaints to prove it!

Adding another comment:  a cost  of 30 thousand dollars?  How can that possibly be cost effective, even if it pulls in lots of new members,  it is still a massive expense for the current level of membership?

Submitted by McGregorUS on Sun, 12/09/2012 - 09:36

I agree with the functionality behind the front page of the BBC website - it can be a real problem. It was the design aspects of that (and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden website) that I was recommending.

Submitted by Daniel Dillon on Sun, 12/09/2012 - 15:11

IMYoung wrote:

a cost  of 30 thousand dollars?  How can that possibly be cost effective?

Good question.
Some things to consider:

Does your organization need a web site? List the reasons why or why not.
For your type of organization, and considering your annual budget, what is an appropriate Internet budget?
What do you risk by keeping your current web site? (some concepts: server security risks, supportability vs. obsolescence, cost to manage content, public relations [large topic], membership retention/growth, etc.)
What is your short term Internet strategy?
What is your long term Internet strategy?
Does your web site play a role in your membership retention/growth strategy?
How long should your web site last before being declared obsolete?
Who should be adding content to your web site? (a "webmaster" or any subset of members of the organization?)
Does your organization need a static HTML web site or a dynamic site built with a Content Management System using server-side scripting and a database?
What is a good value for your web site if it is built upon a Content Management System?
What is an appropriate yearly cost for maintaining your web site?
How much should be budgeted for web site graphic design? (# of hours x the going rate)
Should the web site be maintained in-house or by a service provider at a cost?
That should get you started. This is by no means a conclusive list so feel free to add to it. When brainstorming, more is better.

Submitted by Peter George on Sun, 12/09/2012 - 19:45

Cost effective is usually defined as "Economical in terms of the goods or services received for the money spent." We made the original decision to develop a website because NARGS absolutely had to have a web presence. Several years later we decided that we needed to upgrade the website, for all the obvious reasons, and we did. The 'redesign' was budgeted very modestly, and we got what we paid for. Now, several years later, we are moving ahead to create a website that not only is an incremental improvement on the one we have today, but a complete remake. This is a decision of great consequence for our organization, because right or wrong, we have concluded that without a web presence that not only satisfies the needs and desires of our current membership, but one which meets the needs and desires of the next generation of NARGS members, we will diminish and become a footnote in the history of rock gardening. We'd rather not take that road, but prefer to lead the way, and there is no way other than technological sophistication that will get us there.
The cost is relatively high, but when you amortize the $34,000 over 5 years, which is the probable life expectancy of this particular incarnation, it's not that huge an investment. So from our perspective, 'cost effective' is a concept which has guided our approach, but has not dictated our approach.
In simple terms, we are about to bring this organization into the 21st century, and although some of us are quite content with what we've got, we won't be here forever. And the gardeners in their 20s and 30s don't do things the old fashioned way, but rather, will depend to an extraordinary degree on  technology to addend their lives and their experiences. We better be up to the job of being one of the apps they choose, not one they ignore. We cannot guarantee success, but we can (at least this time) guarantee that we're doing this the right way, spending enough to get the job done properly.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Mon, 12/10/2012 - 01:49

Another approach, and perhaps more hopeful than possible to realise, is to bring together some of the great knowledge and varied skills of the Alpine Gardening Societies, to make and distribute 'Natural History' programmes on plants and landscapes. Given that a fundamental part of the Societies is a strong environmental perception, and this will also be a deep concern of many younger people, gardeners or not, a better sense of this as a strong principle behind the way we garden (in a general way) must have to come with time. The extraordinary beauty of natural landscapes, and the history of how people have explored these, are ripe subjects for such programmes.

Submitted by Booker on Mon, 12/10/2012 - 05:06

I wholeheartedly endorse Tim's stated opinion (as seen immediately above), that nothing will influence potential members more than beautifully designed and crafted DVD's/videos featuring alpine plants in their natural landscapes, commentary led tours featuring the rock gardens of members/botanical institutions around the globe and instructional programmes that feature the masters of our hobby demonstrating their craft in their own illustrious domains.
Other subjects spring immediately to mind; plant explorers past and present; allied plant groups (cacti, conifers, ferns, bulbs, etc, etc.); artistic developments in the rock gardening world; innovative ideas from the Czech, Dutch, Scandinavian and Belgian growers; the Show scene in the UK ... the list is endless.
There are doyens in each of our respective countries (and Societies) who have the gravitas, enthusiasm, charisma, knowledge and aptitude to commentate on and extol the virtues of each of these themes and the finished articles could be used by alpine groups across the world at their meetings, as publicity at gardening events and as educational give-aways to schools, uni's and horticultural establishments.
There are already some excellent examples on YouTube from members who are exploring the use of video in the natural places of the world (David Sellars for one) and, with planning, finance and society input these pioneering works could be expanded into works of national interest.
I realise that this discussion has scooted off on a tangent from the intended theme of this topic, but I hope it can inspire replies and interest in equal measure.

Submitted by Daniel Dillon on Mon, 12/10/2012 - 07:33

Tim and Cliff have offered great ideas that I am sure many of us would love to see pursued. Self-publication of these projects can be accommodated by the new web site with relative ease, whether monetized or not. If any of us has an idea of information that should be shared with anyone or everyone, whether a video, or a lecture or a database of reference material, we will have a repository, the new web site, where this "content" can reside and be presented in a logical way. We will need only to propose our ideas to the Web Site Content Editor, Malcolm McGregor, to initiate their incorporation to the web site.

The feature of our new web site that will have the most impact on its success is content. The more quality content, the better. Design, or "theming" as I refer to it, is secondary and must support the content effectively. My concern at the moment is that the Web Development Team learn from the membership what ideas they might have regarding theming, as this needs to be implemented early in the web site development process. It can indeed be modified later on, but we need a starting point.

With that in mind, are there any comments on how to accommodate our proposed growing list of new content? Complete subsection for that content type complete with landing page? Placement on the page? Colours? Isolation from other content? Promoted on front page? All ideas are welcome, and sooner is better than later.

Submitted by Sellars on Mon, 12/10/2012 - 11:17

I agree with Daniel - content is the most important aspect. So the website should be set up to encourage contributions from NARGS members, to tap into our distributed expertise.  One idea would be to have regional sections with members contributing with local information on events, places to visit, hikes, gardens etc.  With a Content Management System any member should be able to contribute.  This type of information could be in A Members Only area to reinforce the website as one of the benefits of NARGS membership.

On the issue of cost effectiveness, the Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia recently took the plunge to upgrade our website with a Content Management System. For Tim and Cliff we even included a video on the Home page!

NARGS is 10 times the size of our British Columbia club (in terms of membership numbers) and an expenditure of $30,000 does not seem out of line given what we were prepared to pay. I see this type of cost as an investment in infrastructure. An infrastructure investment, whether a bridge, a port or an upgraded website, lasts a long time ( much longer than 5 years)  and if built with quality materials, will need only minor costs for future maintenance.  There has to be reasons for rock gardeners to belong to NARGS and an effective website which can act as a "meeting place'  for the far-flung NARGS membership, can go a long way to providing some glue for the organization.

Submitted by McGregorUS on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 03:35

Sorry guys I've just written a really thought through message about content and managed to hit the wrong key as I was about to send it and lost the lot - really pisses me off. I'll try and manage to resurrect bits of it from my memory and this time I'm going to keep posting it as I go, so if the message appears unfinished it is because it is unfinished

Submitted by McGregorUS on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 03:40

I'm really interested with the ideas that Cliff, and Tim, and David have been posting about content and I want to try and make a few comments here after Daniel's rather startling quote

We will need only to propose our ideas to the Web Site Content Editor, Malcolm McGregor, to initiate their incorporation to the web site.

Interesting to read how effective I'm going to be - no promises except I'll do my best guys!


Our website has to carry all sorts of functions


And each of these require a different style because they have different needs.

Some stay around for years (Reference Library stuff), some are come and go, hour-by-hour,minute-by-minute (Coffee Shop and Message boards). I terms of our web presence the ones that change are the ones that should feature upfront because that means that every time someone visits the site there is a sense that things are happening because there is something new - just like the forum.

As a starting point we already have a lot of stuff that we have to find new homes for - might be useful to think of what we are doing as moving house - we're going to have a whole new place to put our stuff and it makes sense to try and put the stuff we use most in the most prominent places. Some stuff (like family documents, insurance policies and the like) are important and we mustn't lose them but we don't keep them on the kitchen table - well we might but we know it's probably not the best place. So perhaps we want big boxes on the frontpage for the stuff we use all the time and smaller boxes for the stuff we really only look at very occasionally - for example, when did you last look at the By-Laws on the website? They're there, and they should be, but you only want to look at them very occasionally if at all. Perhaps they only need to be tucked away behind the settee (the equivalent might be an item on a pull-down menu or off a admin page)

Anyway some areas of content are necessary and already functioning. So I'm going to try and list them as a starter and hope people pick it up from there. Some items may appear in more than one place - no problem.

on the frontpage we might have
- actvie threads
- number online
- plant of the day

- latest new items
- old news archive

- benefits etc
- new members
- renewals

QUARTERLY (access issues to address)
- latest issue
- recent issues
- archive
other things might include
- a featured article
- contributor profiles

- calendar
- next meeting of NARGS
- upcoming chapter meetings

- message boards etc
- fieldtrips etc

- chapter meetings
- newsletters

- Book of the Month
- libeary and other reviews

- seedlists
- news
- applications


- funds
- benefits
-projects funded etc

WIKI - don't know how this fits

- Board & AdCom - names, profiles, timescales
- Constitution and Bye-Laws
- Annual Meeting
- Agendas
- Minutes

This is not meant to be exhaustive and stuff can be cross-referenced so an item might be accessed through two different content areas. But maybe it starts to make sense of what we have at the moment.

And then there are always FUNCTIONS such as


But then you could look at the whole thing from another angle and both could be aspects of the CONTENTS - like turning the whole thing through 90 degrees.

- surveys of different groups of plants
- knowledge about how to grow them
- information on where to get them
- seed exchange to get them

- places we might visit
- guides to places of interest
- meetings to visit them

- gardeners
- explorers
- merchants
- NARGS people
- authors

So there are alternatives. It might be more useful to think of content as an array of possibilities and the contents headings as different ways to pick out linked sets of things. It's a bit like having a toy box full of stuff and emptying it all out on the floor. What we need are different ways of structuring what is there - sorting it into sets of Lego, sets of soldiers, packs of cards, dolls clothes, toy animals and so on.

Over to you -
and don't forget

We will need only to propose our ideas to the Web Site Content Editor, Malcolm McGregor, to initiate their incorporation to the web site.

and pigs might fly !!!

Yes, they might ... now let's look at that proposal ...... what would we need to do ......

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 09:44

It's quite hard to take on board a whole website like this because different people tend to concentrate on different aspects of it - for example on SRGC there is an avid Galanthus section which gets into gear in the autumn and has a huge following right through the winter. Crocus has a similar select clientele. Gardeners tend to become specialists (as well as retaining a general fascination with plants) as they learn more.

As personal example I have an entire run of the AGS Bulletin, bought before it was available on CD, and find the past experiences of gardeners as fascinating as the present. I am greatly looking forward to being able to look at the NARGS archive as well as SRGC as these are put online. I have been writing regular short essays based on writings in the AGS Bulletin on the AGS website, and an historical aspect to the websites like this seems really valuable. Archives are all very well but they can be ignored; the relevance they have to our gardening now can be really enlightening. Information is often presented in short 'soundbites', as on the Forums, but longer blogs and diaries are very good too, and potentially more valuable for newcomers who want to share some of the 'down to earth' nature of gardening.

Submitted by McGregorUS on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 10:38

1. Commentaries on great articles from the past - or 20 articles on American erythroniums - or 10 article son Penstemons etc etc - would be great intros to the archive. I like that.

2. Aren't the Galanthus and Crocus contributions on the SRGC forum rather than the website central (if you take the difference)?

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 11:24

Yes that's true but it shows how the Forum can adapt to different groups of gardeners at different times, which is what a website must be fundamentally all about if it wants to be as catholic as possible. I think NARGS has a greater link to the 'great outdoors' just because of the immensely varied landscapes and climates of North America (like Matt mentioned earlier), and for me this is a big strength - I love seeing some of these plants in the wild and how gardeners in more extreme climates than mine grow them. (For example photoessays on Denver Botanic Garden and some of the National Parks like Little Big Bend, which I have just been reading about, would be fascinating).

Submitted by Mark McD on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 12:03

McGregor wrote:

2. Aren't the Galanthus and Crocus contributions on the SRGC forum rather than the website central (if you take the difference)?

The stats (statistics) of the forums are interesting, quite different if comparing SRGC with NARGS.  Malcolm, you mention the major focus on Galanthus on SRGC, and certainly the metrics bear this out.  The image below (left) shows the Top 10 Boards on SRGC as of today, Galanthus and Crocus take 4th & 5th place respectively. The totals indicate number of posts on each particular board.  Really interesting to see Top 10 Topics (by Views), once again Galanthus takes a strong 4th place, but many of the other favorite boards being viewed come under the category of "community"; Introduction and Birthday Greetings, and as a relief outlet, there is "Moan Moan Moan", 50% counteracted by the "I'm so happy" thread. ;)  I really like Maggi's philosophy on inclusion and endorsement of these tangential boards; Maggi can you summarize again?

The total posts on SRGC is 256,087 at the moment I looked; the Galanthus board with 25,029 posts is approximately 10% of all messages.  NARGS Forum only has 20,659 posts total, we get much less traffic than SRGC, and we haven't been in operation as long.

To be expected, the main interests on NARGS is somewhat different than SRGC, with woodlanders emerging as favorites, although an interest in bulbs in general certainly is appealing to both camps. There also seems a strong budding interest on hardy cacti and succulents on NARGS.

SRGC Forum stats on the left, NARGS Forum stats on the right.

Submitted by McGregorUS on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 12:18

Hoping to have something on Colorado botanic gardens in the next year along the lines you mention, and this next issue of the Quarterly has the second part of John Weiser's article about Nevada which has much more of an emphasis on those plants he includes in his garden.

Like the website the Quarterly has to reflect a range of content to appeal to everyone some of the time, some of the people all of the time etc. And it has to be able to go out on a limb hoping that members will let it do that. There is no set list of things that get in the Quarterly outside the Bulletin Board. Sometimes its mountain tops in the Caucasus, other times its woodland glades in the Appalachians, other times its how to germinate seeds or make a trough. Its not individual items its the totality. And exactly the same with our web presence.

Some of the stuff that is on and will stay on the website is vital, valuable, but unexciting stuff about NARGS (committees, board members, constitution etc etc) but the really exciting stuff is (exactly like the Quarterly) what comes from members. Much of it goes in the forum, some in the WIKI .....

Submitted by IMYoung on Tue, 12/11/2012 - 13:49


I really like Maggi's philosophy on inclusion and endorsement of these tangential boards; Maggi can you summarize again?

Over time, the Forum of the SRGC has become an enormous resource, with tens of thousands of  plant photos, posts and reports from around the world, in the wild and in gardens public and private  but I think it is important to  remember that as an international club, the forum provides a "local chapter" for all members and the more jokey threads have proved, as the stats confirm, that our community really enjoys a place to have a virtual coffee and a chat and that this relaxed, informal  chance to interact  builds that community spirit and strengthens friendships - and that can only be good  for the club as we go forward.

The Web Team is pleased with the reaction to our  new website, which we have instituted in tandem with some areas still on the old site, but interlinked, of course.

As others have said, it is content that is key for any website.  We hope to have videos and so on in the future but the Forum is likely to remain the place where members are happiest to make their contributions.... it is simple and the opportunity for interaction with others is unlimited and that is something that has proved to be of supreme importance in the success of the forum for us.
While our forum has also had an update, the layout remains simple and largely (we hope! ;)) intuitive for users to find their way around with ease.

Feedback from  members and everyone to beginners "stumbling" upon the site from an internet search to PHD students working on a thesis has given us great heart.  We wish NARGS all the best in their quest for a new scheme..... :)

Submitted by McGregorUS on Thu, 12/13/2012 - 03:15

A couple of days ago Daniel asked about how we would like content to appear

With that in mind, are there any comments on how to accommodate our proposed growing list of new content? Complete subsection for that content type complete with landing page? Placement on the page? Colours? Isolation from other content? Promoted on front page? All ideas are welcome, and sooner is better than later.

Problem is that if we don't know the list of possible content areas it's really hard but I tend to feel that different content areas need a page (never heard it called a "landing page' but I like it). In some cases there may not be much below that page (if anything). In other cases that page may have other things below it.

Some things ought always to be on frontpage - those that people access regularly (Forum and Quarterly online stand out here, and this time of year SeedEx is another and the Bulletin Board might be one of those) , and those that we want new visitors to get to easily (Membership offer, privileges, samples etc, payment page etc.).

Other things might be on the frontpage but they don't need the same prominence - NARGS stuff (committees, Board members etc)

We also want right upfront that sense of what we are about that David, Mark, Tim, and others have mentioned - our love of plants from wild places - mountains, deserts and woodland - and the ways we grow them. And when we talk about rock gardens we are really incredibly open-minded - we want to communicate that.

Another question was about "isolation from other content". If the question is meant to be about visual spacing then my feeling is that having a clear space between images (or boxes on a webpage) helps - I sometimes overlap imgaes int he Quarterly but that's usually to make people recognise that they are closely allied. Usually when they are grouped I give them a clear space and I'd prefer the same - like Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the BBC - both use much the same sort of spacing.

If the question is about content being isolated in separate content areas then I would hope that it would be possible to conceive of the content as a network, reticulated, so that it can be moved across as much as up and down, like a root system.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Thu, 12/13/2012 - 06:01

One thing I've long felt would be good on the AGS website, and is shown very well on the SRGC opening page, is changing images of landscapes, plants, gardens, shows - this describes the interests of the Societies succinctly and attractively, and is the first thing that anyone's eyes light on. I've no idea how easy this is to do, nor how it can be changed with time, but images from the Wiki for example could be used in this way, changing through the year appropriately.

A title page that has all the important things there all the time, but with change and new things appearing from time to time, would be exciting but presumably also requiring a lot of input from the few people who run it. For example, highlighting items like the Archive might lead to more discussions and insights into this; or the seed exchange, on the huge diversity of strategies that plants have in dispersal and germination of seed; or down to earth practical pieces on cultivation and propagation.

The most interesting websites, as opposed to Forums, about plants tend to be those centred on individuals like Panayoti who are always bringing in new and fascinating information about plants that no-one has heard of! How many people new to a website will immediately gravitate to the Forum, and how many delve into the items on the title page? I agree very much with Malcolm about being incredibly open minded, because all the specialist alpine societies have memberships that go way beyond alpines and that seems their great strength.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Thu, 12/13/2012 - 10:07

As a quick addendum to this - I think the best book I have on alpine gardening is 'Rocky Mountain Alpines' - Alpines '86, because of its wonderful breadth of coverage, which includes the experience of gardeners from all around the world. It would be a great model for where the website might go, if it's not there already in many respects.

Submitted by RickR on Thu, 12/13/2012 - 11:20

McGregor wrote:

Some things ought always to be on frontpage - ...and this time of year SeedEx is another...

Yes, although the Seed Ex, even when not actually open for business, is commonly looked at throughout the year by nonmember passersby.  Also as previously mentioned, often there should be multiple ways to get to a destination content page.  Like with the seed ex, it is my opinion that it should always be accessible from the front page as well as the page listing membership privileges.

I agree that changing images while viewing a page is good thing.  An important concern is that those image files are not too large.  When NALS redesigned their opening page a couple years ago, their image files were so large that I couldn't navigate the page at all... ever!  I had to block the image first (and something most users, I think, wouldn't know how to do).  My DSL Lite connection averages a bit over 1MB per second.  NALS has since rectified the problem.

Submitted by chris.wyse on Sat, 12/15/2012 - 07:04


I'm not very a good at design aesthetics - I'm looking for function.  From my perspective, I want a web site that lets me easily search technical articles, simple lookup of various plants with good descriptions, and good forums.  For plant descriptions (I think these are mainly on the Wiki), I'm looking for images of leaves, flowers, and entire plant, soil pH, gardening zones, country of origin, invasiveness, seed germination info, and general plant culture.  For the forums, I want to be able to easily find the correct forum for my post, probably from an initial page that lists all forums with descriptions.  Gardenweb is a good example of this.  Additionally, I want to be able to quickly search one forum or all of them for information.

I understand that some of the information I want may not be available, and some things may be beyond scope of your contract.  Just throwing in my quick two cents, without really looking into what's currently in place... 

Another useful thing would be the events calendar.  I'd like to see events as soon as I enter the site, probably on a side bar.  I don't want to drill through a few links to find events, only to realize that they haven't been updated.  Additionally, if I login, I'd like to see events for my chapter, or possibly even without a login, just by saving a cookie and displaying events for whatever chapter I looked at last time.

Hopefully this helps a little  --  not sure it really answers your question....  I was really on here hunting for the new 2013 seed exchange list....