The Grand Lodge of Alabama is the first stop on the tour of American Grand Lodges.
Alabama Masonic membership:
30,952 – 2006
29,775 – 2007
gain/loss – 1,177
data from MSANA
State population – 4,627,851 as of 2007,
About the Grand Lodge:
Founded June 11, 1821, previous charters in the state had been issued by the grand Lodges of Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Alabama is one of a few states to have a Wikipedia entry with this information.
The website is very straight forward in that most of the active links live right on its front page. The site is built on a simple HTML architecture which allows some flexibility in the overall structure and content. The plus is that if there is a desire to add something, it just needs to be hand coded in, the down side is that it needs to be hand coded in which can be time consuming for the coder. I tip my hat to the person maintaining the site, as I know the monumental challenges that it can be to manage just such a project.
Some of what I found on my excursion there:
At the time of my visit on March 18th, there were three updated messages, two of which were from January 2009, and one from December of 08.
From the main page, there is a wide selection of links and content to spend some time on. I did find the “how do I” link an interesting addition to help those not familiar with how to navigate a web site to find what they be interested in finding. Some may overlook this or trivialize it as unnecessary, but with an older member base unfamiliar with the web this could be an excellent tool to guide users through the operation. The “how do I” list covers everything from reporting a members passing to finding lodge events. This latter item is an excellent feature and precursors to a state calendar, but it keeps those interested in knowing what is going on informed.
The only draw back to some of this deeper site navigation was the inconsistency of the page layout from the sites original style and layout navigation. This is purely a cosmetic function though as the content is pertinent. I mention this as these aspects are important when visitors are perusing the site and want to jump around to various locations.
From the top level site, another inconsistency I found is the diversity of file types being linked to. What I noticed were links to PDF’s, text files, word files, and other off site links for information. In some situations this practice is ok, but unless the originating site has consistency, it interjects another random element into an experience. An option may be to translate the various file types right into text and drop it into the HTML. That way all the info is searchable and simple to pull.
One thing I will say about the site is that it contains a lot of information and that it has a site map. So if you are really looking for something, you can go right to the map to find it.
My only disappointment in the site is that it doesn’t say much about Masonry’s relationship to the state or to its members. This is more of an aesthetic opinion about the site rather than a functional one, when looking at it through the eyes of a first time visitor, especially in a state as vibrant and beautiful as Alabama. There isn’t much visually to say “this is Alabama Masonry” which misses the opportunity to hammer home the first impression from the digital enquirer.
Another area of concern, to me, is the degree of personal information posted on some of the pages. Again, this a personal call but it leaves open the opportunity for spam or unwanted correspondence.
One question that the site does not seem to readily address is a strong answer to the 2be1ask1 invitation. In the event that a young Alabamian man ventures into the site, there is not an immediate means to get more information, or to have the question of “who to ask” in the 2be1 proposition.
Overall, the site is sound and communicates what it needs to communicate. What seems to be missing is just the flavor Alabama Masonry.
Next – the Grand Lodge of Alaska