Online Memorials - Selection Based on Website Features
Author: Hal Stevens
Just like everyone deserves a proper and fitting funeral and burial/cremation, your departed loved ones deserve a high quality online memorial. In these times when we have the ability to share our memories with family, friends, co-workers and others we need to make an online memorial part of the funeral and grieving process. So, just what should we look for in both a website that hosts memorials, and in the quality and features of the memorials themselves? In this article we will take a look at the things to look for when choosing a memorial website.
When we do a search for memorial or online memorial we find a multitude of choices. Some are set up with a look and feel of a social networking website while some have the appearance of a more traditional website. The critical factor here is not to let your emotions over-ride the need to analyze the various features each website has to offer. And, to see what you may need sometime in the future whether you think you need it now or not. Establishing an online memorial should not be any more flippant of a decision than you would make in choosing a funeral home, burial vs. cremation, or cemetery. Let's face it, you want to make the right decision the first time. You don't want to have to continuously set up online memorials on a variety of websites. You want to pick the right one and enjoy continuously updating and visiting the online memorial and the memories it evokes.
Regardless of which online memorial site and style you choose, the website should have certain basic features, look friendly and be easy to navigate with lots of intra-website page links. In that way, you don't get stuck on a particular page with limited ways to get to the features you want elsewhere on that website.
Now, let's get into some of the specifics of what a good online memorial website should offer.
Several ways to order/establish your memorial and a good system to find memorials. With more than one path to get to the order form you can feel comfortable that when it comes time to update and add to your memorial the developer of the website has made it easy for you. This is usually the case even if the order form and edit functions are separate. You also want to know that when people come looking for the memorial and can't remember the url, or the specific address of it, that they will have an easy time finding it by other methods provided by the website.
Sample memorials readily visible from thumbnail, or other, links on the Home Page. You should be able to see samples of the online memorials that have already been established on the website. This will allow you to see the potential and the drawbacks of your online memorial on that website. You hopefully will see lots of positive features that you will keep in mind when planning your memorial. You also may see some warning signs that may cause you to beware of the look and feel of the memorials and help you decide that these don't meet your expectations.
Resources with links to companies, organizations and associations that will be helpful to anyone who needs information about funerals, burials, cremation, etc. The website should act as a resource for you. It should provide various components toward a complete community system. The website should assist in meeting your needs for information about as many places to seek help or assistance related to the death care industry. It should be a mini topical search engine.
Testimonials from current customers and viewers of the website. People should have the ability to leave feedback about the website. These comments can often give you a clue about the level of satisfaction with the website. There doesn't have to be a large amount of website testimonials there just needs to be some. A website without any user/viewer testimonials often shows that those who visited the website are uninvolved or apathetic.
Helpful articles that allow for both professionals and "regular" folks to give advice, tell stories that you may relate to, and cover a variety of topics. The website should provide articles on a variety of death care and grief support related topics. The articles should provide numerous perspectives and not just the viewpoints of the website owner. Hopefully, articles are available from both professionals (Psychologists, counselors, doctors, religious figures etc.) and lay people. This mix is important because it is frequently the stories of someone who has gone through a particular situation that is the most helpful since it was written from the heart, as a grief release, and was written in simple, non-technical language. The articles should have a comment feature so the reader can give feedback. There should also be (when available) contact info of the authors so that readers of this community can contact them outside of the website.
Provide a forum with suggested topics. The forum is an excellent way for members of the website community to ask for and seek advice. Similar to the articles area there is interaction for all to see and the ability to contact each other outside of the website. If you find a memorial website where there are suggested forum topics with little or no participation start the conversations yourself. And, invite those you know to participate. It may just be that the website, though excellent, is new; or, it may be that everyone is waiting for someone else to be first. Your posts and those of your invited friends will signal that it is ok for others to join in.
Offer a community incentive of some sort. This could be anything from free hosting, to some other value added incentive like donating a portion of your fees to a worthwhile organization. From a personal standpoint some people like to be associated with others who have an affinity to a particular cause; others, would rather make the choice of where to donate their money on their own and find this dictatorial since they may prefer donations going to another preferred charity. This can happen even if they agree that the charity supported by the website is worthwhile.
The company behind the website should be a member in good standing with one, or more, recognized and reputable organizations or associations in the death care industry. There are many excellent organizations that provide support and assistance to companies within the death care industry. They provide information, ideas, technical support, and so much more. The fact that the online memorial website, and its owner, is a member of one of those trade organizations or associations is a positive sign. This shows that the website owner cares about what is happening in this industry and wants to associate with positive influences for self-regulation and improvement.
If the online memorial website charges for its hosting services there should be some type of unconditional money back guarantee for a predetermined length of time. Websites with a social networking concept usually give their services for free. Typically, in the arena of online memorials, they do not offer the features available in the better websites. On the free websites there tend to be a lot more participants who are younger (no credit card is necessary to use it) and many who are less dedicated to creating a high quality memorial site. This is not always the case but it is something that must be considered when viewing and selecting your memorial website. The online memorial websites that charge hosting or participation fees should give some type of grace period before charges begin, or, some type of money back guarantee. Remember, you are the customer and you must be satisfied or you should email or call the website contact and let them know of your problem or dissatisfaction. If they are helpful and have good customer service then they should be commended with your loyalty.
The online memorial website should have some provision to assure its longevity. Let's face the facts of business, especially internet related business. Over the years many internet business have come and gone. Some looked great. Some had lots of apparent online participation. Some had huge venture capitalist dollars funding them. Yet, a great many, even those with big names, folded. The last thing you want is to pick a website that seems to meet all of your requirements and then find out that, like many businesses, it was undercapitalized or mismanaged, and can not afford to continue operating. You want your online memorial to last a long time. See if the website owner has made any provisions to assure that it will be around for a long time, just like you would expect a cemetery to be around for your lifetime. You don't want to be forced to move your loved ones virtual presence anymore than you would be forced to move their physical presence.
Commercialism should be kept to a minimum. Advertising should be kept as separated from your memorial as possible. It is ok to offer some website related value added features for which there is a charge but they should be tastefully presented and properly placed. Just like you would not want to see billboards selling all types of products, in the cemetery, over the gravesite of your departed loved one, it is distasteful to find internet advertising that is unrelated to the memorial site, placed next to their precious photos and your memories.
The website should list all of the features and what you get offered for your time and money. There should be specifics telling you how much text, photo, audio and video space your online memorial can have. And, there should be an explanation of the features that you can use to create your online memorial.
Blog. The website should have a companion blog that will give you updated news and commentary about relevant issues concerning the website and various topics related to what is happening in the death care industry. It is important that you know these so that you will be aware of changes in the law and the latest trends (i.e., the increase in cremations, legal status of roadside memorials, "green" funerals, etc.).
About Us , About Me, etc. The website should tell you something about why it was developed, about the owner, and about its mission. You should know that there is passion, dedication and caring behind the pages of the website. You should be able to relate to the owner; not as a businessperson, but as a fellow human with a story to tell. Maybe a story similar to yours or one that you sympathize or empathize with.
Choosing the right online memorial website on which to upload text, photos, audio and video should be a well researched decision. It should be one that you feel good about and comfortable with. Armed with the information in this article you will have a better chance of finding the correct match for your online memorial needs.
About the author: Hal Stevens is the developer and owner of CemeterySpot, Inc., http://www.cemeteryspot.com , a full featured and content rich online memorial website. Hal can be reached by email: email@example.com or on his person cell phone: 405-210-4363
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