Low-cost, low-maintenance web infrastructure for volunteer group?
April 11, 2013 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I have been tasked with finding a web solution for a volunteer group associated with a university. There are already pages on one of the departments' websites, however, it will be months before any changes can be made to that as it's under the rule of a CMS which is about to be migrated and to which we won't be able to really do anything until November. We want all the usual stuff like a blog and a Twitter widget and latest news and yadda yadda, but anything we add - and possibly anything we remove - would have to wait till November if we use the existing hosting arrangement. This is why I want to stick up another web infrastructure for us somewhere else, probably not hosted by the university.

Because of the slow change control process, it might be necessary to embed some of the existing page content in iframes rather than having it in two places at once.

Meanwhile, back on the intranet side of it, someone has started sharing documents on a hideous Sharepoint back end which is also part of the university's infrastructure.

Meanwhile, another person has started a Google Plus group.

We would like to pull together a beautiful, easy-to-maintain web architecture over which we have total creative control and which will cost little or no money. (Our budget is around the $0.00 mark.)

I am a programmer, have a good amount of web programming experience, but have not attempted to create an entire website end-to-end before. I have very little spare time, and I also don't want to be the only person capable of maintaining the site. So I'm looking for the fastest cheapest solution for front-end and intranet, that can be implemented quickly by an expert, but also maintained easily by a nonexpert.
posted by tel3path to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Blogger? Tumbler? Squidoo?
posted by Michele in California at 1:43 PM on April 11, 2013

Install a Wordpress.org template. Website

It's free for most templates. (You can upgrade and buy templates too) You will of course need hosting and a domain. That won't be free unless you can host it on a hosting account you already have.

You can easily install Iframes and it's a very user friendly CMS. It has the exact widgets that you will need for twitter and whatnot. You can also add other administrators to edit without full admin permissions.

Most backend hosting will have an "install popular packages" option in which you can install a Wordpress. Then you will install the template you want after the default install. (Call your hosting company if you are unsure how to install a Wordpress.org package.)

I do tons of wordpress so if you want any other info, let me know.

My website along with all of my client websites are on wordpress.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:44 PM on April 11, 2013

Response by poster: I think that I am going to recommend using Google Plus Communities for an intranet.

I may not have a choice in whether we pay for hosting and a domain which is why I'm leaning away from Wordpress. At the same time, others in the comms team want full control over the layout and appearance, which kills Blogger as a possibility, and I don't think Tumblr is remotely suitable. Squidoo seems to be more about single pages than sites, AFAICT.

I am wondering about Moonfruit since their free service seems to allow a great deal of creative control. Does anyone have experience with Moonfruit?
posted by tel3path at 2:06 PM on April 11, 2013

Blogger apparently recently improved ability to edit html/css/js for their templates. Linky

Just offering the article in case that might put Blogger back on the table for you. I recently downloaded the mobile app and that has made a world of difference for me. So I think it can be pretty non-tech-person friendly. The mobile app basically lets me write posts. I have to log into the site via a browser if I want to do other stuff. It seems to me that could idiot-proof the process if you needed it idiot-proofed for some people.

(Not arguing "for" blogger. I just happen to be fiddling with my blogger account today and happened to see the article. So I thought I would share.)
posted by Michele in California at 3:01 PM on April 11, 2013

How many users? There are commercial products you might want to consider that have super cheap or free licenses if you're small enough. As to hosting, there are plenty of rather cheap 2GB (RAM) VPS deals out there, which is beefy enough to support a small team using web based groupware.

I've been evaluating/tinkering with Confluence for other purposes, and ran across some other similar products when I was scouting the lay of the land. Like Alfresco.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:03 AM on April 14, 2013

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