Setting up an organization on the interwebs
June 7, 2016 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Can I set up this website myself or do I need to call in the professionals?

I have no experience in web design but have been designated the tech person in a group. I'm charged with getting a webpage for a not-for-profit professional organization up and running. The site would be mostly informational. It would include public material such as newsletters, information/bios of members, an faq, event listings, forms, links to our social media sites and more perhaps more private material such as meeting minutes. For examples as to the general type of stuff we'd have, see here, here and here. It would be good to have a members only area with sign in required. There would be no sales. It would be relatively static, perhaps with a news section updated every month or so.

For the medium term (2-4 years) I'd be in charge of putting things together and maintaining the site - either on my own or (if you tell me that's a terrible idea) by hiring someone. The website would then be passed on to someone else, also probably an amateur, to maintain. Both the organization and I are in Canada.

My first impulse (I guess the podcast ads work) was to use Sqarespace. The domain I'd like to use (a .ca domain) is available, and a bit of googling tells me that I can map the .ca domain over. It looks relatively easy, hosting is included, the "business" pricing is well within our budget and it seems like it would be simple to pass on to my successor. Is this a reasonable way to go or is this a terrible idea?

Additional information possibly of interest -

- The organization has money available to build and maintain a site, but this is not the billionaires' polo club
- I'm pretty comfortable with general design stuff and have/can get good photos
- Ideally I'd like to have this happen in the next couple of months, as I'm off work until mid-August
posted by Cuke to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can certainly do all the work yourself. Do register the domain before using it in search queries or checking on availability sites to avoid the chance of an unscrupulous "farmer" snapping it up to resell.
posted by sammyo at 8:19 PM on June 7, 2016

Yes, this is exactly what Squarespace is for. The templates and features are straightforward to use.
posted by A hidden well at 8:46 PM on June 7, 2016

Grab the domain post haste.

I once moved the sucky website of a non profit from GeoCities to hosting and domain name and set up a PayPal account for them so they could take online donations. They oohed and ahed at my lame, amateurish web design. A few months later, a professional IT person began volunteering, took the project over and vastly improved it.

Based on that, I say just get started. Whatever grunt work you put in will pave the way for something better.

Other alternatives: Independent hosting and a Word Press install. Set up a free gmail address and Blogger blog. You can add your own domain to Blogger as well and there is no ongoing hosting cost.

I do not personally know how to have a single website under Blogger with some sections that are members only and some public, but you could absolutely create two free blogs, one public and one private requiring login. I did find this membership widget and this discussion about having members/community with blogger.

My understanding is this is do-able with WordPress. This artcle lists at least one free membership plugin. In that past, I have had WordPress installs on my own hosting. The hosting was around $100 annually, which is substantially less than the Square space business pricing I am seeing.

So, you can probably get it cheaper than Squarespace, but I am not familiar with that platform. Your desire to have some stuff public and some stuff members only strikes me as probably the most challenging feature you want. I would want to look at different platforms and consider how each plays with that interest.
posted by Michele in California at 9:03 PM on June 7, 2016

Building a website with Weebly is like building with Lego -- if I can do it, anyone can do it. Lots of templates and the ability to make members-only area.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:10 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you're here in Canada. If you decide to go with a hosting service and build your own site (which is honestly quite do-able; modern CMSs are easier to work with than ever - see WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) I'd like to recommend Ethical Host in Toronto to you. The pricing is very reasonable, the charitable aspect of their business is attractive to me, and they're green. The owner is very hands-on and accessible when I've had difficulties in the past (all caused by me, embarrassingly). They offer a 10% discount to non-profits.

(Disclosure: I am a customer, 5+ years, but don't participate in the reseller program so recommendations are of no direct financial benefit to me.)
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:38 AM on June 8, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the encouragement. I registered the domain this morning and I'll most likely do a comparison of Weebly and Squarespace, then decide which to use. I think Wordpress is going to be too much to take on, especially because I get the feeling that if I get it up and running I may end up being tech support for the organization the rest of my life. But perhaps I'll take another look before throwing it out completely.
posted by Cuke at 1:48 PM on June 8, 2016

You might look into going with a framework like Club Express, as it apparently backends a lot of typical group-oriented modules like account registration and login, e-payment, an events calendar. Have a look and see what you think. Personally, I haven't used it, but I've recently joined the technology board of a local chapter of a national org, and they have favorable opinions on it. Apparently it's quite capable, and their technical support is, from what I hear, fairly knowledgeable, innovative, and resourceful.
posted by a good beginning at 2:34 PM on June 8, 2016

« Older Who is/was/are Virgil Kalyana Mittata Iordache?...   |   Why won't they just let me pay for my car? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.