This page hasn't been updated since 2012. Some of the details may be dated (e.g., cost) and some of the specific suggestions may no longer be best-in-class. The general concept is still sound as of 2023.
Creating a Website is a great way to stretch a limited budget, the internet provides the best information distribution method for your donated dollar.
Determine what content you want
There is nothing more frustrating than someone who wants your help, but don't know exactly what that is. So before moving on to the next step, determine roughly how you want the website to look, what sections you want on it, what content you want. And by all means don't re-invent the wheel, steal as many ideas as you can from other Collective websites. There are also free open source templates that you can use.
Determine what you can afford
Unless you can find someone to donate hosting, over a two year period you can expect to pay $200 for registering a domain name and hosting fees.
Sometimes you will find a nerdy volunteer who will offer to host it out of their apartment. While this may seem impressive, many a website and hours of hard work have been lost because of a power failure. A regular web hosting service has these problems too but they also run backups all the time to insure that your data will not be lost. This is a priceless service.
Find a web savvy volunteer
While this isn't rocket science, it helps to have someone that knows what they are doing. They can be in demand, as a result some of them can be flakey. The important thing is to be very clear up front as to what you want the website to look and feel like as well as what information should be where. The more time you put into planning it, the easier it is for them to make it. From their perspective there is nothing worse than dealing with someone who doesn't know what they want and keeps changing their mind.
Sometimes you will find someone who is good with graphics but not with "code" or visa versa. In this case you may have to find two volunteers that work well together.
Register a domain name
You don't actually buy domain names, you just lease them from a Domain Name Registrar at yearly rate. They all do the same thing key things, but oddly enough they cost different amounts. PorkBun has good prices. Don't use GoDaddy.
You will most likely want to pick a .org (top level) domain name. Since they are used for organizations. As you may have guessed .com is for commerce websites.
Find a Web Hosting Service
Once you have rented the domain name, you need somewhere to park it -- just like a bicycle. A Web Hosting Service is where all the files (HTML, graphics, and scripting) will be kept. Unlike registrars, Web Hosting Services offer many different services and at various prices.
An example is DreamHost if you pay two years up from they run at a rate of $7.95 -- this is a good deal. They even have a free account if you have 501(c)(3) status.
In order to sign up for a free non-profit account, you would first need to sign up at the regular sign up page. Once you get to the payment page, you would need to print it out, and make sure that the Dreamhost account number is shown on the page. The last step would be to fax that page along with proof of your non-profit status at 714-990-2600.
You would also be able to read more about this process here.
The features you want to compare in a web hosting service are:
- Disk Storage -- Just like an iPod, how much can fit?
- Monthly Bandwidth -- This becomes a bigger issue with lots of graphics and multimedia.
- MySQL Databases -- You will need this if you plan on using a Content Management System (CMS).
Re-direct DNS / Name Servers
Once you have a web hosting service, they can help you figure out how to set up the DNS. In a nut shell you need to point the registrar to the web hosting service, which can take up to 48 hours. The web hosting service will give you two or three strange looking domain names.
You will then need to log into the Registrar where you purchased your domain name and set the Name Servers for your domain to those two or three strange looking domain names. If this is done correctly, you should be able to do a WHOIS search on the domain and see the change.
Content Management Systems
Once they are set up, Content Management Systems (CMS) are an easy way for any volunteer(s) to update website content without having to involve a web savvy volunteer. The computer world has its own brand of non-profits and they are called 'open source projects'.
Joomla! is one of the most powerful Open Source Content Management Systems on the planet. It is used all over the world for everything from simple websites to complex corporate applications. Joomla! is easy to install, simple to manage, and reliable.
This is what www.slcbikecollective.org, www.sopobikes.org, and www.bikecollectives.org runs on. There are thousands of pre-made templates (ex: Joomla Hut) to choose from as well as even more extensions to quickly bolt on forums, picture galleries, email lists, calendars, volunteer signups, donations, news, blogs, user accounts, etc.
Wordpress is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. What a mouthful. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.
More simply, WordPress is what you use when you want to work with your blogging software, not fight it.
- Network Solutions is our Registrar.
- XMissionis our web hosting service, they are a local company that donates the web hosting service.
- Joomla is the CMS that we use.
- Numerous volunteers contribute to the website content via the Joomla interface. We have two volunteers that work on the overall website Girl Friday Inspired does our graphics and Jonathan Morrison works with Joomla.
- Joomla Components we use:
- Dreamhost is our host and domain registrar
- SASS::CMS is our content management program. SASS::CMS is still in development contact Jay if you want to know more.
- A few volunteers manage the site though the SASS::CMS web-based interface.