We’ve received inquiries from several organizations asking how we created our website. The tools and hosting services we used to create this site are completely free and are accessible to virtually anyone with a little website design and development experience. How do we do it?
We use the WordPress.com blog platform as the foundation of our site. WordPress.com is the most powerful do-it-yourself blog platform in the world today. It was designed for blogs, but has features that enable you to create a more conventional looking website. We have discovered that it is a great platform for an association website like this.
WordPress.com is a hosted service. You do not have to download software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server. It is configurable and flexible, with a huge set of features that make managing your site a breeze. There are dozens of templates to choose from to customize the look and feel of your site (page layout, titles, menus, columns, colors, fonts, etc.). We selected a standard theme called Contempt which gives our site it’s unique look and feel.
Every feature you see on our site (photo galleries, newsreel, widgets, comments, embedded maps, embedded videos, pagination, polls, etc.) is part of the WordPress.com feature set, and new features are being added all the time.
WordPress.com also handles all of the important behind-the-scenes technical tasks like file management, domain name mapping, site statistics, spam control, site backup, version control, search engine integration, etc.. We use all of these features and don’t have to custom program a single thing.
But the best part about WordPress.com is that it’s so easy to use by those who create the content for your site. Mere mortals who are not computer geniuses (sound like people in your organization?) can easily learn how to use the WordPress authoring tools to create web pages, photo galleries and news postings on their own. Once they’re familiar with the tools, they don’t need much support. We love it.
Separately, we use a few external tools that enable us to easily communicate with our users. These are optional, but they’re completely free too.
- Google Feedburner to automatically distribute our news postings via email and RSS feeds
- Google Apps to provide custom email addresses using our domain name (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Google Docs for the feedback form on the Contacts page
- Google Translate to display the site in more than 50 different languages
- Polldaddy to manage embedded opinion polls.
Lastly, we use the tools provided by the top three web search engines to enhance the visibility of our site in search results. Yep, all free too.