Find the ideal ready-to-go website
Ready-to-go websites are pre-configured meaning that once installed – often by a company - they are ready for you to add content. Want an event website or a news website? There are ready-to-go packages out there for you.
This post is from a series of articles that outline how to obtain the best website for your organisation. Other articles in this series: get the best website for your budget, choose the best website builder and obtain the perfect custom website.
What's out there
Below are some examples of platforms whose functionality is geared to a specific purpose:
- www.elgg.com – create your own social network
- www.civicrm.org – manage your relationship with your constituents
- www.ethicalstudios.com – a flexible platform tailored specifically to NGOs.
- www.openatrium.com – open source intranets for remote collaboration
- www.openpublicapp.com – an open source platform tailored to the needs of government
- www.tattlerapp.com – an open source tool for monitoring the news
Ready-to-go solutions can grow with your content in a way that do-it-yourself website builders simply cannot. The best ones offer good usability, are cost effective and can grow with your organisation.
Know what you are getting
Companies should have examples of their products for you to experiment with to see if they are right for your organistion. Ideally, find a platform that matches your requirements from the outset.
A platform that is closely suited to your needs will give you good functionality within a tried and tested platform for a fraction of what a custom website would cost.
You can add functionality to many ready-to-go websites. Open source products give you full control allowing you to add from a wide selection of modules. Want a forum? Plug it in. You’ll need to be quite technical though, or you could consider employing a professional.
We’ve found that NGO websites can greatly benefit from the following:
Document Libraries – Store thousands of documents within your website. Make it easy to browse them in seconds using faceted search (honing in: Europe > Great Britain > London > etc.) so that your visitors can access your research
Multilanguage – Display and manage two or more languages.
Event management – Clearly present your events, allow online registration and payment, manage your event attendees.
There are many companies out there who provide functionality that you can easily plug-in to your website. Here are some favourites:
- www.surveymonkey.com for market research, event planning and stakeholder feedback.
- www.mailchimp.com for newsletter creation and distribution
- www.eventbrite.com for events
- www.twitter.com for tweet feeds
- www.facebook.com for comments and buttons
- www.youtube.com for embedded videos
- www.flickr.com for photo slideshows.
- www.mapbox for displaying information on maps
More specialised user experience
A platform that is already tailored to your sector should take your users’ needs into account. Furthermore, the best companies will be able to offer their expertise in analysing your content and how your user groups are likely to want to journey around the website. This will pay dividends in the long run as it ensures user satisfaction so they will want to come back.
Stay cutting edge
Web companies should be able to adapt their platforms should your needs change. Furthermore, web companies often continue to update their products at no extra cost to the user.
What to watch out for
In contrast to do-it-yourself website builders you will need to employ a developer to set up these ready-to-go options. Furthermore, the quality and flexibility of these sites varies considerably. It is worth shopping around to get an idea of what is available.
Is it flexible enough to suit your requirements?
Companies design their products to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. This means that certain specific requirements cannot be satisfied. Make sure you know what you needs are now and in the future and look for a system that is tailored to your sector.
After a few hours of training, these packages are ready for you to create your own website. Although you can reduce your costs if you upload and organise your content yourself, you will not benefit from the knowledge and experience that companies can provide. I believe this is an essential ingredient to a successful website.
Many companies offer products with designs that can be modified to suit the look and feel of your brand. This helps to keep costs down but it clearly has its limits. If you want a custom design you will need to be prepared to pay for it.
Search engine friendly
Be sure your website is clearly visible to search engines. Well-structured sites and clean code make it easy for search engines to index content and result in higher rankings.
Code that satisfies accessibility requirements
Web accessibility is increasingly required by law in many countries. It benefits people with disabilities including older people with changing abilities due to aging.
Hidden support costs
Websites need to be maintained; make sure that you understand support costs and ensure that security updates and content and technical support are included in your contract.
A ready-to-go website is an excellent choice for an organisation whose site functionality is relatively complex or is likely to evolve. This solution can be even more cost-effective than do-it-yourself website builders, as everything is already set up. Furthermore, responsibility for the build and design is taken out of your hands. Even though costs tend to be higher than website builders these platforms offer great value for money and offer possibilities that cheaper options simply cannot.