Good website designers are in high demand, so prices are high. If you are a non-profit organization then an expensive website is not on your list of urgent priorities. You might just need an online presence to list contact details and personnel.
The most common way to build a website is to buy a domain name ($12 a year) and hosting ($60 a year for basic hosting). You then install WordPress (free). You then spend months finding a theme, installing plugins and tweaking your site before you give up and pay a designer to do it all.
Luckily there are free and low-cost alternatives to both WordPress and expensive designers. The answer is to use a purpose-designed website builder.
01. IM Creator
IM Creator WYSIWYG interface is very powerful and easy to use with its drag and drop editor (see below). You can create mobile and desktop versions of your site and countless templates mean your site can be created in just a few minutes.
If you are okay with a domain like http://www.i-m.mx/Usernamer/sitename/ then IM Creator is totally free.
You can get a proper .com domain at a cost of $5.95 per month including hosting. (You would have to pay $6-9 per month for if you were getting it separately.) Opting for the paid service also removes the footer ad that is on the free sites you create with the tool.
Hostt gives you totally free hosting on the one condition that you buy your domain names through them. The cost of a domain is $2 - $5 per year more than through other suppliers but that is your only cost.
Hostt only allows WordPress and Joomla sites, so there is no easy-to-use interface. Support is limited to a ticket system.
03. Google Sites
Google Sites allows you to build a free website, but there are potential issues you should consider.
Google’s branding is very obvious at the top of the site. You could put up with this if your site is only going to be for internal use, but it is inappropriate for a public website.
There are many HTML tags that you are not allowed to use on your sites. The effect of this rule is that no Web 2.0 apps can be used – no iframe, no script tags.
Google also tends to abandon outposts of its empire that do not fit in with its big development plan. You would not be happy if you built your website using Google Sites and then received an email to tell you that Google Sites would be closing in six weeks’ time.
Ghost is the new kid on the block and is marketed as an alternative and easy way to build a blog.
It is primarily a blogging platform and is not designed or intended as a website builder. You will need some coding skills and the interface is not simple to use.
You need to type HTML tags before and after each bock of text, hardly making it user-friendly.
Neocities is the reincarnation of Geocities from the 1990s.
Yahoo bought and then deleted Geocities from the face of the Internet (except in Japan). Neocities is intended to fulfill the original role that Geocities did, of allowing anyone and everyone to build a website using HTML, CSS and java and have it online for free.
If you want to build your organization’s website using HTML from the ground up and have a web address that is a subdomain of Neocities (eg yourname.neocities.org) then Neocities is great. Most organizations will want a simple WYSIWYG interface so need to look elsewhere.
Blogger is owned by Google and is unlikely to go away any time soon, but you can never tell what Google will close down next.
Blogger is fully integrated with other Google programs such as Adsense and Google Plus and posts are indexed very quickly after publishing.
There are a large number of paid and free themes you can use to personalize your site, but most are rather dated.
The interface is a simple one and designing an attractive website takes a lot of work.
If your organization is looking for a simple-to-use website builder with a drag and drop interface then the choices are limited. There are many free or low cost website builders available, but free ones generally come with too many compromises such as ads and third party branding.
The best way to approach the problem is to make a list of your essential requirements and another of your desirable features before you start searching. When you have feature list you can compare and score each solution.
What criteria would your organization specify as non-negotiable in a website-builder? Have you found a perfect solution or had experience with any of the above solutions? Please share your experience using the comment box below.
Words: Daniel Katz
Daniel Katz is a freelance writer who happens to be an internet marketing, web development and web design aficionado. When he's not writing he probably researches the latest trends in the web design and development scene to keep up to date for his various projects.
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