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A new client of ours said that he had been bemused by the quote and tender process.
Having laid out his needs and met with each tenderer, he'd found that different agencies had quoted from between £800 and £12,000. This is not uncommon, indeed, there may be companies or people who would build for even less. Having discussed the subject with him for over an hour, I found myself defending both the high and low end of quotes, and also our own. So I thought it was time to write a blog and here it is
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Welcome to TechSoup! Thanks for making your first post, but please make sure you read our rules about vendor advertising and self-promotional posts. We look forward to your other comments that can help non-profit organizations as long as they don't all link back to your company web site. :-)
Christian Nielsen's Blog
Your web site seems to be mostly about promoting your design services - and doesn't at all take into account the very low budgets nonprofits, libraries, NGOs and other mission-based organizations are under (that's TechSoup's primary audience, FYI). Your blog also never mentions the fundamental importance of accessible design, something any organization here in the USA that receives federal funds MUST consider (and that *any* organization *should* consider).
But the question is worth exploring - how much does a web site cost, at minimum, for a nonprofit, library, charity, etc.?
Here in the USA, hosting organizations are quite affordable. HostGator (http://www.hostgator), for instance, has packages starting at just $4 a month (they are who I use). In addition to a web site host, an organization should also get a domain name of it's own - not absolutely necessary, but highly recommended. That can be obtained for about $15 a year from various companies (many web hosts will do this for you as part of an overall package).
Side note: ALWAYS make sure YOU, the organization, owns the domain name you choose, NOT any staff person, and not the web hosting company! Make sure it's YOURS.
From there, a basic web site with fundamental, timeless information (address, phone number, list of services, opening times, etc.) can be set up by a volunteer with at least a bit of design experience - there's no financial cost, but there is a time cost: the volunteer will need information from the organization, his or her work will need to be reviewed, and all of the process needs to be documented, for when the volunteer moves on.
Additional costs come into play as you add:
-- dynamic content (content that needs to change monthly, weekly, daily, by the minute....)
-- complicated design elements (java script, style sheets, etc.)
-- interactive features (way for volunteers to sign up to volunteer beyond just sending an email, or for volunteers to sign in to a private space and update their hours, etc.)
-- searchable databases
For any nonprofit that is looking to build a web site, or to update a web site with new features: call similarly-focused nonprofits in your country that have the kinds of features you want on your web site, and ask about the budget for such - both initial set up and maintenance. Also ask how the web site is staffed - do they have a full time, paid web master? Your own budget will determine if you can be so ambitious.
TechSoup Community Forum Manager
Thanks for the response, I haven't really attempted to cater for each sector or country, the blog post is quite long as is :)
Thanks also for the FYI heads up :)
However, Accessibility is as you rightly say very important. We make sure that when we launch a website, that it passes a series of tests on Accessibility, W3C and a number of other technical tests, any reason for not passing these tests will need to be signed off by the client, as their preferred choice eg if they want a picture or a description to be a certain way.
We have worked for quite a lot of charitable and not for profit organisations, sometimes at lower rates, here it is doubly important to ensure that they really are getting value for money.
I haven't covered hosting, support and maintenance (perhaps another blog in the future), I wanted to really explore and report how my client came to have such diverse quotes. But on the hosting note, do beware of cheap for cheap sake, do make sure the site is backed up and that your hosting covers you in the event of hacks etc, We charge between £150 and £400 per year, the majority of the cost is the support element (including email), we make sure that the server software is up to date, ping the server every 10 mins to make sure it is there etc. I have known companies on cheap hosting completely loose their site and then have no back up.
Re Domains, we do tend to buy them on behalf of our clients, but they always own them (it says it on the invoice), it is important that the web company has access to this all the time, eg if the hosting company changes its domain settings, the site will disappear without changing the nameserver details. I knew one client who was insistent in holding the passwords when the renewal notices went to them (rather than us) their spam killer ate them) the domain lapsed and someone else took it and tried to sell it back for an unreasonable sum, The key is really to deal with a reputable company on mission critical work.
Some of the charities that we have worked for are here http://www.wsiyorkshire.co.uk/spotlight-charity-non-profit-websites.htm
Interesting question! And one that's very hard to answer. It very much depends on what's required. A one page site might be a couple of hundred (or even free), a full blown corporate e-commerce site might even be a few million.
Roughly speaking there are three options available to nonprofits when procuring a website. Each option has different price implications:
1) Use a web builder
If your site is to be very simple and you're willing to compromise on flexibility web builders (for example Drupal Gardens) can be great. It's possible, if you have time, to build a site without much training. If you do-it-yourself, this option can be free.
2) Use an off-the-shelf solution
There are lots of packages out there already set up for specific sectors. For example, if you're a nonprofit you should be able to find an off-the-shelf solution that already includes a blog, documents, events, projects, photos, videos. These solutions are usually quite flexible. Because they're already setup they offer a significant discount over custom solutions. If you have an in-house IT team, they may even be able to set up an open source solution for you without having to use an external provider.
3) Go custom
This is where is starts to get expensive. If you have custom needs far more time will need to be put into your site than for an off-the-shelf solution. Of course, it's sometimes possible to use an off-the-shelf solution as a foundation, building custom work on top.
As jcravens42 mentions, accessibility is very, very important. It's well worth taking the time to make sure your chosen solution is accessible. In particular, it's hard to find a web builder (option 1 above) that is accessible. I haven't found one yet!
Hope that helps,
"In particular, it's hard to find a web builder (option 1 above) that is accessible. I haven't found one yet!"
To clarify: Most any web builder can be used to create an accessible web site. For more information about how to create a web site that meets federal accessibility standards (something that will make your web site serve EVERYONE better), please see:
I wasn't quite sure what you meant there. Do you mean that most web builders (the point and click type with lots of pre-created design templates and functionality widgets) can be used to create an accessible website?
That's exactly what I meant. All it requires is that the designer understand accessible design - something that is easily learned by reading the material on the links I've provided earlier.
It's actually quite difficult to find a Web Builder that is accessible. One of the main reasons is that many of the do not give access to the underlying code. As a result any parts of the site that have not been made accessible by the Web Builder company cannot be made accessible by the person creating a website. For example, with respect to design, Web Builders often offer a number of templates that can be used as a starting point. For sure you can often make the colours accessible. Other things are more tricky though, for example ensuring semantic markup and keyboard accessibility.
If you do know of an accessible Web Builder I'd love to know about it. It'd really be useful information for nonprofits.
As mentioned in my blog post, we build our sites to be accessible from the start, we do make compromises at the request of the customer, at the end of the day our purpose is to deliver a solution that is not only fit for purpose, but excellent for purpose.
We are happy to give customers access to the code of the site, after all they have paid for it, as long as they have taken the necessary precautions.
It may well be a sign that something is not right if, the expert web developer hasn't delivered an accessible site to spec, and that it takes an enthusiast with a manual and ftp access to make the site accessible.
We don't use templates as a starting point for design, but then a template site is often going to be cheaper. Different sites audiences and customers often require different levels of accessibility, but even those that do not need accessibility can see the point of accessibility and the link to being easier to read by Google (which is often the buy in for commercial organisations
I was actually talking about point and click Web Builders. For example, Drupal Gardens, Yola, Weebly. Not that I think they're an amazing solution...
I'm not a web designer or developer but wanted to chime in about hosting services.
DreamHost offers free web hosting for non-profits. I am sure they've been mentioned here before. We don't currently use DreamHost in our office but I help another non profit that does. I've had to change domain records before and found that the interface is pretty easy to use. I plan to migrate our domains there as they expire with our current provider.
I have worked with some non profits on web sites and have some thoughts.
1. If possible, do the website your self. This will save you money and give you complete independent control. Use wordpress. Why? It's free. It is widely used, training is easily available and inexpensive. Your own people will be able to maintain the site. My experience has been that non profits tend to get all tied up with web site vendors and end up spending way too much. Alternatively, someone's friend or cousin does the site and no one can read the html and they wind up with an ugly site, no one can change.
2. If you believe you have to use a vendor, have them do the site in wordpress, and train your people on it.
3. Don't pay more than $10 per month for hosting. A good web hosting company usually charges around $5 a month and should provide unlimited storage, bandwidth, etc. Also look for a company that prides themselves on service. I have used Site 5 and Arvixe - both are good companies. If you don't have any techy volunteers, you may need some hand holding.
4. Educate yourself a bit about the web and site optimization before you get started. You want to do everything you can to get your site to come to the top of the search list - another reason to use wordpress which has some good features in this area.
5. Don't expect your world to change because you have a web site. The web is just another way to get your message out there.
www.Wix.com is another good solution that you can do yourself. It is $90 per year and has a lot of quality templates. It is especially good if you use the HTML rather than flash as Apple devices can see the site where with flash they can not. It is also quite dependable. Only one drawback. PayPal limitation
My website www.PitBullHappenings.com is powered by mybb.com a FREE and Open Source Software... granted, it's primary purpose is to offer Forums/Community etc.... however, if you go to my website, you'll find the Forums isn't the primary website function. I have a very real website for my organization... and I'm also very impressed with the websites rankings... especially Google!! Google loves my website! Of course, I have A LOT more work to do on the website. As for hosting, it's being hosted free by one of my Board of Directors however, he's pretty much a silent board member now due to his job and I have taken full control over the website and he is still hosting it for free. So basically, the website was free... I pay for the domain name annually through godaddy.com For the various forms, I received an incredible nonprofit pricing discount through wufoo.com Roughly, I'd estimate the annual cost of my website to be approximately $60/annually.I think the design of my website is great and very proud of the SEO! Still have a lot more to do with it... but my organization keeps me extremely and overwhelmingly busy... and I'm not ready to hand over the reigns of the website to a Volunteer or another person... I'm afraid to accidentally break my website so, I'm very careful with it! and over protective of it...
Eric Emminger ~ Founder/President, Pit Bull Happenings Rescue