Do-It-Yourself Website basics (Part 2)

07 Oct Do-It-Yourself Website basics (Part 2)

In my previous DIY Website basics post I gave an overview of the basics of domain names and registering your nonprofit associations domain. Part 2 will focus on your nonprofit associations’ website content.

Your website is a collection of files written in a computer language that browsers such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox translate into text and images for anyone who visits your domain.  Just like the files on your hard drive (usually the “C:” drive) each file has a location within a folder. Your website is exactly the same except instead of those files being located in your home computers C drive they are located on a computer called a ‘server’ that is always connected to the internet and accessible to anyone visiting your web domain (ex:www.xyzassociation.org).  Having a computer connected to the internet at all times and always running is a lot for a small nonprofit to manage so this work is usually managed by a website hosting company (in fact the vast majority of websites use web hosts).

 Step two: Hosting

To ensure that your website will always be accessible to the internet and running the most up to date software you will most likely search the internet for a website hosting company instead of buying a server and hiring a technician to service it.  Many domain name registrars provide hosting services as well domain registration services. Website designers and developers will also provide hosting services for your website and if you are not programming the site yourself be sure to ask what they will charge you for hosting your website.

Hosting packages vary in price and are based on the size of your website files and how much data you will be transmitting.  The amount of data you transmit to visitors of your website is called bandwidth. Videos and high resolution images or graphics will take a lot of bandwidth. Keep in mind emails and your smtp relays (number of emails you may send from your email account) are under your domain registration and not your hosting plan.

Once you have chosen the proper hosting plan for your nonprofit associations’ website you will be given access to the file folders where your website will be stored on your new server. You will choose a username and password to access your server. CHOOSE THIS USERNAME AND PASSWORD CAREFULLY. USE A RANDOMLY GENERATED PASSWORD CONSISTING OF SYMBOLS NUMBERS AND CAPITAL/LOWERCASE LETTERS. If you website gets attached by hackers they will certainly try to break-in here.

The physical address of the server where your files are stored is called an IP address and will be series of numbers like 168.32.65.366.  You will now be able to upload your website to your host server via file transfer protocol (FTP) software or via access to your websites control panel (often run using Cpanel or Parallels Plesk software).

Not only do many domain registrars also provide hosting, many of them also provide website design and maintenance software as well. If you are not good with writing computer code like html or php and you are not hiring a website designer to create your site, ask about what software solutions are available directly through your website host.  Some of the more popular options are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

As daunting as building your own website may seem from a financial and technical perspective it is often the only solution for small associations and non-profit organizations.  Fortunately the obstacles are surmountable and following these basic steps and guidelines you can have a web presence for your association or non-profit that will be affordable and manageable by a small volunteer effort.