“We Want A Website!”

Today was a very productive day for all of us, and it helped me in my continuing education of being a good web consultant for Kenya NGOs. The day in short started with my explaining what a website is, including brief descriptions of what factors contribute to build-time and cost, what level of attention is needed in terms of maintenance, and what role different parties such as designer and organization would play in the big picture. It is all of this that I feel requires the most attention and the most enlightening. I am not taking the time to explain the intricacies of PHP “for loops,” because that is a waste of everyone’s time but I do feel clients, especially NGOs who want inexpensive sustainable solutions, need to have a general picture about regular updating, maitenance, and the type of web-implenetations available such as static pages versus content-managed.

Then we move onto the costs. Here I appreciate being a volunteer and not a real need-to-get-paid consultant. I am able to be completely honest with my clients, and as was the case with this organization, turn them away from costly solutions. The reason I turn people away? Because as a development worker, the first thing I hate is wasteful spending, and seeing NGOs putting up sites that are not useful or productive and paying for them is just painful. The 6,000 shillings a year it takes to own web space is quite a bit out of a small NGOs operating cost, and is an even harder sell considering many of these NGO boards are filled with very development-oriented members of the older-generations who truly want to help their fellow countrymen, but may not fully understand the benefits of the modern web as well as the younger generation.

Eventually the three of us (myself, Gavin and the Executive Director, Mwangi) worked out that possibly using a free WordPress blog (like the one you are reading) might be more appropriate than building a site from scratch. It has its limitations such as not being able to fully control the visual layout or not having a free domain registration system (for which I in no way fault them), but its benefits far outweigh these drawbacks for an organization like Likii. The interface is simple enough so that inexperienced content managers such as Gavin and Mwangi can learn how to fully manage the site in just a few days. It also has enough features for controlling content that they will be able to create a legitimate website that doesn’t just scream “blog!” And finally, they can do this all very quickly, getting their message out quicker than the time it would take me to finish my other project and then begin and finish theirs. In fact, they may even beat me to completion!

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2 responses to ““We Want A Website!”

  1. Jesse

    If it didn’t cost too much, I’d say a self-hosted WordPress blog is the way to go. I am also in the process of creating a business site for my mother using iWeb and I must say you can make some pretty slick, professional sites with it. My main worry about self-hosting WP is that you have to find space to host that won’t break the bank, then you also have to have enough knowhow to make your blog into a website that’s unique.

    What’s you’re take?

  2. iWeb is great and all, but still requires a) the iWeb software b) time. The organization needs to focus on generating content and what this all even means, so starting them off with simple, freely-hosted WP is the way to go.

    But WP was chosen specifically because it has a nicely delineated upgrade path, where we would migrate over to a self-hosted WP-based site. In terms of making it look good however, they would still need to bring in a web designer who knows how to work with WP templating to make the site look different. Also, it requires setting up an account with a Kenyan Web Hosting service, which are at best ok, and at worst, absolutely horrendous. And if my web-based research is anything to go by (which it may not be), then more of them are horrendous than ok.

    So for now the goal is to introduce the organization to the rigours of content generation without having other distractions to worry them. Because ultimately, if you can’t push solid content, get off the web.