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!