The purpose of this document is to provide an update on our progress
toward establishing an organizational web presence. The board
authorized $95 for the purchase of a domain and web hosting package
from Bluehost.com at last month’s meeting. We
presented what we thought was the most cost effective option to the
board during that meeting. As we learned more, it became clear that
our initial recommendations for both cost effective and easily
implemented options were incomplete. A range of options exist from
complete do-it-yourself plans that require one to do all the coding,
through what I call “Fully managed content solutions.” This type of
service provides templates and web designs enabling a broad base of
users to create a professional impact.
We did not purchase the Bluehost package. This document provides the
background about why. We recommend stepping back and working with an
intermediate solution based on hosting our pages using a free plan
from weebly.com. Once we gain experience
with creating and managing content, we can revisit this issue and
pursue other options.
One can divide the ways people create website content into three broad
categories: static sites, WordPress hosted platforms , and fully
managed content sites using online editors and templates. Each of these concepts is explained in following sections.
“Static” websites are created by uploading both the content and
formatting directly to a server like Amazon’s S3 service. Most static
web sites use a templating system. Examples of products often used
include: Node.js](http://nodejs.org), jekyll,
and hugo. These systems integrate the content of a
site with pre-built templates to produce a self-contained
presentation. The work flow looks something like this:
Install the development framework onto a computer.
Download a production theme. This theme sets up the basic look and
feel of the web site and includes fonts, colors, and formatting
Run the development program to create the website. This combines
the content with the information contained in the theme to produce
a final product.
examine the output on the creator’s computer to make certain everything works as expected.
Upload this website to the server.
Add additional content as the site grows; rerun and re-upload.
The advantages of this way of creating websites are that content is
portable and flexible. One is not tied to a specific vendor or hosting
platform. The organization “owns” the content and its supporting
code. The disadvantage is that someone must know a fair amount about
how the themes and templates are constructed in order to make even
small modifications to how a site looks. I got inspired by this
project and started a site to host my own pages. This
website uses a static design to create
content. Below is a screenshot of this article as it is currently formatted.
Cost of ownership.
Using Amazon S3 services:
$12.00 per year to register and maintane a domain name.
Between $.50 and $1.00 per month to house the content.
Time to compile and modify the site as it develops.
WordPress Type Sites
WordPress is software which is run as part
of a website. Many hosting services offer it as part of their base
plan. The basic installation is free to use, but provides little in
the way of formatting or organization. These tasks are performed by
“themes.” Many themes are free. Sorting through the huge variety of
offerings can be daunting. Additionally, concerns
embedded viruses or other malware.
Once WordPress and an associated theme is installed, the content
creator adds material through a web interface much like what one would
see on facebook. However, the basic structure (look and feel) of the
site is determined by the underlying theme.
Here is an example of one theme available for purchase: It costs $60 per year.
Cost of Ownership
Most hosting companies offer a WordPress installation as part of their
services. Themes are an additional add-on from third party venders and
appear to cost from between $50 and $75 per year, depending on options
and levels of support. Free options exist, but are limited in some
way, for example: no choice in colors or fonts.
We looked at two hosting companies: bluehost
and 1 and 1. Both companies offer excellent
introductions to their services with greatly reduced pricing.
Bluehost offers a single domain and hosting for $95.00 for the first
two years, while 1and1 offers a $.99 hosting plan for the first
year. Both companies include domain registration for the first year
for no additional charges.
Following introductory periods, prices increase to $6.95 or $8.95
per month, if paid annually.
Use of a third-party theme costs from between $50 and $70.
Time to manage the content and site.
Fully Managed Content
Several companies offer “drag and drop” web design services. They
integrate standardized templates and a web editor for creation of
content. Examples include: Weebly,
Wix, GoDaddy, and
The benefits of using this type of service relate to
simplicity. Pre-built templates help create a site’s initial
organization. Content can be pasted directly into these templates,
making it much simpler to create and maintain the website. One need
not be a designer or developer to create an online
presence. Drawbacks to this approach are that one tends to be limited
to what is pre-built inside the web editor. Customizing or adapting a
pre-built format are difficult or impossible.
Here is an example of a web site built on the Weebly platform.
Cost of ownership.
Fully managed content solutions from the companies described above
offer free plans which create URLS using their corporate
addresses. Examples: idahofallsprogressives.squarespace.com, or
GoDaddy offers a simple landing page hosting one domain address for
$4.95 a month.
wix offers a plan for $10 per month.
Weebly offers a plan for $12.00 per month.
time and technical expertise are less important than for static or
Summary and Recommendations
Static web site
Creating a static web site is the least expensive option, but
requires the most work.
Having our own web presence is a plus. No “.Weebly” suffix at the end of our address to
Creating the site will take a lot of time and energy.
Knowledge of web formats (Markdown, CSS, basic web design) is
required for people to operate the site.
The nature of a static, distributed site provides Less
flexibility if we need to quickly change/update content.
WordPress hosted site:
Costs for keeping the site hosted (after promotional periods
expire)are $6.95 per month for Bluehost and $8.95 per month for
1and1.com. Both companies charge $20/ year to register domain
Creating a WordPress installation introduces another level of
complexity. First the software, then an associated theme. Many
themes require a subscription of $50-$70 per year. This might be
appropriate for a large and complex site, but these additional
costs eliminate the gab between a word-press and fully-managed
option. Is our organization ready to make this financial
Free themes exist, but they lack support or are limited in some
other way. For example: only one color option.
Administration of a WordPress site requires some degree of
training. The knowledge required falls in-between what is needed
for a static site and a managed solution.
Fully managed solution:
A free plan will allow us to put something online, but have ads
embedded in the site. We would have a domain something like
“idahofallsprogressives.weebley.com”. This is not ideal. It makes
our site harder to find and may serve adds antithetical to our
At some point, the organization might want to upgrade to a paid
service. After reviewing plans and features, the one which seems most
appropriate is the professional option offered by Weebly at
$12.00/month. The cost of ownership for this option is $144+$20
per domain. That’s a lot for a small-budget operation, but not
necessarily prohibitive. Some members may wish to donate
specifically for the web presence. We might wish to do that in
several months, once we gain familiarity with working on the
Having a code-less web site has much to offer. Especially when
there are templates to choose from which may meet our needs. Those
administering the site do not need to understand html, css,
After much research and discussion, we have learned that there
is no “one perfect solution.” Whatever we choose involves
compromises between functionality, complexity, and cost. If
the organization had $20/month to spend on a web presence,
These compromises would pose fewer barriers.
No one on our committee is a designer. Regular tasks involved
in this project include: setting up and maintaining a web
framework, creating content, managing links, and
troubleshooting problems. We have good writers. What we need
is a place to store and share that content with little
friction and technical intervention.
Our committee recommends that we start with something
simple. Idahofallsprogressives.weebley.com. This option
represents a temporary solution as we learn what the
organization most needs in a web presence. We will eventually
have our own domain name. However, spending resources while we
experiment and learn seems a poor use of organizational
resources. The free site gives us practice in learning how to
coordinate our efforts.