Making a website that you can update easily

This article explains the issues that community groups and non-profit organisations can face with managing their websites, and explains how Blogger can be used to address them.

Community groups and website maintenance 

Many community groups and non-profit organisations set up projects to build a website.   Often, an enthusiastic volunteer offers their time and expertise to build it.   Or a third-level student does it as a course project.

The new website is launched, often with a party.   It looks great, and the content is fresh and exciting.  Things are great.

But a while later, something needs to be changed.   If they're lucky, the enthusiastic volunteer or the student is still around, and happy to do the change.   But more and more changes are wanted.  Over time, the enthusiasm wanes.  The student graduates and moves away.   The volunteer starts to resent the amount of  time needed,  Eventually, the student is nowhere to be found or the volunteer is no longer unavailable.

In the "lucky" scenario, the next step is often that the group finds money to negotiate a support contract with the former volunteer's company.  Hopefully, the company charges them a fair rate for the work.   It may not feel fair to the group, though, because they don't know what the market rate for this sort of work is, or how long things really take.   In the "unlucky" scenario, the group has incorrect information on the internet that cannot be changed because no one knows how.

Does Blogger offer an alternative to this scenario?   I think so, and this article explains some of the advantages, and issues, involved.

What is Blogger?   How can it help?

Blogger is Google's tool for building "blogs" - essentially diaries kept on the internet.  See Blogs, bloggers and Blogger  for a full explanation of these sometimes confusing terms.

But Blogger is now a lot more sophisticated, and can be used for other things too.

If a website is built using Blogger:
  1. The software used to build and update it is free
  2. The hosting is free (if the address is, or very cheap (if the address is  And address ike www.WHATEVER.COM is called a custom domain, and is easy to set up - you can buy the address through Blogger, or use an address that you already own.
  3. It's simple to make updates, after the initial set-up is done   
  4. It can even be set up to update itself when someone emails a certain address (which you only tell to people who you want to be able to do updates!)
  5. Whoever updates it doesn't need any special software:  just a computer with internet access.
  6. It willl work in all the different web-browsers (with some with very rare exceptions).
  7. By default, it's structured like a diary:  most recent info first, older info further down.   Which makes it a good fit for "newsletter" style things, which is often an objective for community groups.
  8. But it doesn't have to look like a diary - you can give it a "home page" in a variety of ways. 
Issues, Risks and Disadvantages:

There are risks with using Blogger:  Google could change their minds about any aspect of it (though I doubt that they will do anything drastic or expensive).   There are limits to what it can do.   It may be perceived by some people as "lower quality".   You don't control the hosting:  you aren't paying for it, so you don't have any rights as a customer.

These risks are all real, and in some cases they will be so serious that you decide another approach is better.  But for some groups, the advantages will outweigh the risks.

A final thought:

No matter what tool you use, building a website is "easy": lots of people can do it, and they'll all be happy to tell you what a bad job the last guy did.

The hard bits are:
  • Defining the audience
  • Setting the aims & objectives, knowing how you'll measure them, and doing the measurement
  • Defining the policies
    (what content?  who decides what to show, and what not to?  who is responsible for doing updates ?)
  • Simple, cost-effective, ways to keep the content up-to-date
  • Doing training materials, so that when the current person doing updates leaves, their replacement can learn to do them too.
  • Designing and implementing the search-optimisation approach (SEO) and communications plan 
    (There's no point in building a website if no one reads it!)
If anyone ofters to build you a website, make sure that their plan covers all these issues, so that you aren't left with an embarrassing white-elephant on the web, with your name on it.

Related Articles:

Blogs, bloggers and Blogger - an introduction

Getting started with Blogger

Using an URL you already own for a Blogger blog

Setting up your custom domain

Updating your blog by email - using mail2Post

Giving your blog a home page


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