About this time last year I wrote a column, “Free tools help nonprofits,” from the June 7 issue (visit bit.ly/NonprofitTools). It included a list of technology tools available for free so that nonprofits could take advantage of them.
As readers may recall, I’m working on a platform called CIRWEP, an acronym for contact, invitation, resource, web, event and payment management. CIRWEP would help nonprofits maintain a contact list, send out event invitations, manage their volunteers and other resources, publish their website, register people for events and collect donations and registration fees: but it is not yet finished. In the meantime, I advise nonprofits to use free tools.The only downside to using these free tools is that you have to be relatively technology savvy to use them. This is a major obstacle, especially for small groups.Take, for example, the daunting task of putting up a website. The free website tools I’ve recommended, such as Wix, Weebly and GoogleSites, will allow anyone to create and publish a website for free. Just go to wix.com and create an account called Quilting, and within 30 minutes of dragging and dropping you can have a website with a domain name of www.Quilting.wix.com.But what if you want to tell people to go to www.Quilting.com without that pesky wix in the middle? That’s a bit more complicated.Wix will offer you the opportunity to get a free domain if you just sign up for hosting for a fee of $150 a year. But that would be crazy. Why? Because you could easily go to GoDaddy.com or any other registrar and pay $14.95 for the domain for a year, and point it to the Wix site for free. That’s 15 bucks a month versus 15 bucks a year. That’s a huge difference.There are many more website services that no one should be paying a single penny for, but people just don’t know it. I recently stopped a friend of mine from spending $6 a month on so-called “privacy” for his domain name. He figured: low cost? Privacy? Great! No, no, no. All this so-called privacy does is hide your name from the “whois” domain lookup. Anyone with half a brain can still figure out who is paying for the domain name. Plus, I can’t think of a single reason to hide that information except to increase the registrar’s profits.SEO, or search engine optimization, is also a service that, for most people, is utterly wasted. You don’t need search engine optimization to get to the top of the list on Google, because there are plenty of free ways to do it.Additionally, websites for local consumers, such as school districts, which I gather has been a recent controversy, absolutely don’t need SEO because most people looking for the website will find it without SEO. It’s just plain crazy to spend money on a service you don’t need.And then you are asked if you want your website to be adaptive or responsive.What?That was my reaction, too, when I first encountered those two terms. And if your last experience with building a homepage was in 1998, then you won’t recognize the terms either. Allow me to explain.These days, a website might be viewed through several different kinds of devices. One device might be a normal desktop computer with a web browser program such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari or Microsoft Edge. Another device might be a tablet computer such as an Apple iPad or Galaxy Book or Lenovo Tab. More and more commonly, however, the website would be viewed on a smartphone. The size difference between a 17-inch computer monitor and a 5-inch smartphone is significant. It is difficult, if not impossible, to create a website that can be effectively viewed on a 17″ screen and a 5″ screen without making any changes.Well, an adaptive website is actually two or three websites in one: The website senses what kind of device you are on and automatically sends you to the mobile site if you are on a smartphone and the desktop site if you are on a computer. A responsive website is just one website, but the website code itself allows the text to get wider or narrower, or allows the three columns to show side by side or on top of each other, depending upon how much room is on the screen, or if it is wider than tall or taller than wide.Another crazy problem with new websites is the mistaken idea that they shouldn’t have menus on them. Today’s website designers often hide menus so that you have to hover over a certain area of the screen to be able to print the page or view another page on the site.The bottom line: websites are easy if you know all the secrets. But just don’t be crazy.Dr. CJ Rhoads is founder and CEO of HPL Consortium Inc. She speaks and writes about business strategy, leadership development and health care. She is also a professor at Kutztown University in the College of Business.
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