Some guidance for NGOs…
Firstly, I would recommend to take advantage of free 'social media' sites that offer a profile page, in particular Facebook. You can then get practice in thinking about how you want to present yourself online as well as the process of adding content (and keeping it updated) and using it for networking.
Free website services
There are many website services that are available for free for the most basic set-up. Some of the most popular and easy-to-use ones are known as 'blogs' and are ideal if you are thinking of starting small and adding new content -- news stories, photos -- on a regular basis. With this method, you choose from templates that are already designed and upload content yourself. No special skills are needed, the process is similar to using a word processor.
For these services you don't need to have your own domain name as your content is hosted for you, for example, http://yourname.wordpress.org
If you don't have the capacity to use the above services and just need a very simple website, see our article Free new website development for qualifying NGOs.
Your own website
When you want to create your own working website, these are the essential things you need:
Be clear what purpose(s) the website needs to fulfill.
Decide what content – including interactive features – the website should contain now, and think about how it might develop in the future.
Write and organise your content into sections, and gather or create any supporting pictures needed.
Whoever then makes the website should at minimum be familiar with the essential building blocks of website creation, in particular html and CSS.
If you have a budget, you could use the services of a web developer: a company or individual designer that specializes in creating websites.
A local resource (at local rates) is best but may be hard to find. One way is to contact other NGOs in your country who have a website that you like -- one that is well-designed, works properly and loads quickly -- and ask them how they did it. Maybe they can recommend someone or give other useful information. Often there is a link to the designer of the website at the bottom of the site's home page.
In fact, the designer could be anywhere in the world: for example there are companies in India who can make a professional design of 5 pages for about €150 -- which is very cheap (there are companies elsewhere who might charge up to €1,500). However, be aware that good ongoing communication is a vital part of the process of achieving a satisfactory result – and this is often a problem. You want a partner who can explain the important technical aspects clearly at your (non-technical) level.
Open Source CMS
For a modern website which you are also able to maintain yourself, without special programming skills, I would recommend an Open Source CMS (Content Management System). With such a site you can have as much content as you want as well as interactive things like a forum etc. Such a site requires a special setup which is quite technical and to use it properly you will need support from the developer or self-train using online resources.
- WordPress is the most popular and simplest to learn
- Joomla is the CMS used by this website (developed by the author)
Your own domain name is ideal, however any unique address is sufficient.
» A Nonprofit's Guide to Building Simple, Low-Cost Websites from TechSoup considers the points above in greater detail but very concisely.
» 10 Keys to Effective Non-Profit Organization Websites gives clear visual examples – make sure your site has all these covered!