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The community groups’ very simple guide to setting up a website

Even if you only go online every so often to check your emails (and visit Just Act, of course), it’s now becoming more common that even small community groups and projects have their own website.

Luckily, these days setting up and running a website is possible for anybody; it doesn’t need to be difficult, and it doesn’t need to take up much time. Read on for the community groups’ very simple guide to setting up a website.

But why do we need a website?

In short, having a website is a great way to let others know what your project is all about, and what you get up to.

It can be easier and cheaper than delivering flyers, and more permanent that putting up posters in your area. (But there’s no harm in doing this too). And there are lots of ways that having your own website will benefit your community project.

It can help you get funding. Some funding programmes will only allocate funds to projects that can demonstrate their work online. Even the simplest, free website can open doors to new sources of funding.

It can help you record your successes – updating on the project’s progress with short written updates, and celebrating what your project has achieved at key milestones. This is known as ‘demonstrating impact’, which is another aspect that funders are keen on, so it’ll make applying for future grants much easier.

It will allow you to share photographs with your community easily. Wondering about ways to get hold of more volunteers and spread the word about your project? You can use your website to upload photos and show off the great work that you do.

Having an up-to-date website means that you can keep all of your information in one place; it means that volunteers and members of your community have one central location to check facts such as when and where your next meeting or event takes place.

It could also help you get local press and media coverage, and provide information so that people know who runs the project and how they can get in contact with you if they’ve got any questions.

3 Golden Rules for community project websites

Running a website doesn’t have to be technical or difficult, but there are some rules you should stick to:

  1. State really clearly who you are and what you do

    If you’re a new visitor to a site, you want to make sure straight away that you’re in the right place. We recommend making an ‘About Us’ section that’s easy to spot from the homepage. There you can succinctly outline what your project is all about.

  2. Don’t let it get out of date

    Nothing will make a visitor switch off faster than a paragraph promoting an event that has already taken place or information that’s out of date. Make sure you check in every so often to make sure that it’s all still relevant.

  3. Be careful with your contact details

    Websites can be seen by anybody, so you do need to be careful. We recommend that you make the group its own email address so that you don’t have to give out your personal details. Make sure you get permission before you publish anything like personal phone numbers or addresses – sometimes you can’t be too careful.

How to build a website for your group in 3 easy steps

  1. Make an account with WordPress

    We recommend WordPress wholeheartedly; it strikes a great balance between being very powerful, functional and user-friendly. It’s got detailed instructions that will walk you through the set-up process, and then it’s time to add some style and content.

  2. Make it pretty

    The designs for WordPress sites are called themes. You can select one that you like the look of – there are thousands of free ones that tech-types have built to share, so you can use them for free. This is called open source, and it’s there because the internet is a wonderful community that’s all about sharing resources. (We’re really big fans of that.)

  3. Add your content

    As much or as little as you like! Upload photos, write about what you’ve been up to, include information of what events are coming up – the world is your oyster!

What if I want a custom domain name?

Not all websites were created equal, and not all of them are free. Let’s say that your project is called ‘the London Community Garden’.

If you’re happy with londoncommunitygarden.wordpress.com, then you’ll be able to register that for free, as long as no one has already taken it.

If you wanted, for example, londoncommunitygarden.org, then you’ll have to pay for the domain name. For this example, it is somewhere in the region of £12 a year, but this can vary depending on the name you’re trying to register.

This stage is entirely optional, but there are some advantages to paying for your website. For example:

  1. It makes your website easier for people to find and remember.
  2. It makes your group look more established and professional.
  3. You can use it to set up a custom email address, like hello@londoncommunitygarden.org – setting this up is quite advanced, but looks very professional.

Depending on the name of your group, costs vary, as do the levels of services and support you’ll receive for your money.

We recommend you do a bit of online research if you do go for this option to make sure you get the best deal.

What now?

We hope that this enough to get you started, but more help is out there. The WordPress support pages, in particular, are fantastic. They’ll guide you through the whole process of setting up your website.

For more ideas how to spread the word about what you’re doing, head to Step 5 – Promote your project. This Step covers various aspects of promoting your community project, from setting up your own website to gaining press coverage.

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