What should you look for when choosing a website building software? When it comes to choosing a website building software there are five things I would highly recommend for membership-based organizations:
choose a software that you can access over the internet from a browser instead of one that you need to download to your computer. There are many advantages for cloud software, my favorite being the automatic upgrades. With a cloud software you don’t need to manually install any updates every time the software has a new release; a cloud software is automatically updated by the software company and does not require any work from the user. In addition, a cloud software can easily be accessed by site administrators from any computer with internet connection and a browser.
Easy of Use
You need software that your volunteers or staff will find it easy to use. One of the biggest challenges organizations have with their website is that they can’t make updates directly to the website. They typically need to send update request to a webmaster or website vendor and wait for these changes to be made. Look for software that gives you direct access to your website with a content management system (CMS) – a tool that will allow you to make easy edits to the website. Some content management systems have a WYSWYG (i.e., What You See is What You Get) and does not require HTML or CSS skills to make website edits.
Training and Support
How will your team learn to use and manage the software? Make sure the software has good online documentation, tutorials, videos, and support. Some software vendors provided one-on-one training while others have video tutorials and online documentation. Whatever your preference and needs to leaning a new software, make sure the software provider offer this option.
Some software has complex pricing structure it can be quite a challenge to figure out how much it would cost you to start using the software and then to maintain it going forward- but it doesn’t have to be this way. Look for software that has simple pricing plans such as monthly subscription fee without add-on for additional features or capacity. Personally, I value transparency – and rightfully expect the software company to publish its pricing structure on their website upfront.
Software Development Experience
Believe it or not, not all software companies are founded by software developers. Why should that matter? Would you like to have a tooth filling from someone who is not a dentist? Or fly on a plane flown by someone who is not a pilot? If you’re looking for a robust and sustainable software building software, you should look for a company with an established software development background and strong development methodology. How does the software company decide on new features to implement? How do they collect feedback from customers or change requests? And How often do they release upgrades? How long has the company been in business and what is its future vision? Research all these questions before you make your software selection.
While you can expand the capabilities of a website building software to add membership management tools with third-party solution, it is also possible to have an all-in-one membership and website management tool (Wild Apricot is a good example). In either cases, look for a solution that has data security systems that would protect your members information. Look for this information online or contact the software vendor to inquire about their data security system (it's not okay to compromise member data against their will).
In summary, your membership website is an important tool for providing member value, communication, recruitment and engagement. It is critical to choose a website software that is stable, easy to use and maintain. The above is a list of my top six things to look for when evaluating a website software company for membership organizations.
Suggested readings: 199 Free or Cheap Online Tools for Nonprofits