Revised with new information as of June 16, 2017

Web Site Development Timeline

This advice is written with small nonprofits in the USA, Europe, etc., and tiny NGOs and government programs in developing countries, in mind.

These are two timelines, actually. One is for the steps to get a web site host, URL and one web page on the Internet in one hour and then, when that is done, the steps to get a simple, workable, initial web site up within just a few weeks. Once this basic site is up and regularly maintained, advanced features or design can be developed and implemented.

Your focus on your initial Web site development for your nonprofit, NGO, government agency or department, school, or other mission-based initiative should be to immediately get ONE page up on the web about your organization ASAP. This can be done in less than an hour if you have a credit card or the ability to pay online:
  1. Register a web address - a homepage URL, or domain name - with a service that does such. The URL of my web site's home page is Your nonprofit, at least in the USA, will want a URL that ends in .org rather than .com. You don't need a web site to register a web address. Register your web address by making a list of URLs you want and then looking at the Who Is database to see if any of your desired URLs are available. The web hosting service you choose may be able to do this for you, but make sure that, as a result, your organization owns the URL, not the web hosting service. My hosting organization is, FYI. I've used Network Solutions and Dotster as well for domain registration, but they also offer web hosting. Here's much more detail about Choosing A Web Site Host & URL. When considering your Web address, your Web address should be:

  2. Pay a web hosting service to host your web site, if you haven't already. As I noted above, I use I've used Network Solutions and Dotster as well for domain registration, but they also offer web hosting. Here's much more detail about Choosing A Web Site Host & URL.

  3. Write and put up one web page immediately as your home page, that has only your organizationís logo and:

  4. It is super easy to find a volunteer that can do this one page in HTML for you!

WARNING: do NOT let a company donate web hosting to your organization for free. Too often, a nonprofit or NGO agrees to this and, months or years later, the company just deletes the pages one day, because the person that was the key contact leaves the company. Or, months or years later, the nonprofit wants to build a more robust web site and, therefore, wants to move the web site to a web hosting company, and the for-profit company refuses, even says that they own the web address, not the nonprofit. Avoid all of this altogether: just say no to donated web space. Web hosting costs less than $5 a month. Here's much more detail about Choosing A Web Site Host & URL. 

You now have one page on the web. Anyone who types your URL into the web will come to this page, and see your key information.

With this one page of key information online, and your web address secured, you are ready to develop a full web site. Your objective now is to get a simple, easy-to-navigate site up quickly, a site that provides the basic, essential information about your organization - all of the above, plus a staff list, announcements about upcoming events, directions on how to get there, a list of programs, how to volunteer, links to your social media, etc.). Once this basic site is up and regularly maintained, the web site can be expanded with more pages, and advanced features can be developed and implemented.
  1. The appropriate staff member(s) should convert all available/appropriate information from brochures, funding proposals, speeches, business plans and other printed information to .txt (text only) format, gather all available graphics, and store this information in a centralized place on the agency's computer system. Gathering the graphics for online use may mean calling whomever designed or printed the agency's publications and asking them to send you the graphics on disk (.gif or .jpg format would be most preferred, but with the right software, you should be able to read any graphic file regardless of the computer system it was created on).
    Estimated timing: 20 - 40 hours

  2. When the majority of information has been download or gathered and converted to text, initial Web page construction could begin. Information should drive the design, so its best to create graphic-less pages during initial construction, to see how the information flows, and add in graphics later.
    Estimated timing: 40 hours

  3. After several text-only web pages have been completed, artwork design could begin (graphics, photos, page headers, etc.). I advise fully designing 15 pages of the overall Web site (the "timeless" pages would be best to start with), and then submit these pages to the appropriate staff for feedback.
    Estimated timing: 40 hours

  4. Once artwork and overall style is agreed upon, such can be added to the rest of the pages as they are developed, and the entire initial Web site can be completed. I recommend that all .gif files go into their own directory as well (see page 6 for suggested directory structure).
    Estimated timing: 80 hours

  5. Once the Web site is complete and approved, it should be uploaded to the chosen server.
    Estimated timing: 5 hours
    (many people will tell you that uploading will take just minutes. And this is often so. However, if you include testing times for an initial site, problems uploading, files put in the wrong place and having to be moved, etc., then the time starts stretches out well beyond an hour)

  6. When the Web site is fully functioning from the server, the Web site address should be released to employees, volunteers and the board for "beta" testing for one week; staff and board should use the site and forward corrections/changes to the appropriate the agency's staff person to make.
    Estimated timing: 5 working days

  7. After the week of beta testing, the Web site should be marketed online to appropriate audiences.
    Estimated timing: 10 hours

  8. Also after the week of beta testing, the Web site should be marketed offline.
    Estimated timing: ongoing

What this all boils down to is keeping it simple. This method allows you to have essential information on the web immediately, and that's what is most important. This method also allows you to have a web site that any staff person with just a bit of basic HTML knowledge can update. And this method will make it easier to work with a professional web designer down the road, to build in more advanced functions.  

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