Website templates or custom development? Do you even need the latter? If so, what do I need to pay attention to? What can you get out of templates? When it comes to security, is WordPress a good choice?

In the second part of the What makes your website attractive? podcast, Bernadett Gyimesi from Medve Matek, Balázs Ormándlaki from Drive Online Marketing and Anikó Porkoláb from NIOK Foundation discuss technical issues. If your organisation is not made up of developers, listen to our podcast! Find out how to create a well-functioning website without experts, what to look out for in development and operation!

User habits and the technical background are changing and evolving at an almost unimaginable speed. How can an NGO's website stay up-to-date and modern in this environment?

Online marketing expert Balázs Ormándlaki recommends open source platforms. Nowadays 60% of websites are created in WordPress, but Joomla and Drupal are also useful software with a long history. Bernadett Gyimesi, of Medve Matek, confirms that these software are very practical. The website of Medve Matek is built on Joomla, while, one of their sub-brands, is built on Wordpress. There are now many tutorials and videos available for these platforms, so they do not require any IT knowledge to use.

Custom developments - do we need them?

The online marketing expert says WordPress covers the needs of small and medium-sized organisations. There are paid templates, free and paid extensions. If an organisation feels it needs more than a website template, it's worth rethinking the idea. Often they want to implement ideas that are not practical, but sometimes this only becomes apparent when money and time have been invested in development. One of the big disadvantages of custom development is that it chains the organisation to the developers. When the initial team is finished, the new team often doesn't want to take over the site because it wasn't built to their logic and they don't know exactly how it works. Not only can there be problems with custom development during the transition, but even maintaining the website can be difficult, as usually only the expert can touch it, while the members of the organisation do not understand it. Balázs, with 15 years of development experience behind him, sees that custom developments for NGOs typically end badly.

Medve Matek is both open source and has its own website. The websites, which are accessible to all, are built from website templates, but the entry system for the maths competition is run on a proprietary site. Bernadett Gyimesi agrees that if it is not essential, do not choose this organisation, as they are fully tied to the developers. However, in this case the organisation had such specific needs, especially for the competition entry, that there were no ready-made solutions. The communication expert also confirms that if it is already a matter of managing thousands of applicants, this is not the responsibility of the communication website. Given its function, it makes sense to maintain another site for management solutions, it does not have to be so pretty, and the technological environment does not change so quickly, so it is sustainable in the long term.

Who makes the website?

DriveOnline's expert now again stresses that organisations should create their first website from resources within the organisation. As the organization grows and develops, it becomes clear what their goals will be for the site. Balázs says that the second or third website is usually the really conscious choice. In this case, for organisations with a small budget, the first thing to do is to rely on the network of contacts and find an expert who can manage the site pro bono or at a discount. The best luck is to find a freelancer who is affordable in the long term and can be easier to work with.

What to look out for from the start? What should you learn in-house?

Whoever creates and manages the website, it is important to register the domain name in the name of the organisation and the hosting they rent. The head of the association should be the administrator of the interface, so that if a change of developer is needed, it can be done without any problems. Bernadett recommends that the IT person should prepare documentation to facilitate the change. Ideally, the old and new staff can work together for a while. It is also essential that someone in the organisation is trained to maintain the site, as life cannot stop even if the developer is unavailable," stresses Balázs. In addition to general maintenance, someone has to learn how to manage, compress, crop or edit images. The latter can be done in Photoshop or even Canva, which also have free versions, or even through the CivilTech programme, non-profits can benefit from discounts. In addition, you should be able to create new modules in WordPress and create a landing page in a few hours if you need it for a campaign.

What makes a website secure?

Nowadays, people tend not to pay enough attention to digital security, which is why digital crime has become the biggest crime in Hungary. Not only users, even developers don't take enough security measures. One of the disadvantages of open source websites is that they are easier to hack because everyone knows the source code. However, if enough security measures are taken, a tragedy is unlikely to happen. A common mistake, according to the online marketing expert, is that members of an organisation do not have their own user account in the website's editor interface, so more people use one. This is something that should be kept in mind, as two-factor authentication is a must, as only with your own user. With this authentication method, an authenticator app on the logon user's mobile phone is used to enter a unique number code to verify that the right person is logging in. Website hacking is usually done by a robot, so even an easy password can quickly become a problem, as they can quickly try out many options. Of course, you should not wait until, for example, a reader reports a problem, but monitor the site continuously. There are plugins that can do this. For example, after many repeated unsuccessful logins, the user is blocked and the organisation is notified, or countries can be specified from which no logins are allowed at all. Bernadett adds security measures by using Captcha. This is another way of trying to filter out robots when registering on Medve Matek sites.

Learning by doing - advises Balázs Ormándlaki. Members of the organisation should feel free to push and test the website until they are familiar with the interface. But even if the site has been hacked, there is no need to despair. The hosting provider should be asked to back up the site from time to time so that if a problem occurs, it can be restored at any time.

If the summary isn’t enough for you and you would like to listen to the full hungarian conversation, you can access the first part here and the second part here.

The podcast was created with the support of Hive Mind: the Hive Mind community is dedicated to developing media literacy: helping you to recognise misinformation, how to speak positively to people on critical issues and how to stay safe in the digital world. You can listen to more of the Hive Mind community's podcasts in Hungarian on this chanel and in English on the Hive Mind channel.

Related links:

Medve Matek's website
CivilTech Photoshop subscription