Read Time: 5 min.

If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t just make a website and be on your merry way, this is the place for you.

I used to think that if I made a website I could just ask someone (really anyone with design or tech skills) to make it and then my website would be immortalized on the web and live forever—no touch-ups needed.

But then I interviewed my friend/our Story 2 developer, Gabe, and he had this way of thinking about website maintenance that really made me change my mind.

So I’ve heard you make the analogy that websites are like houses, why do you make that comparison?

I use this comparison because healthy houses (like websites) aren’t just static things even though people think they are.

You pay for the house, but you also pay for insurance taxes, and other extra things in order to maintain a house.

You put in work to maintain your garden, roof, etc.

So you can buy a website one time and that’s it. But similarly, with a website, you have to be aware of updates, keep publishing new content, or sometimes you need new colors or new paint.

Exactly how far can this websites-are-like-houses metaphor really go?

Pretty dang far.

Your URL: You have a house address and online that’s your URL. You have a little more choice but the city decides it.

Your Hosting: You need a place to put your house so it needs to exist somewhere. So the hosting is the land where it exists.

Your Email Sign-Up and Compatible Apps or Web Services: These things are like setting up your cable or landline to your house. You want to connect those things specifically to your house but it’s more about connecting it to your street address/URL which is part of your house because your service providers need to know which house to give those services to. Also, you don’t provide all of these services just like a cable or landline, somebody else does.

Your Website’s Design: Design helps people know what kind of house it is. Different houses have very different vibes depending on how old they are or who has been managing the property or how many iterations of staff there have been based on the kind of photos or graphics that are there.

Your Domain: The closest comparison is your exact house address with the numbers, street, and all. When someone is looking up your house you don’t say it’s the house with the pretty colors. So with websites, the most direct thing you can give them is your URL and domain name. There’s a lot of power in having a domain name.

If I’m making a website what’s the difference between platforms like WordPress or Squarespace?

Choosing a platform like WordPress, Drupal, or Squarespace are all like choosing your heating, plumbing or refrigerator.

It’s like the difference between an electric and gas stove, they get the same job done but they might be more efficient or less efficient depending on where your house is.

People’s houses are all built in different ways, different styles—so the outside works can all look different, but all the inner works are similar.

So everyone’s website works the same on the inside?

Not necessarily. This is where having a design process to frontload the initial research and user (your website’s audience) needs come in.

The website is sitting in this virtual environment with all of these things that make it work but every organization and community has its own needs.

If you are building a house and it’s going to be very hot where you’re at you’ll want AC. So if you’re building a website and you know you’re going to get a lot of traffic you might want to add a caching mechanism.

The consequences of not maintaining your website or having a good design process aren’t as drastic as a house or for you internally, but they can be for your audience. (Like causing confusion and inaccessibility, as well as your ability to communicate with other people.)

I have no idea what a caching mechanism is, but once I build this thing I’m good to go, right?

Well, like a house if the roof is leaking, you might need to patch it. And if the security walls are leaking on your site you will need to patch it. Healthy websites need maintenance just like healthy houses, even if you own it the work isn’t done.

That sounds like a lot of work. Maybe I’ll just ask around for someone to make me a website…

So like building a house, you don’t just ask anybody to build your house. And there’s specialties out there like people who build tiny houses. Generally, people will know the general structure. They know you need, windows, walls, and other things, but not everyone is going to be equally good at building them. There are houses out there and they work, but maybe it’s cold outside or the roof is leaky. Similarly, that’s why you have someone build your house and you most likely aren’t an expert.

What do you mean I’m not the expert?!

Okay, okay, I’m just saying you’ll want people with experience and time who will consider it. Not to equate it to the actual physical labor that goes into building a house, of course. There’s a lot of things that are pretty set in stone from person to person.

Like how custom do you want your house to be? The more custom the house is the more it is going to cost. Similarly, with a website you’ve got different audiences and building out space for all of them. Like if you’re managing a lot of volunteers and you’ll need a new page for that.

Okay, last question. What is this dynamic content that all of you web people are talking about?

Ultimately if you want to have dynamic content for your community whether it is your events, blogs, or alerts, it is going to take some work to update that content and that content will not be static.

Dynamic content is like growing a garden. It’s a commitment and you’re trying to make food and grow something. You have to tend to it and make sure the fruit and veggies are growing.

But you also don’t need a garden to have a house. Similarly to plants and veggies, dynamic content may be something that only lives for a season and won’t be there forever.  

But! If you’re focused on serving your community you want it to be thriving, you could even relate it to throwing a house party.

You want to make sure whatever you have from the last party isn’t left over and you have space for new events. So having someone to take care of your dynamic content is important. Shoutout to all the communication teams out there!

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