These days if your library can't be found on the web, it may not exist to a lot of people. So, it's important to establish and maintain a web presence. Luckily there are a number of ways to do this.
The first and easiest way is to claim your library as a business in Google search. You start with a simple Google search.
You'll probably find something like this
Free with ads
- Blogger - this is the software MT Bibliotechies uses. It is blogging software and has its limitations as far as library web pages are concerned. But it is easy to set up and use and you can buy a domain name for your library from Google for as little as $12/year.
- Google sites - Google also offers a free website builder with a limited number of templates. You can use their URL or your own domain name as above.
- WordPress - WordPress is the web building software behind many websites. It's also available via WordPress.com. There is a free version available with ads. You can also find low cost versions including domain name hosting for as little as $5/month - paid annually. WordPress is a powerful tool but can have a bit of a learning curve.
Anytown library sample website
- Wix.com - Wix is a popular and easy to use website builder used by several Montana libraries. They do offer a free version that comes with ads. They will constantly try to upsell you, however. It looks like their cheapest paid plan is $16/month and includes domain name hosting.
- Weebly.com - Another free website builder and host. The good thing about these is you can try them out. If you come up with something you like, you can always choose to upgrade and pay later. The downside is the proprietary website building software can make it difficult to move if you should decided to do so down the road.
Domain Name Registration
- Hover - this is the one I use. I started using Tucows years ago for software and continued on with Hover. Just an easy to use service with good customer support. It can be a bit more expensive than some of the others but we're talking about a few dollars a year. They don't offer web hosting or web building services so they won't try to upsell you.
- Google Domains - as mentioned in the section on Blogger and Google Sites, Google will register your domain names for you. It's probably most useful and convenient if you're using other Google tools but they do claim to work well with a number of trusted partners.
- Forbes Advisor - The Best Domain Registrars of 2023 - if you want to shop and compare various registrars.
You'll need a server somewhere to host your website. In years past, it might have been a service that your ISP provided. Perhaps your city or county hosts your website. If so, they may also have templates and/or website creation software they require you to use. They may also include your library as part of their larger domain. So you might have a URL that looks like <library.montanacounty.gov> or <montanacounty.gov/library>.
But in many cases, you're either going to choose to go with a free with ads web host or pay for one. As with the free ones listed above, including their paid versions, many will offer to take care of all of your website needs for you: domain name registration, website hosting and website creator tools. That's great if you find one that you like, at the right price that's easy for you to use. Having it all in one can make it more of a challenge to move, should you decide to do so at some point in the future. Also be forewarned that the great prices and freebies you see offered are often just your initial sign on price. It will go up after your initial sign up period. The great $2.95/month is also only available when you pay for a year or more in advance. That said, a smaller library probably doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles and can probably get a pretty good price. It looks to me like the on-going price for most basic WordPress host sites is about $10/month.
If you look at a lot of web hosts, you'll see that many use WordPress as their site creator software. That makes it easier to move. The templates you use on one host will probably be available on another. There are also a lot of tutorials and help available. But there is a bit of a learning curve. Some web hosts have their own proprietary site creation tools - largely templates - that can make it really easy and fast to set up a nice looking website quickly. It can be frustrating for anyone with more website knowledge who wants to get under the hood and customize. It would also be difficult to just move one of these proprietary sites to a new web host should you decide to do so. You'd probably have to start over again.
Check out the free with ads sites above, particularly if you're new to website creation. You can try one or more out for free and see if it works for you. If so, you can choose to pay to remove ads and/or attach your domain name. Some other web hosts to consider:
- GreenGeeks - okay, I like the name. I set up a website for a nonprofit with them several years ago. No complaints. They use WordPress. They have a promo price of $2.95/month for their cheapest option. It goes up to $10.95/month regular price.
- DreamHost - never used them myself but recommended by Forbes for new WordPress users. Promo price of $2.95/month. Regular $6.99/month for starter plan.
- SquareSpace - a popular all in one website host using their own proprietary custom site builder software. They have a wide variety of templates and a logo maker. I've used it with a nonprofit website. I found it pretty easy to use. The person I turned it over to hated it but she hated all things tech - the perfect webmaster. :D You can do a free trial. Pricing starts at $16/month paid annually. You might be able to get a promo discount as they advertise on a lot of podcasts.
- ONE TO AVOID - GoDaddy - I managed a website for a nonprofit that was hosted on GD and had a horrible experience. The treasurer for the group was upsold to a managed plan we didn't need without consulting me. This involved a site migration which made our site inaccessible for weeks. Getting it back online took hours on the phone on hold and with customer support. One had to refer to another. We continued to have problems for several months. Their prices may be cheap but you get what you pay for, in this case, very poor customer support.
Forbes Advisor 10 Best Web Hosting Services (March 2023) - Forbes list gives you other options to check out.
Tech Radar Best web hosting services of 2023 - Tech Radar has its own rating. You can check out which web hosts they recommend. But even more helpful is their explanation of various services and terminology at the bottom of the page.