I thought it might be helpful to do a quick roundup of a couple of my favorite website creation/management tools. These are all web-based solutions which means you sign into your site and do everything within your web browser.
The first of these solutions I ever used was Artistry Marketing’s Youth Fusion ($41/mo plus setup). This is hands down the easiest of the group. They excel in creating pretty interesting looking sites that are quick and easy to update. They also have an easy way to upload pictures. The problem with this provider is that to make more complex page layouts or site organization design, you have to do more HTML coding than you should to accomplish the task. However, if what you want is ease, this is it. Another great feature is that they regionally protect your theme so that other groups in your area don’t have an identical site.
Unsatisfied with that I went to the opposite extreme with Truewell which is not around anymore. Truewell was super-deep and focused on creating an online community. The problem was that you paid for the depth with ease of use.
I finally settled on Snapshot Web (prices vary from$299-$699/yr plus setup) It has gone through several iterations, and is amazing in its current form. It’s easy to use, has extremely stylish design, and is quite affordable. One of my favorite aspects of the tool is the fact that I can upload a zip file with pictures in it, and the site decompresses the files, makes thumbnails, and places them into an album without me doing anything outside of the initial upload. It’s my experience that teenage traffic is driven to youth sites by having current, constantly updated pictures, and Snapshot Web makes that a breeze. Once you have that it’s easy to add polls, videos, forums, blogs, and all the HTML you can stomach coding yourself.
All that being said, if you have a bit more money or are looking for a more custom site (maybe for your whole church) you should check out Site Organic (prices vary from $129-259/mo plus significant setup). Their collaboration and design process is incredible and they produce some of the slickest looking ministry sites I have seen, but it will cost you. They have a new “Express” option that brings the setup price down to $500, but sacrifices the custom design at which they excel.
It all boils down to what you need in regards to ease, depth, customization, etc. This is in no way an exhaustive list, please feel free to post your experiences with other providers in the comments.