Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Genealogy Societies on EasyNetSites ~ WordPress?

is closing
June 30, 2021

This is a HUGE problem for EasyNetSites customers. The customers all appear to be Genealogy Societies in the US.... 

No Competition For EasyNetSites

EasyNetSites had no competition because its price point was so low. No freelancer nor agency could see any way to come close. It was not a "race to the bottom" because the prices already there.

EasyNetSites base price was $200/year for an organization of fewer than 100 members and only twice that ($400/year) for 1,000 members! In return, they would get:

  • The use of the web application & all updates
  • Free hosting with no bandwidth limitation and 3 gigabytes of storage
  • 5 email addresses (no mention of forwarders)
  • I don't know if domain registration was part of the price package, but EasySiteNets would, could, and did handle it.

Even today those services alone cost $100 a year. EasyNetSites was basically giving away its intellectual services to the smaller organizations.

Another benefit to customers was the EasyNetSites owner's background:

  • His IT experience allowed him to personally write and maintain the back-end website software.
  • His Genealogy experience gave him an insight into what the organizations need, and he could offer solutions that were not obvious to non-technical board members
I was asked to sit in on a presentation, and the owner was quite adamant about separating content from the structure. There was no doubt about what he was providing and what he was expecting the organization to provide!
  • Content - He was not going to write or edit anything the organization wanted to post.
  • Roles & training - He had a list of skills that he expected an organization to provide, and if the individual did not have the skills, he would provide an hour or two of training. That training would be recorded and available for future replacements
EasyNetSites did charge for additional work. They had a price if someone wanted them to import their membership list He quoted another price to import a cemetery database. And so on...

April 2019

After our interview in 2019, the Pinellas Genealogy Society ultimately chose to develop its own website using WordPress. PGS was looking for a website that showed up well on cell phones and tablets. I would have recommended EasyNetSites if they had a "responsive" upgrade on their list of things to do. But they didn't.

WordPress Example

Is WordPress a good choice? I believe it is an excellent technical solution. The cost, even with hosting, is minimal! One society listed these annual expenses from their organization's treasury:
  • $80/year - Web hosting
  • $45/year - Domain registration (we have more than 1 domain)
  • $25/year - Cloud Storage 
  • $25/year - Theme renewal
  • $40/year - Support for Membership Plugin
  • $100/year - Wordfence protection 
  • $315/year
The email is often included with web hosting. For our own organization, we have several dozen forwarders set up and one mailing list. (Admin, Postmaster, Webmaster, etc.)

We have a PayPal account that has a cost per transaction, but there are no on-going monthly or annual charges. We use this to collect membership dues online. Zoom is another IT expense, but it is not connected to the website. 

2021 - A Way Ahead

People & Skills

What was not included in that $300 budget was the manpower to create and maintain the site and other Internet services.

Developers charge between $50 and $250 an hour depending on how quickly they can get things done. That could easily (at retail!) burn $1,000 to $10K in services. I think a local agency quoted $17,000 to build our website in WordPress. 

Here are the steps that I think it takes to build a website:
    1. Preparation
      • Collect resources (Password Manager and Google Account, etc)
      • Define Requirements (Mandatory, desirable, and optional)
      • Assign Job titles & descriptions (and who)
    2. Register a domain
    3. Buy web hosting
    4. Install WordPress
      •  Set up email for the organization
    5. Select, install, and configure a theme
    6. Select, install, and configure plugins
    7. Start adding content
      • Define/add pages
      • Create menu(s)
      • Add content to the pages
    8. Marketing/Branding
      • SEO
      • Social Media
    Steps 1-4 are important and necessary. In that order, like a checklist. But that should only take an hour!

    Step 5 (Theme) is relatively short, less than an hour. A few clicks, and the theme is installed, never to be required again. The colors and fonts have to be selected and applied. 

    Step 6 (Plugins) is more difficult to estimate/budget time because this is where the site's features and functions are added. Budget 2-4 hours for this.

    Step 7 - Creating blank pages and adding them to a menu structure should take 30 minutes if everyone has already agreed on the pages.

    Steps 7-8 - Adding content, marketing, SEO, and social media: If you're a sailor this is a hole in the water that you attempt to fill with time. If you're a fantasy or a Star Trek fan, it's a bottomless black hole.

    How to help the genealogy sites in 2021

    I think we could build a pool of talented WordPress developers that will volunteer (uh, give away) their time and skills. They won't do the actual work for the various societies across the country and around the world.


    I am using that word as a single definition of a pool of volunteer talent and what they can/will contribute. I am not married to that label, but as a label, it will suffice for now.

    Define requirements before starting

    Anyone who wants to receive benefits from WPGen has to complete/submit a checklist. It's intended to identify who in their organization will accomplish which task. The organization will lead with its checkbook. $100-$200 should be enough "skin" in the game.

    WPGen has to be very careful about the scope of work to be done, and not over-promise or over-commit.

    Bring up a basic WP website

    WPGen will bring up a WordPress website, then provide a URL, user ID, and password to the society's webmaster.
    • Misc notes:
      • WPGen will agree on the checklist before offering it to the first "client"
      • WPGen can offer to look over the shoulder of whoever is going to buy/register their domain, and guide them in updating the DNS information.
      • Multi-site? Single installations? cPanel & subdomains? TBD.
      • Web-hosting begins with shared hosting for the first 4-5 clients, then moves to dedicated hosting when performance sags. 
      • WPGen will install WordPress,  theme, and the first round of plugins.
      • If previously defined and agreed upon, WPGEN will add blank pages and a menu structure.
      • All of this will be done before providing the WordPress login.

    UPDATE: November 2023

    EasyNetSites lives - and thrives! Paul brought this my attention, and I posted his comment below. I visited the new EasyNetSite website and discovered two things:
        [1] the first-glance layout is unchanged (logo, color scheme, etc) and 
        [2] they are pivoting to include any membership organization.

    I wish them continued success!

    1 comment:

    1. Hi Rick. Your headline on this page is misleading today, since obviously EasyNetSites did not close. My small company acquired it in March 2021 and we continue to support the product. We did not want the company to fail, because it provided a solution for many genealogical and related membership societies. Currently, we're rolling out a responsive version, ENS-R. It would have been nice if this version was available back in 2021, as you said. I think the rest of the article accurately reflects your experience back then, but the closing headline hasn't been correct for some time. Just sayin'!


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