At the simplest level, a website can be a few static, text-based pages. A more complex site might use a database to store content and include functions such as a search facility or feedback form; while the most sophisticated websites employ animation, sound and videos as well as members' areas, forums, user polls and a range of other functions.
The most common functions to consider for a community website are:
search facility enabling users to find information on the site
feedback form for users to submit their comments
directory/ies listing names and contact details of local businesses/community groups
calendar to promote events
public forum for community members to post news and events.
Be aware that different functions require different software and that not all hosting services support all software. The functionality of your website will also depend on your budget. The more complex the functionality of your website, the longer it will take to develop and the more costly it will be.
If your community is small, you might be able to create a listing of businesses and events in a static HTML page. However, this means you will need to edit the HTML page whenever details change. For larger sites (or where funding permits) it is better to use a database to store and manage this information.
A database provides for more sophisticated searching because it allows each entry to be associated with more than one category. For example: the Children's Greek Dance Academy could be listed under 'children's activities', 'ethnic groups' and 'recreation clubs'. This makes it easier for site visitors to locate information, regardless of where they begin searching.
When planning the functionality of your website, work out what you want your site to do and then decide how you can best achieve this. If you can't afford everything to begin with, you might take a phased approach to get a simplified version online first. Alternatively, you may have to scale down your ambitions to meet your budget.
By being clear about what functionality you want in your website, you will be in a better position to discuss this with your web developer to find out how they will do it, what it will cost and how long it will take to build.