So you think your church needs a website. Or a new site. Or a better site. Rock on. Welcome to Church Websites 101, a quick and dirty series about how to start or restart your church’s website.
Last time we talked about knowing your audience. Now it’s time to know yourself. As you plan and build your website you need to keep your own church’s skills, abilities and faults in mind.
So many church websites have been set up by volunteers who eventually disappear. Sometime later (years? months?) the church is eager to update the site and that handy volunteer is gone—along with the necessary insights, know-how and sometimes even passwords to get it done. Don’t be held hostage by someone else.
Who’s going to keep the site going over time? Your pastor? Yeah, right. Your administrative assistant? Sure, the web will just float to the top of their daily mountain of work. Know yourself well enough to know who’s going to update the site and build it with that in mind. If you’ve got random, over-worked staff members running the site, it better be quick and easy to update. Automate as much as possible and don’t set yourself up for something you don’t have time for. If your pastor really isn’t going to blog every week, don’t make his blog a highlighted feature you can’t change. If your list of Sunday School classes isn’t going to be kept up to date, don’t list it front and center. Build a site your church can actually sustain.
Work with What You Have
Everybody loves to dream big, but sometimes you have to work with what you have. If you don’t have the staff to support constant updates, you may need to scale back. Take stock of what you have now—the staff availability, the volunteers, the skills, the budget—and be realistic about what you can accomplish. It’s always less painful to ramp up in the future if you can do more than to have to cut back when you hit a wall.
Build What You Can Handle
Don’t plan a site that requires lots of coding updates when your champion doesn’t know HTML. Don’t plan a site that requires big, fancy graphics for every feature when you don’t have a big, fancy designer on staff. Don’t plan for wordy descriptions of every event if you’re more likely to get half a sentence. Know what you can handle and build for it.
When we redesigned our site last year we thought about incorporating video. A video player on the homepage sounded awesome. Until we realized we had no source for video content. Such a cool feature would have no consistency and end up being a drag on our time and resources. We nixed it. We also wanted to incorporate more graphics for each post, but we knew we had limited time and skill to work with. So we created templates with layers to give each graphic a consistent look and added a custom spot in the content management system so the graphics could be created and loaded to the site easily.
In the end you have to build something you know will work for your church (duh). There’s no sense building a monstrosity you can’t keep up with. Or building something so simple it doesn’t give you the flexibility and power you need. Know yourself.
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