Building a Church Website
Have you been asked to build a website for your church? Building There are thousands of people building websites everyday. It is becoming increasingly important for many small organizations and groups to build their online presence. This helps in getting their ideals, goals, and mission out to the general public. Therefore at an increasing rate many of us with computer skills are asked by organizations to put together a website. This happened to me about two years ago when the school I worked at asked me to build a website for them to help advertise their special arts programs.
The only problem with this is many of us do not have the skills nor the time to build and keep up a whole site. It takes a lot to be the webmaster of a website and it is no simple task. However often it is too expensive to pay a web designer to build a custom site for an organization and so the task often falls to an armature or even some one with no experience. This is what happened to me with the website that I build for my school. I didn’t have the first clue about website design or html. So that forced me to learn the basics and use what tutorials and templates that i could find online. I made it through the experience and like many others found that it was a lot of fun. Therefore I started building a bunch of other sites. I would bet that this happens to many.
This article will help the beginning web designer or even volunteer set up a basic Church website. However since there is not a lot of money to spend on the project and often people have really unrealistic ideas about what a website can do we will give you some good guidelines and tips to get started.
The first thing that you need to have a real good idea about is your level of experience with building websites. It is really important to be honest with yourself and the church that you belong to in order to create a realistic expectation. If you are a beginner then it is fine to admit that, we all have to start somewhere. However, if you are a beginner don’t plan on building an elaborate SQL php backend that can be dynamically updated or anything like that. Below I have provided some basic definitions of skill level that might help you assess where you are at.
Beginner – You are this level fall anywhere in between never setting up a site to having built a site or two with an online website builder or a pre made website like those provided on Yahoo, or AngelFire.
Intermediate – If you have either set up a website with an online builder and customized the site some or built a website using a template then you fall into the intermediate category.
Advanced – You have set up many sites before and often use templates for ideas but tweak them so much they hardly resemble the template when you are finished.
How you choose to build your website depends largely on two factors, your time commitment to the project and your skill level. These two factors have a strong correlation between them. Meaning if you have lots of time and are a beginning you will be able to build more advanced websites. However if you are an advanced designer and have very little time to build another site then you will want to go with something very basic. If you fall on either the not enough time or not enough experience end of the spectrum then you should really consider buying a template to either make your site or at least get you started. However if you are at the intermediate or advanced level and have time then you should forgo the template and create a really cool design yourself.
Some of the tools that you will need to build any website are included below:
Graphics Software – The standard for creating website is Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop has a great add-on product that comes with the software that allows you to slice the images you create and export them as html.
HTML editor – This can be anything from Microsoft Notepad all the way up to a high end WYSIWYG editor. WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get and it means that the program does the html coding for you. Some editors that you might want to look into would be (ranked from least expensive to most) Coffee Cup HTML Editor, Microsoft FrontPage, Macromedia Dreamweaver.
Before you start with getting your hands dirty it is really important to lie a good foundation for your website. In order to have a high quality website it is important to have a good foundation and site plan before you start. In a Church, School, or Club it is important to have a group of people working on the website planning. The actual work might be carried out by one person but it is important to have a group plan the site plan in order to get global perspective of the organization. During this stage it is important to gather ideas, thought, and and opinions and get them down on paper. As the group refines their plans it is important to come up with a site map. A site map is a graphical representation of every page that will be on the website and how they will connect to each other. It is also important to get some basic ideas on the layout of the site.
Next you can go online and check find the templates that are available. Look around and find different ideas and templates. If you are like many people you might find that one template does not work. I often want a part of one and part of another template. If this is the case and you are experienced it is not really a problem but if you are new to website design then you might want to pay someone to customize the site for you. You can see some resources on our site dealing with template customization and templates.
It is important now if possible to assign sections of the website to different individuals. They don’t even need any experience with website design. If they can type you will be able to use them. Assign sections to each member of the team to complete. That team member will then work on their own computer in Microsoft word or a simple text editor to create the text and collect any graphics, pictures, or sounds that they would like to add to the site.
Below is a list of some of the content areas that you might want to include on a church website
About the Priest or Pastor
Church’s Mission Statement
gallery of recent church activity
picture tour of the church
Sunday school or singles groups etc.
Each member can then turn in their section of the website on a disk to you and you will compile all of them onto the actual website. You can often do this by a simple cut and past command in most WYSIWYG editors. It is important at this stage to name all of the files in a consistent way and stick to the site map. If you make changes to the site as you are building make sure you reflect these changes on your site map. It can become very easy to build a huge website with literally 1,000’s of of files including images, html documents and much more. If you are not consistent with your file naming and site map then you will not be able to update or make changes tot he website because you will be lost.
Once your website if complete you will need to find a host and upload it to the host. If you have trouble at this stage typically the host will help you with it. After your site is up then you will breathe a big sigh of relief and feel like you don’t want to see the site ever again. However the work has only really begun because website are constantly evolving an have to reflect what is happening in the world and your organization. So your work has only begun. You will now need to work to publicize your site sot hat people can find it and you will need to continually update the site and keep the content fresh and up to date.