I've written a couple of articles about building a church website and the decisions you need to make when doing so. Today I'm going to discuss the tools I'd recommend you use to build a website. What are the requirements?
- Simple to Update
- 100% Browser maintained
- 100% Browser addins
So the tool of choice that I'm recommending is WordPress. It is 100% Browser maintained, you never need to use FTP, or any other program to modify WordPress. Everything you may need to do is maintained directly through the browser. Updates are just a couple of clicks and done automatically for you, directly from your browser. Plus installing new addins are done directly from the browser making it extremely simple to add new functionallity. It's important to note there are two kinds of WordPress. Each have some differences that you need to understand to help you choose which system to use.
This is the hosted version of WordPress, that is administered by the creators for WordPress. This has some nice features for those with limited (no budgets) for a website, this would be a good place to start. Let's discuss features:
- Free – doesn't cost anything, you can have a URL to you WordPress Blog such as: http://churchname.wordpress.org
- Professionally Administered – Professionals with WordPress maintain these systems.
Now those are great reasons to use the www.wordpress.org Hosted solution. However let's discuss the downside. You have NO control over the plugins available to you. You don't get to choose what plugins are available for you to use. You loose most of your ability to expand, as your limited to a minimal set of plug-ins. Definetly look at this, if your starting out, or just wanting to get familiar with WordPress. It's great to setup your Website initially here and then move it the second solution, and I will discuss that in another article on how to do that.
This is when you take things to the next level, you hire/rent server time from a place like Godaddy.com or Amazon Web Services. Here you are in charge of your WordPress Installation, plugins and all things about your setup. This is slightly more difficult, but relatively simple. For example Godaddy.com, you can sign up for a Domain Name, attach a hosting plan to that Domain Name, and then have Godaddy.com install WordPress automatically for you.
So now you have WordPress installed, you have your Admin ID, and Password. What should you add for plugins to your website now?
- Akismet -This plugin will save you many headaches of dealing with SPAM being submitted to your website by BOTS, and spammers. This will help you avoid a lot of posts/comments that are of a very undesireable nature.
- All-in-One Event Calendar – Church Calendar, it displays it very nicely, and makes it accessable to many devices by .ics stream.
- CKEditor for WordPress – A greatly improved editor for creating your posts and pages on your website. Really adds a lot of additional functionality missing in the stock editor.
- Connections – Church Directory, allow you to setup families and people with there information so that it's accessable on your website.
- Custom Post Widget – Nice little way to create blocks of formatted text that you want to place as widgets on your website. Makes it extremely easy to update/maintain.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com – A variety of features from Social sharing features to mobile device access.
- Members – Limit who can access things on your website. Don't want your directory available to members outside of your church this will allow you to set that up.
- NextGEN Gallery – Church Photo Albums, simple and elegant way to maintain your church photos on the website.
- Scripturizer – Turn your John 3:16 into links of the scripture.
- Social Media Widget – If you are setting up a website you better have a presence in the social media. This will provide a nice way to share the presence.
- WP Google Maps – Let's face it, you need to tell people where you church is, Google Maps is the best way to that.
Now whether your WordPress.com Hosted or Self Hosted, you get to choose your theme. This is extremely important, this greatly effects many things in building your website:
- Overall look of the website.
- Number of Columns, sidebars, and widget areas.
- Selection of widgets available
- Layout of the website
This should be the very first thing you do, take your time, examine the different ones. There are ones that are Free, and then Premium ones you have to pay to use. The designs vary significantly, so take your time in making this decision. Good news is you don't have to start from scratch if you decide you want to change down the road. Just a few changes in the Appearance section and you can be right back on track. Look around and shop features, to find what you are looking for in your website look.
Here are the tools you need to take your website to the next level, in an easy to maintain system. Always remember easier is better, and less steps means less mistakes, keep those in mind as you build your website out, I think you'll find these tools are invaluable in starting off your website!