With a new year just getting unwrapped, often on the wish-list for churches will be a new (or rebuilt) website. We’ve put together some basic considerations to help get the ball rolling:
A Church Near You
First things first: keep your free entry on http://www.achurchnearyou.com (ACNY) up to date, add a decent cover photo (preferably of people not just the building) and think about adding a few pages to highlight particular ministries: additional functionality will appear in early 2018. Thanks to a recent re-launch of ACNY, there can now be up to 5 editors, default administrator will be the incumbent (ACNY gets this info via Crockfords). To get started: find your church’s page and click ‘Edit this Church’ (bottom left).
Building/Replacing a website
Anything more than ACNY isn’t free: you will need to pay each year for at least hosting and probably the domain name (e.g. www.exampleparish.org.uk) too.
- Build-it-yourself website tools (£50-100 annual for no-adverts) :
- Pay a website builder (£100-500/annual): http://nettl.com/uk/gloucester, http://www.cromecreations.co.uk
Review your current site:
- Responsive: Since 2008, all sites should be ‘responsive’, resizing content to work well on smartphones and tablet devices. Sites which aren’t responsive will exclude 30-50% of potential traffic. Website templates which come with content management systems like WordPress or Joomla or Wix will all be responsive out of the box;
- Bottlenecking: Sites which require a single person to make updates via HTML / FTP are prohibitive as methods of communication and can suffer when people move on or aren’t available. A free CMS with multiple maintenance logins (like WordPress or Joomla) would mean many people would be able to update content at any time, reducing workloads and easing communication. For example, every single member of the diocesan staff have their own login for this diocesan website and can (within reason!) edit content as they see fit;
- Accessibility: Sites built with accessibility in mind will not only be better for users but will naturally perform better on search engines. Great free tool to audit your website here: http://wave.webaim.org, which includes advice on how to solve any issues your site may have;
- Ergonomics: Navigation and ‘grid’ (layout) should be consistent between pages. Changes in emphasis, layout, navigation and branding can disorient the user;
- SEO: To improve the chances of Google (and other search engines) ranking your pages more highly in their results, follow guidance at: http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf, which includes
- avoid using generic page titles (eg. ‘homepage’, ‘contact page’; these are general terms rather than organisational purpose or geography-specific),
- avoid generic web addresses (eg. ‘contact%20page.htm’),
- add alt/title tags for images.
- Fonts: The only rule is Ban Comic Sans. The issue with Comic Sans as a font >> http://www.comicsanscriminal.com – it’s not an issue of fashion, but being unaware of the chequered history of the font can be a problem for credibility. There are great free fonts out there eg. https://fonts.google.com/ – these are not only downloadable, but tend to be built-in to web building tools these days too, so it’s very easy to make the swap;
- Images: Ideally use at least one quality image on each page. Ideally these include pictures of people, not just buildings or objects, but check you have permission from anyone depicted. There are free image banks if you don’t have pictures of your own yet, including LightStock; and the free diocesan images on Facebook.
- Architecture: Websites that allow you to ‘tag’ your article/page content are more connected and future proof. Tagging is a fundamental to data architecture because it removes the hierarchical limitation of information and enables sites to connect information laterally through topics. Read more about this
Our own diocesan website is built using the free WordPress.org engine, and is very friendly for those users who update the site and add/edit content, for all levels of expertise.