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For church websites, the main reason they want to use flash is for impact. It can look really professional. However as mentioned before the main downside is accessibility.
But if all you want is fancy rotating graphics, perhaps a bit of AJAX can help?
Tim Hyde has modified one of his wordpress themes and incorporated JonDesign’s SmoothGallery. It looks fantastic and mimics the flash clickable gallery seen on many large church websites. But best of all it is fully accessible, with changing title, alt, etc. attributes for the elements.
A guest post on Church Marketing Sucks briefly discusses using RSS or other feeds to provide information to church members. For instance different types of news and announcements. If your church runs their church website on wordpress then this makes it easy to do as each category has its own feed, so that as long as you post different types of news to different categories subscribers can follow them independently.
For instance on this website we have the category ‘church humour’, which is located here:
And the RSS feed is located here;
It is found simply by adding /feed/ to the end of the URL. Fancy an atom feed? Just append /feed/atom/ to the end. If you do this to a post rather that to a category post list (as above) you will have the RSS feed (or atom feed) for the comments to that post. (And by default these comment feeds come prefixed with ‘Comments on:’, in the feed title so that in a feed reader it is clear it is a comment feed. For example:
But there is a problem, and it is to do with privacy. The CMS post suggests prayer requests, but many of these with be of a confidential nature. They cannot just be posted on a public website for all to see. Even if you do not tell ‘outsiders’ what the feed URL is, you cannot keep it private for ever, as your church members will use bloglines or another feed reader to subscribe or google will find it.
One solution is to use the wordpress password-protected post feature, setting a password. These posts appear in the feed, but without the content. Church members can then go to the website and type in an agreed password.
The only thing to consider is that it makes the church look uninviting and closed to outsiders if when they visit the church website to see many password protected posts. The best option here would be to stop entries in this category appearing on the front page loop.
Feeds are very powerful and with wordpress as your content management system for the church website, management of them is made easy.
Natalie Joot, a webdesigner in the US has some interesting comments on the use of colour on church websites.
Part of my problem as a church web designer is that I have no artistic or design skills. Anything I have ever done regarding the the coding has been guesswork and trial and error. But choosing colours and getting a balance for a church (or any website) is even harder, because unlike the technical aspects, it is not as obvious when it ‘works’ and hence requires no further tweaking.
She suggests cutting back on the number of colours used and gives two main benefits: cleaner, simply design and; less work to edit CSS as there are less colours to remember the codes for.
There are no easy answers for those needing advice on colour for church sites, but perhaps the old adage: ‘keep it simple’ is the best advice.
In an effort to ‘clean-up’ in the search market and push specialised business search engines, like yell.com, to the sidelines, Google has beefed up its business listings. Like many directory services, Google sees churches as just one type of business so make sure your church is listed.
Importantly, this is applicable to the UK and UK churches and not just US churches (and it is free). Try and see if it available for your own country’s version of Google.
You have been able to add detail to the listing of your church for some time, but Google has increased the range of information you can now add, for instance 10 photographs and custom attributes. You enter a few details, and then a letter will be received in the post for security reasons before the listing is created.
For those who are in any doubt on the necessity of a church website to attract new members, LaRosa Johnson writes about his search for a church and the process that he went through. He used the web to evaluate churches. This shows how important it is to firstly have a web site for your church and how that site impacts on people who view it.
- He used google to search for ‘placename + church’ to find websites of churches in his area, which was written about in August on this blog. If the church is not findable by search engines, then he would not have found it. In other words it is not okay to just be in some specialist church directory which no one searches, the church website has to to reachable via common search engines.
- And then he checked to see if the site had a statement of faith. LaRosa had his own criteria for judging this, as will any Christian looking at it. It is important that it fairly reflects the theological position of the church and its vision. This was suggested by this blog in the article on features a church website should have.
- He then downloads sermons (as MP3s) to evaluate the church further. Compared to putting a mission statement on the church website, uploading sermons would be considerably more work. But clearly it meant that the church could be at least compared to other churches on LaRosa’s short-list.
LaRosa notes that not everyone will go through the same process, but for a Christian looking for a church, this is becoming a more and more common way to create a short-list of churches to visit. If you church does not have a website (or even an out of date one), then it is putting itself at a disadvantage straight away.
Following on from an earlier post on styling your church website which suggested in more than one place to edit CSS, it is perhaps necessary to explain the CSS editing process and what you can do to make it easier.
But what is CSS? Here are some resources;
- The Wikipedia article on CSS
- More technical are the CSS specifications you may want to read for more detail.
- Further list of resources on the open directory.
For more practical help in editing CSS you may want to look at an excellent article by Lorelle on building a sandbox for theme development. She describes a technique for speeding up the CSS editing process and ensuring all elements are styled. (This is not the same however as the sandbox theme though I wrote about in a previous post).
My only advice is to dig in and try. You may get frustrated, but don’t give up. And when you think you are happy be sure to test and retest your work on a range of systems and browsers.