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I have just come across a discussion started by Michael Boyink suggesting that web designers should not work for free when it comes to creating sites for churches because that inherently means that the organisations that the work is done for do not value it.
Because when a church gets a website for free, it evidently has no value. Things with no value get replaced or reimplemented on a moment’s notice, on staff whim, or as soon as the person leading the effort is called away.
The comments on this piece numbered 85 when he closed commenting, and on Church Marketing Sucks comments are still coming in, so it is obviously a topic that people have strong opinions on.
The criticism around this says that the website creation should be a gift without reservation to the church and what they do with it is their business, but this misses the point of the article. Churches that invest nothing in the original design and building of a website are not likely to invest the relevant resources ongoing to develop compelling and relevant content for the site.
And when someone else offers to take over the site, the old design is too easily abandoned (as it costs nothing) and replaced, when in fact the time spent on the redesign could have been better used on content. Michael Boyink suggests that churches that pay for the site in the first place are more likely to commit the relevant resources to get the most out of their investment.
Chris Miller has kindly offered to post on this blog on all matters and sharing his expertise. Hopefully he can write regularly and become more than just a guest poster. On request for a short biography of him, Chris writes:
I work for Apple specializing in churches and technology. I write a regular article for TFWM on Podcasting and I play keyboards for my local church as well as record and perform with Lincoln Brewster. I also run the Facebook group ‘Apple Church Network’.
Thanks Chris, we are looking forward to your writing.
One purpose of a church website is to allow people to easily contact the church with queries, especially if they have had no previous contact.
We might prefer potential guests to use the phone, but people find email useful simple queries that they can submit anytime. And as churches, we want to encourage a connection every way we can.
When you list the email address on the church website though, there is a problem. This is because, spammers can then see it and add it to their databases. They can do this either manually or more likely in an automated fashion. When a church contact email receives many spam, it becomes harder to deal with and busy staff can mean that false positives are not checked on a regular basis.
A List Apart has an article called Graceful E-Mail Obfuscation, which looks at the history of techniques to fox spammers and what can be done now.
The article particularly looks at the issue of user-friendliness, because adding ‘REMOVE-ME’ to an email address is at best inconvenient for a user. And as churches, we do want to encourage people to contact us as much as possible.
Previously I looked at how to add simple maps to your church website, but for a wordpress site this was complicated, because of the artificiall nature of the directory structure if the site is using re-written URLs. Basically a plugin was required.
Now Google has provided another mechanism for including maps that can be inserted simply by embedding them in pages. All that is needed is to copy some HTML code and paste into your church’s webpage.
You need to login to your account on Google and click on ‘Maps’, then ‘My Maps’ to get started. When you are happy with the map, you can click the ‘emded this in a webpage link’ on the right hand side. If your map is of a church in the UK, then I recommend signing into Google from Google UK, as I had problems otherwise.
You can add other features easily to the map, such as other important points nearby to the church. For example, car parks and travel facilities (trains, buses etc.). This become clickable, and can contain other helpful information.
You can see it in action on my church’s website.
A WordPress plugin has been released to bring bible verses in blog posts to life, by linking them to eBible.com and also showing the verse as a ‘tooltip’ via the title tag.
There is a demo blog which shows the plugin in action.
Like other plugins, you drop it into the wordpress plugin folder, but before it works you need to complete the options screen. Most importantly is the eBible.com API key that you need. You can get a free one here.
I have finally got round to embedding a google map of the location of the church on our church website. This is a much better solution than just scanning a map from a roadatlas and uploading it (which breaks copyright law) or linking visitors to external sites, which may mean you lose those visitors.
I used the wordpress plugin called GeoPress. It is simple to set up once you have signed into Google and obtained an API key (Google Maps API registration). (Note: enter your blog url as the GoogleMaps URL).
Then you can add maps to any posts or pages, but most importantly for church website, to the map and directions page.
Related: Easy Google maps embeded on your church website, without the need to use a WordPress plugin.
The WordPress.com state package is now available for all wordpress blogs as a plugin. And the stats that are collected are displayed in the same place as the WordPress.com blog(s) that you have. You can get the plugin from WordPress.org
WordPress.com statistics are certainly not as sophisticated as some packages (such as Google Analytics), but they are easy and quick to understand. Also, it will not interfere with other statistics packages, such as Mint, Google Analytics, and Statcounter.
And for people like me with a church website on WordPress.org and another blog (this blog) on WordPress.com, it is very convenient to have the statistics in the same place.