After combing through (literally) thousands of church websites, collating information for our database, I can say with certainty, and a significant helping of grace, that there are numerous church websites that could use a significant “upgrade.” You may or may not be in that category, but more often than not, a church’s website is outdated, poorly-organized, and sometimes just downright awful. So, here are a few suggestions to improving your website.
Do you even CMS?
We’ve written about CMSs (Content Management Systems) before. Far and away the most popular is WordPress, but there are other popular and equally free softwares available as well, such as Joomla!, Drupal, and less common ones such as Concrete5. Whatever you choose to go with, a CMS is unarguably the way to go for small (as in not corporate-sized) websites, and any of these will fulfill your needs, though Joomla! is definitely overkill for a church website.
The benefits of using a CMS over a web service like Webs.com are numerous, but here are just a few:
- Choose from thousands of themes to change the look of your website instantly
- Thousands of plugins available, from photo galleries and calendars to sermons
- Continual security updates to keep your site secure and safe from attacks
- Open-source framework that is completely free and has millions of users
- Complete flexibility with unlimited pages, posts, and plugins
Now, you can get most of the same benefits by using a service like WordPress.com, which is a hosted free service, but you’ll have a web address like http://yourchurch.wordpress.com, which isn’t ideal. That brings us to our next topic:
To Host or Not to Host
A web “host” is, in simplistic terms, a company that has a bunch of servers, or computers designed to run websites, connected to a super-fast internet connection. When you pay for hosting, you are simply paying for hard drive space on an internet-connected computer sitting in a server room somewhere. There are many web hosts available, each with varying strengths and weaknesses, but here are a few to investigate:
- Dreamhost (our favorite shared hosting)
- VPSDime (Virtual Private Server – you only need this if you plan to host your own videos – use YouTube instead)
Note: there are three basic types of hosting: shared, virtual private server (VPS), and dedicated.
- Shared hosting means that you are on the same server as hundreds of other sites, so don’t expect mind-blowing speed, but it’s usually enough for the average website. Shared hosting usually runs on spinning hard drives, which makes it slower but allows for more storage, which is why shared plans usually claim to be unlimited.
- VPS means that while you share server space with other websites, you are “guaranteed” a certain level of service. For instance, KJV Churches runs on a VPS that guarantees 6 GB of RAM; while we never use that much, and there’s not enough RAM available for everyone to use their allotment, there’s enough for normal usage. VPSes usually run on Solid State Hard Drives (SSDs).
- Dedicated hosting means that you pay for one whole server. Unless you’re running your own video streaming service or expect to have multiple terabytes of storage and thousands of visitors a day, you won’t ever need dedicated hosting.
Most web hosts walk you through the setup process for hosting your website, but we’ll cover the specifics at a later date as well. (You would also need a domain, but we discussed that here.) However, if you don’t want to mess with figuring out how to build your own site, there’s another option:
Pay Someone Else to Do It
It seems like a great idea to have Bro. So-and-so build a website for the church, but all too often, the “webmaster” is a couple decades behind in his web development experience, and the result is not pretty. In that case, it is a good idea to consider a paid service to produce your website for you. There are many options available, but here are two services for you to consider:
ProChurch is a Baptist organization that sells nice-looking websites to churches. Their portfolio consists of numerous churches and ministries, all of whom have functional, pretty sites. On the downside, though, ProChurch doesn’t provide a significant Search Engine Optimization benefit, which means that your expensive but pretty website may take a long time to show up in organic searches. A slick sales pitch is persuasive, but make sure to do your homework.
A personal friend of KJV Churches, John Schuster, is a full-time web developer and commercial internet marketing specialist. He is also a Bible-Believing Independent Baptist that provides quality web design services to churches. His team of freelancers can pull off stunning websites, and he can take care of all of your hosting, domain, design, and internet marketing needs. We highly recommend John if you’re looking for a new website. You can send him an email by clicking here.
Web technology is daunting for many folks, but there are people that not only know how to make it work, but enjoy doing it. Doing it yourself is a great way to improve your web presence, and you will both improve your understanding of the internet and gain the satisfaction of a job well done, but if you don’t have the stomach for it, there are other ways to get ‘er done.