Help for Church Webmasters
Issue 18 01/28/03
I know, I know, I am not supposed to wait to until the end of January to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. I am supposed to do that at the beginning of January. Actually I waited on purpose. I wanted to wait until after all the New Year’s resolution hype had ended. By now you have either had success with your resolutions or you’ve given up. Regardless of how you might have faired with your personal resolutions, hopefully you will be open to these types of resolutions. After all you can make resolutions any time, you don’t have to wait until New Years. (Hmmm, maybe I should have named this newsletter “Not New Year’s Resolutions”)
I would like to suggest some possible resolutions that have to deal with the care and feeding of your website. Let’s face it, most of us could put a bit more effort into maintaining a quality site (myself included). These resolutions are aimed at that goal while trying not to overwhelm us with a bunch of work.
1. Get an update schedule. Sometimes our pages get so out of date we get discouraged and don’t want to update them. So make a schedule and try to stick to it, but don’t get obsessive. If you miss an update, just do it as soon as you can. Different pages may have different update schedules. For example, I post my pastors sermons in Real Audio format. I try to do that by Sunday evening. But my update schedule for the links in the Kids Zone is monthly. Hint: Use the calendar with reminders in Outlook to automatically remind you when it is time to due certain tasks to the website.
2. Fix the little things. We all have little problems/annoyances/whatever on our sites that need to be fixed. Make a list of them and start working through them. Most of them only take a few minutes to correct but they need to be done too. Example: I had made the logo on my main page a bit smaller using the size feature in the browser (always a bad idea), and it was a little pixilated. I didn’t think it was too bad and I figured no one would notice anyway. So I never took a few minutes to fix it. Well someone correctly pointed out to me that it was not as good as it could be. So I loaded it into Fireworks and fixed it. Total fix time: about 3 minutes. Start fixing those little things that keep your good site from being a great site.
3. Check your links. If you have links to other websites, you have to keep checking them. This is pure drudgery that no one likes. But it must be done if you want to have a great site. Get an automated program to help you with this task. Run the linker checker once a month and fix broken links.
4. Pictures. Get some good pictures on your site. Pictures of the church and staff are well and good, but there’s more to your church than that. Get some pictures of the people, the children’s class, special programs, etc… There are lots of picture opportunities. Digital cameras are cheaper than ever, but even if you don’t have one most film developers will give you a disc with the pictures on it for a nominal charge.
5. Page Titles. This may seem a bit nit-picky, but many church sites don’t have titles on their pages. You can see the titles in the top of the browser and it looks tacky to have no title or “put title here” in the window frame of the browser. But worse than that, some search engines use your title to help rank your page. Not only that, but most search engines will display your page title in the search results. It is worth the effort to get them right!
6. Add something new to your site. This is the year to buckle down and add a new page or two to your site. You’ve been thinking about adding a new page to highlight a ministry anyway. So set a couple of deadlines and get serious about adding some new information.
7. Be a visitor to your site. Come up with a list of things you think a visitor to your church would want to know before visiting your church. Things like: directions to the building, service times, who’s the pastor and how was he educated, children’s classes, other services/ministries, Youth groups, Young Adults groups, Senior activities, child care, how to I join the church, office phone number, etc… (the list is almost endless). Now see if you can easily find the answers to those questions on the website. The hard part is to distance yourself from your church. Really try to play the part of someone who doesn’t know anything about your local church or denomination. Is there anything compelling on your website that would invite someone to visit your local church?
If you use this list of resolutions (or make your own list), I guarantee you will have better website at the end of the year.
If you have a question or something you are struggling with, let me know and I will see if it can be covered in a future newsletter.
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It would be way cool if you could mention this resource somewhere on your web page! You can link to “Help for Church Webmasters” at http://www.downeychurch.com/HelpForChurchWebmasters.html