Building and Maintaining Your Website
The building blocks of any website are: domain, hosting and design. We’ll walk through all three.
What is a domain?
Your domain is your web address. For instance: www.christianscienceyourcity.com.
How do you pick one?
First, it needs to be available (not owned already by someone else). When on a domain-purchasing website (such as NameCheap.com), you can search to see if your idea for a domain is taken yet. If not, it’s available to buy. The website will show you the price. You pay annually and can often pay for up to 5 years at a time.
Can you have more than one?
Yes, you can! You would just point all of your extra domains to the one. Sometimes this can help with stronger search results. An example of additional domains might be if your main domain is www.christiansciencebothell.com and you also want www.christiansciencebothell.org and www.fccsbothell.com. Additional domains allow for more people to find you. It’s also another expense for each extra domain you get and shouldn’t be a priority if budget is tight.
Where do you get a domain?
You pay to get a domain from websites like GoDaddy.com, Domain.com, NameCheap.com, and Hover.com. GoDaddy is the most popular and prominent and a solid choice. If you wanted to price shop here’s a comparative article on the competitors. https://makeawebsitehub.com/godaddy-alternatives/
You also often have the option to buy a domain from hosting websites, but it’s recommended to have your domain owned independently from a website host in case you want to change hosts at some point there are no complications with migrating your domain to the new host.
When do I get a domain?
It’s a good idea to secure a domain as soon as you think of the one you want so you don’t risk it being bought by someone else.
What is hosting?
Think of it as the online house where your website design lives. Secure and reliable are the two main keys to good hosting.
How do I get a good host?
Almost all online design platforms like WordPress, Weebly, Wix and Squarespace (to name a few) offer secure, reliable, free hosting with sufficient space for any church website. It streamlines expenses and can keep your website running and always up to date by these major companies.
How does our church get a website designed?
There are two ways: either you hire a web designer or you make one yourself.
Doing it yourself: There are many template-based website building platforms (WordPress, Weebly, Wix, Squarespace). These website building websites have made it possible for the everyday person to build a website. The higher end sites like Wix.com and Squarespace make it the easiest, but are also a little more expensive in making it so. It it important to note though, regardless of the platform, it still requires someone to dedicate at least 5-10 hours minimum to setting it up. And unless someone in the congregation is technologically adept and willing to spend the time you definitely want to hire it out for the initial design and setup. Especially with the less expensive platforms like WordPress and Weebly the tools to fill in the template aren’t as intuitive and user friendly as they could be. It takes a designer to know how to manipulate the system to give you the best product even with those budget option limitations.
Hiring a designer: You do not need to hire a traditional web designer/developer who would build a new custom website. They will be much more expensive and require a higher level of maintenance. You can use a graphic designer who knows how to work on template based website like the aforementioned (WordPress, Weebly, Wix, Squarespace), and then once setup it will be easy enough for a member or two to get trained on using the editing tools on the site to make minor content edits.
Pricing: You can always reach out to a graphic designer who lists website design in their services and ask for their rates and a quote. Graphic designers are typically $65-$125/hour.
Disclaimer: I (Alex Chapman) am a graphic designer and have designed two sites for local Seattle area churches. I charged at my hourly rate at the time of $65/h. Each site took 8-12 hours. This included the initial consultation giving guidance on process and content, selecting the template, building it out with the content written by the church, coordinating the domain and hosting to make the website live to the public.
Overall Components of the Design
- Platform: Selected based on price, functionality, and template options that meet your church’s need. Here’s a breakdown on the most popular options:
- WordPress: Least expensive for “free templates”, but those templates are very limited in functionality. You can only do what the free template has built into it. Sometimes that’s fine if you just want a super simple site/ no frills. WordPress is also a little clumsy to edit (but workable).
- Weebly: A couple dollars more per month, a little more flexibility within the templates, but still limited. For instance some templates don’t allow you to edit the tablet or mobile view.
- Squarespace: $5 more per month, much more flexibility
- Wix: $1 more than Squarespace (often there are sales though making it less if you time it right), the most flexibility, an awesome and easy platform to work from.
- Template/Layout: Selected by church or designer
- Photos/Imagery: Great to hire a photographer to get real photos of your church, reading room and services. Try only to supplement with licensed stock photography when necessary or if it benefits the design.
- Tabs: Decide on the categories of content you want: i.e. about your branch, services times, reading room, Sunday school, events/activities, news/updates, links to other resources (Sentinel Watch, Daily Lift, Asher Foundation, CS Camps, etc), about Christian Science/MBE- keep it very brief or point to ChristianScience.com (don’t rewrite what has been written well for the public already),
- Content: Once you know your tabs content needs to be written for each one by church members or written by a designer (if a service they offer) who has interviewed designated members.
- Cross and Crown License: It takes a while, so apply for this early on so it’s ready to use when the website is ready to launch. You will need to show a mockup of how you intend to use it. If the website design is not yet under way (which you might otherwise just screenshot), you can set up — or have a designer set up — a mock image of how the home page will look.
Simple and clean designs are key. They help viewers navigate and track the important information you’re trying to convey. No longer should simple and clean be “modern.” It should just be considered standard. Websites that lead with a lot of text all at once are overwhelming and hard to digest. Shorter paragraphs and simple blurbs are best for home pages when people are just getting an initial idea of where they’ve landed and what the website has to offer them. Save longer paragraphs for their own page, if you feel they’re valuable/necessary for your online presence. In other words, perhaps have a short blurb on the home page with a link to read more on a separate page. That way, headers and subheaders aren’t too far apart, allowing skimmers to know what’s available to read right away.
Happy to be a resource
As I mentioned, I can be a design resource to churches. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.