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Redesigning Your Church Website – Part 3:  Selecting a Platform

May 30, 2017 9:15:00 AM

Redesigning Your Church Website – Part 3:  Selecting a Platform
Now that you’ve decided on your message and audiences (if not, see part 2 in this series) it’s time to look at where you’re actually going to put the website once you’ve got it perfected.  There are quite a few options, so it’s easy to get lost.

What is a Platform for a Website?

When you’re creating a website, you have a few key things you’ll need to decide on.  Since we’re redesigning in this series, we’re going to assume you’ve got a webhost, hopefully a domain name and can probably install a few applications with your hosting provider if need be.  Once you’ve got the server space, though, you’ll need to ask what kind of software platform you want to build the site on.  There’s a lot of options here, but we’ll lump them into a few key categories:

WYSIWYG Editors                     

WYSIWYG is short for “What You See Is What You Get”.  A number of online hosting providers will offer these sorts of editors.  The advantage with them is that they tend to be pretty easy to use, allow you to see what you’re making as you’re working and that they’re pretty quick to work in.  Unfortunately, they also tend to come with very limited theme/style selections, and incredibly limited customization options.  As long as you intend to fit one of their stock templates, they’re workable, but go much beyond that and things get more difficult.  They also can produce some pretty ugly code in the back end, so not all browsers may render your site properly. 

CMS Systems

CMS stands for “Content Management System”.  This category includes things like Wordpress (my personal favorite of the moment), Drupal and other software systems that allow you to easily edit content while providing a framework for doing so that doesn’t involve getting your hands dirty with the actual code (most of the time).  They’re very flexible, but require more expertise to set up than WYSIWYG editors.  Advantages to CMS systems include the nearly endless selection of themes and plugins, along with the ease of editing from within a pretty easy web based interface.  They do, however, have their limits.  If you’re looking for a very specific look and feel to your site you might have some difficulty getting the CMS system to reflect your exact vision.

Raw Code

Raw code is not for the faint of heart.  Here we’re talking about how most early websites (and may high end ones today) were made.  You’ll end up with a pile of HTML, JS and CSS files which require some technical knowledge to understand.  (More on each of those in a future article.  You’ll need them regardless of which path you take, but raw code requires KNOWING them, not just being able to edit them.)  This is a great path if you have a web development professional who’s willing to donate his or her time to maintain the church website, but most updates will require some specialized knowledge.  It’s nice to have the exact look you’re after, but the costs in flexibility of editing and maintenance generally mean this path isn’t worth it.

Next Steps

While you’re looking at your options, we’ll take a few weeks and look at the basics of content (HTML), functionality (Javascript) and design (CSS).  Remember, we’re walking through ADDIE:

  • Analyze
    • Defining Your Audience and Message
  • Design
    • Choosing a Platform
    • Understanding Basic HTML
    • Understanding Basic CSS
    • Understanding Basic JavaScript
    • Finding Your Way Around Navigation
    • Picking Good Colors
  • Develop
    • Writing Good Code
    • Writing Good Content
  • Implements
    • Testing Your Site and Why It Matters
    • Getting Noticed
  • Evaluate
    • Analyzing Your Analytics
    • Feeding the Beast

See you next time!

Rev. Bill Johnson

Written by Rev. Bill Johnson

Rev. Bill Johnson serves as the Director of Educational Technology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He’s passionate about finding effective ways to share the Gospel with emerging generations and new ways to use technology to form the next generation of servants for the Church. He lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his wife and three teenage daughters. Please pray for him.

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