Use Wordpress to build a kicking church website

By Gavin Richardson

Many churches spend too much time and money developing their website. That's no longer necessary. Here’s how to set up a fabulous website that functions well, looks slick, is interactive and that your church will be proud to promote.

Our platform: We will use Wordpress to build our website. Wordpress, a CMS (content management system) geared toward blogging, has interactivity and helpful search engine optimization. It is open-source software with a huge developer and designer community creating great site functions and designs.

Draw your site: First, draw your site on a piece of paper. Don’t draw the visual design, but identify what pages you want, how they connect and other elements to include. This is much easier to sort out before building your site.

Choose your domain name: Chances are, you or another person in the church have purchased a domain name for the church. If not, consider these tips.

  • Use “-” in separating words. This is search engine friendly.
  • Insert your township/city/province into the domain name; this gives the user and search engine a more defined search option.
  • However, do not get too long: churchname-downbytheriver-united-methodist-church.org

Find hosting: You can set up your site for free with just a few clicks at Wordpress.com. Sign in, create an account and choose to create a new blog. Have in mind your desired name for the blog URL and a few alternatives.

Plug in your content: From here, some people like to jump into the design process. You can do that, but you may want to start add some of your content first. Add some pages, blog postings, categories, links, photos and such. This makes it easier when you start to work with various themes and gives you an idea of how your site will look with the specific user experience you want.

Pick your theme: It is always fun to plug in cool themes that make your site pop. Here are some things to keep in mind from a designer's perspective.

  • Simple speaks volumes. Don’t overload your site. Clean spaces are great to the eye and peaceful to the user viewing your site. Don’t overwhelm people by shoving every possible element you can onto the front page.
  • Make your "call to action" most prominent. If you want people to sign up for your newsletter, give that a prominent position. Don’t bury it at the bottom of the page.
  • Consider paying for a Wordpress theme. They are not expensive in most cases and usually come with tutorials and a developer community that will update consistently and work through bugs. Free templates can be troubling and complex.

Find themes: The wordpress.com route offers many themes. For those doing their own hosting, here are a few other places to look.

  • http://www.studiopress.com:  I personally use and love the StudioPress system. It uses different design techniques for building your site but gives you command of your site without breaking down code.
  • http://themeforest.net: This is a collection of themes from diverse designers with some priced as low as $1. Cruise there and pull what you like.
  • http://www.woothemes.com: This is another solid platform for building sites with predesigned themes.
  • http://wordpress.org: This collection of free themes is worth checking out.

Crank up your theme: Once you choose your design and theme, download the .zip file onto your computer and load it into your themes page on your dashboard. You should see a screenshot of all the themes you want to test drive. Click on and activate the one you want to use and start tweaking.

Add administrators: A nice aspect of Wordpress and most CMSs is that you can give several people access to edit your site and create content.

Other web solutions: If this seems daunting and you still want to create a website, check out our web solutions. You don't have to worry about learning a web language or programming a website! If you can get on the internet and create a Word document, you can have a website up in no time! Find discounted web design software, host templated services and more.

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Gavin Richardson is “the short one” behind Youthworker Circuit, a curriculum and resources site for Wesleyan-based youth ministries. He is a part-time youth pastor at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. Gavin calms his inner geek by creating websites for churches, conferences, nonprofits and individuals.

Resources
110+ WordPress video tutorials

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