WEBSITE BASICS -- Gathering a Team
Getting started with the right webmaster or website team
Ok, so you are a pastor, church board member, administrator, evangelist, or you are involved with a ministry, and you would like to see a website project get started. The following suggestions may help:
You may want to start with a steering group. Members of this group may not know a lot about website design (it helps if some do), but they are simply eager to see a website project get started. Place announcements in the bulletin, newsletter or by word of mouth that you are looking for website project volunteers.
Looking For Candidates
A church member may be a commercial website designer or work for a company that does. More and more employees are expected to design intranet web pages at work. More and more teenagers and college students know how to do website design. Check with those who run their own business and see if they have a website. They may be especially helpful if you decide to contract services. Rather than nominating the first likely candidate you encounter, do some searching and track down all the relevant talent available in your church. Take a look at the work they have done to see if it meets your expectations. Also take into consideration that you want a really good church or ministry website, not razzle dazzle special effects leveraging the latest technologies. Elegantly simple would be a more appropriate goal.
The last thing you want is to appoint a committee that takes eons to decide anything. You want to nominate the best candidate and let him/her go solo or recruit a team as needed. Some of the winning eChurch sites are headed up by a good leader who knows how to motivate a team while knowing very little about the mechanics of web-mastering (e.g. the Norwalk Adventist Church). A large percentage of winning sites have been built by a single webmaster with little or no help.
So now you have a team
Visit lots of websites of the type you are interested in. The eChurch Award websites are a great place to start, even if you want a ministry website. Print or bookmark the best examples. Identify what you like and what you don't like. Get lots of really good ideas. Get together and sort out what it is you want to do.
The local high school, college or university will probably have web design classes available to adults. Encourage one or more of your candidates to take a class or two.
- You can hire a website designer to do the basic design and your local webmaster takes it from there.
- Using Google you can easily find hundreds, perhaps thousands of website design templates available at very little cost, and many cost nothing.
- You can go with something like NetAdventist or Simple Updates. Somebody will need to work out the graphical design. The updates are easy with this content managed system.
- Perhaps you are a large church or ministry with an adequate budget to contract the design and construction of the site. In that case, make sure the design will not be too complicated for the local team that will eventually take over the site.
- You can contract a comprehensive solution which includes ongoing updates on a regular basis after the site has been built and deployed.
- And there are comprehensive solutions that encourage the church to make their own updates without having to know anything about website design.
Establish Requirements and Priorities
Especially if you are going to contract your website design, it is important to establish some requirements and priorities. Some suggestions:
- Load time (the total time that it takes for your web page to finish loading in a visitor's browser) is an important priority. Read up on it if you don't think so.
- It should be easy to keep the site up-to-date and to grow.
- Don't expect your webmaster to be around forever, which suggests keeping to a simple design and not using the more challenging technologies.
- The basics about the website (e.g. hosting service, logins, passwords) should be documented and on file in the church office to make it easier for the next webmaster to take over.
- The church or ministry, rather than the webmaster, should own the site. I inherited our church's abandoned website months after the original webmaster left town. It took a few weeks of emails and phone calls before I finally had the necessary login and password.
- The website must be owned by the church or ministry and not the webmaster.
- The website should be tested by all of the members with internet access. Find out which browsers have problems. A contracted website designer should thoroughly test the site with a large variety of browsers.
- Decide who will review and approve the site before it goes public. This could be the pastor, the church board or a delegated approval team (not the design committee).
Primary Author: David Buxton