Once you've been
asked to create a website and you sit down with the person or committee
for whom you'll be working, be prepared to answer the following
should our church or organization bother with the building and
upkeep of a website? We've gotten along fine without one so far!"
that relies on communication should be left in the dust as the
world starts relying on the Internet more and more. It's the ultimate
communications tool. It's a handy resource that can make available
just about everything that the church or organization wants to
offer the public, and over-all this can be accomplished much more
cheaply than postal mailings and other methods of communication.
should become a serious tool that people rely on over and over
again in large numbers. Otherwise, putting the church or organization
on the Web will be just a temporary fad. This year: "Gee,
isn't this nice; we're in Cyberspace!" A couple of years
later: "What's the point of being in Cyberspace? I can't
see that it's made any difference from the way we used to do things."
How much better it is to end up saying: "How did we ever
get along without this tool?!"
would people want to come to our website?"
It's absolutely imperative for the website to be interactive,
so that visitors will find it both entertaining and useful, and
so they'll want to return to the site again and again. The entertainment
value must be combined with the practical reasons for having a
website, or it won't be used much. The computer screen is like
a TV screen: People expect it to be fun, entertaining and colorful,
with good eye-appeal. But because it's more than a TV, people
expect it to be something they can control rather than just stare
at. They want to DO something with it. They want to find what
they're seeking in a few easy steps. Therefore, a website has
to be totally user-friendly, and the folks who design the site
have to "read" the minds of those who will visit, in
order to put onto the site WHAT people want THE WAY they want
to find it.
"Should the various ministries
of our church have their own websites or just a few pages on the
the main website? What's the purpose of having a full-blown website
for each office?"
Every parish ministry should have a sub-web on the church site.
Each organization needs to be free to put onto their site everything
that people normally contact them for.
do we decide what goes into a website?"
To figure this out, ask these key questions:
do people call our office looking for?"
kinds of interaction do people want with our church that can
be put onto a website?"
kinds of information do people wish they had access to if only
they didn't have to bother coming in or phoning us during business
purpose we should aim for in having this website?"
The purpose of having a website is to make a difference in the
lives of those who visit it. If the website offers less than what
they'd get in person or by phone, they won't use it. As a profound
and ultimate communications tool, it's a waste of Net space and
time and money if it's not impacting people and somehow making
their lives and the world a better place. For a Christian organization,
that means that their website should not only be a resource of
information, but this information should be presented in such
a way that it improves people's relationships with God and with
themselves and with other people; in other words, Christ should
travel the Web and people should encounter Him on the site.
"Who will we reach? What do
these people want to see on a website?"
It's a temptation to put onto a website what WE think it should
have; it might not be what the people want! For example, some
churches use their websites only as a glorified bulletin or brochure
that says: "We are wonderful!" Forget that approach!
No one wants to hear that we're wonderful as much as we like to
having a website needs to figure out if their customers/clients
are the type that use the Internet, and if there's enough users,
than you have to ask: "What are they looking for that we
can offer them?" And that takes us back to Q4.
"How do we promote the website(s)?"
All normal means of promotion should be used, plus more. That
includes publicity through the church bulletin, pulpit announcements,
newspapers, radio, ads, mailings, etc. All mailings, including
the letterhead on stationary, should include the address of the
website, with some kind of excitement about the value of the site.
Word of mouth is always the most effective, so a website should
include interesting opportunities that people can use that, incidentally,
invite others to the site. For example, cyber postcards bring
a visitor's friends to the site.
website should give people numerous reasons for returning, such
as to check out new material that interests them. Free contests
and prizes that are periodically changed will bring visitors back
repeatedly. These should be always be planned with an ear open
to what people want to get from the website.
And an e-mailing
list should be compiled. The best way to do this (no one likes
spam ~ "junk email") is to give visitors a way to subscribe
to your mailing list. Use this list every time something is added
to the site; email these people about the exciting new reason
to return. Or tie specific pages on the site into the current
liturgical season and send a mass mailing that includes a link
to that part of the site.
"Should we put onto our Web
site interactive tools such as message boards, guest books, or
Chat rooms are never used without an appealing reason, or else
they are easily abused by the wrong type of visitor. Having one
requires that staff members be available to moderate the discussions.
The best way to use them is by scheduling an interesting topic
and announcing it to the email list.
guest books and chat rooms bring with them the opportunity for
anyone to say anything that anyone can read, and you might not
like what is said. You have to stay on top of these and delete
inappropriate messages as soon as they come in.
A better alternative
is to invite people to send in their comments ~ you can invite
comments on topics that are pertinent to various webpages ~ and
then select and edit their comments and post them on the site
as a kind of "Here's what folks are saying about this website
or about this topic!" This gives you total control over what
your visitors will see.
"Who will maintain the website
after the initial design is finished?"
Work out a monthly arrangement to update the site periodically,
or find out which in-house staff member needs to be trained to
keep it going using your templates (your basic pages).
about copyrights? Will our site be covered by copyright protection?
What materials can we copy without violating the law?
laws are often overlooked by newcomers to the arena of websites.
Even quoting scripture can be a violation! (The NAB is the most
restrictive, the NIV
is the most generous, and the Protestant KJV
is in the public domain as well as the Catholic Challoner Revision
of the Douay-Rheims
has been created ~ a photo, a graphic, a poem, a story, an article,
music, etc. ~ is automatically protected by copyright
law in the U.S. Registering the creation with the Copyright Office
is not necessary! Posting a copyright notice with the
piece of work is not necessary either. The only thing free for
public use is an idea or a title, as long as
the title is not a trademark. To use pictures or materials that
are copied, write to the creator or publisher of the original
work and ask permission to use it.
this tutorial as a printable Word Document.
might be the only person working on this project that has any
real experience. You might end up training others on how to understand
the website as a communications tool. Point them to other websites
that illustrate what you want them to grasp.
you are offering your Web designing skills to a church or ministry
that can't afford to pay what you're worth. Sometimes It's better
to do the work for free, as a gift to the Lord, than to charge
a discounted price. The reason is not simply because it's Christ-like
to be generous, but also because of the way many people treat
volunteers. Since you are free to quit, the client won't want
to chase you off. If you charge professional prices, you will
be respected and trusted as a professional. But if you charge
a discounted price, the unconscious bias in the client's mind
is that you're not good enough to charge more, and the client
may try to take advantage of you. Slave wages = slave treatment.
Even so, if this happens, remember what Jesus said in the Sermon
on the Mount: "Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile."
protect your own work from being copied off the Internet and used
without permission, post a copyright notice and provide an email
address for asking permission. For an example, see what we use
on the Good News Ministries site. You can put the name of the
website or the artist on every picture, but that can look cluttered
or disrupt the effect of the image. Be willing for your work to
be stolen, and take the attitude of Christ, who said in the Sermon
on the Mount, "If someone steals from you, do not ask for
of people need to be handled with caution. If minors are identifiable
in the pictures, their parents or guardians should give written
permission for using them on the Internet.
the website into groupings of the different ministries that will
be displayed online. Also plan ahead and organize the site into
its various themes, purposes or topics, and create a new directory
for each one. For example, the URL for the youth ministry of John
the Baptist Church might be:
by the name of the home page for that particular ministry.
more information on copyright laws, see these sites:
Big Myths About Copyright Explained
& Electronic Rights Issues