Questions you might be asked
when proposing a website

Provided by the Good News Web Designers Association

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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 common questions.

Q: "Why should our church or organization bother with the building and upkeep of a website? We've gotten along fine without one so far!"
A: No ministry 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.

The website 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?!"

Q: "Why would people want to come to our website?"
A: 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.

Q: "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?"
A: 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.

Q: "How do we decide what goes into a website?"
A: To figure this out, ask these key questions:

  • "What do people call our office looking for?"
  • "What kinds of interaction do people want with our church that can be put onto a website?"
  • "What 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 hours?"

Q: "What's the purpose we should aim for in having this website?"
A: 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.

Q: "Who will we reach? What do these people want to see on a website?"
A: 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 say it.

Anyone considering 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.

Q: "How do we promote the website(s)?"
A: 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.

Also, the 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.

Q: "Should we put onto our Web site interactive tools such as message boards, guest books, or chat rooms?"
A: 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.

Message boards, 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.

Q: "Who will maintain the website after the initial design is finished?"
A: 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).

Q: "What about copyrights? Will our site be covered by copyright protection? What materials can we copy without violating the law?

A: Copyright 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 Bible.)

Anything that 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.

Download this tutorial as a printable Word Document.

EXTRA TIPS

It 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.

Perhaps 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."

To 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 here 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 it back."

Photographs 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.

Organize 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:
www.johnbaptist/youth/

followed by the name of the home page for that particular ministry.

For more information on copyright laws, see these sites:

10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained

Copyright Website

Internet & Electronic Rights Issues

What Is Copyright?

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