DIS & FWS Blog

Posted on October 17th, 2014

The Tool Box: Links List

by Molly Parker

We’re continuing our series covering our tools and how you can use them to the fullest. It’s been awhile since we did our introductory Tool Box post, which covered the Prayer Requests tool. This series features individual tools in Site Manager and what they are best used for.

The links list tool is a simple tool for building links, but there are many things that you can do with it. This tool recently had some significant enhancements, so even if you’ve used this tool in the past, it’s time to give it a second look!

Explaining the links list tool is as simple as its name; you can use it to create a list of links! These can be links to outside sources, internal pages or even files in your File Uploads. You can do this in any Content Editor or Resource/Content list tool as well, but what makes the links list tool so useful is how it formats the links for you.

So, let’s talk about the formatting options. When adding the links list tool, you have 3 display options: “Show Full List”, “Dropdown Box” or “

Show Full List

When do you want to use “Show Full List”? This option shows the links and all of their content without clicking on any menus or links to expand or drop down the list. Perhaps you are having a fundraiser at your school and want to create a page to share about all of your sponsors? Use the Links List Tool with the “Show Full List” option. This will allow you to share their logo, link to your sponsors’ websites, and add a description about who they are and how they are supporting you.

This option can be used in either the main body or right side bar, but the option to add a photo is only available in the main body.

Below is an example of the “Show Full List” option with a few of the DIS products as an example. The name of the product is the link, then we have the logo as an image, and lastly, to the right of the logo, there is a description.Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.56.57 PM

Dropdown Box

This option creates a drop down field with your links. You can use this any time that you are short on space or even for a utility navigation or quick links. It is a much more compact option than the Full List. However, because of it’s design, you cannot use link pictures or descriptions with this option.

Here is an example of the Dropdown box for the right side bar. On the left is the box before it is clicked on. The right shows how it appears once it has been clicked on with the list of options.
dropdown-links

Expand/Collapse Link

The third and final option for the Links List tool is Expand/Collapse Link.  In some ways, it offers the best of both the Show Full List option and the Dropdown Box option. It offers a compact display until it is clicked on, but once clicked on, it expands to the full display. These links can have a description and a photo if being used in the main body.

On the left, “+ Learn More”, is how the Links List tool displays before being clicked on. You can customize the text to say whatever you would like. On the right, the full expanded Links List, after being clicked on. It looks Identical to the “Show Full List” option except that it has the “collapse” button above the links.
expand-links

Ready to get started with the Links List tool now? The Links List tool is available on all service plans for both the main body and right side. If you need help on setting up your links list tool or adding links, please review this support article on the Links List Tool.

Posted on October 13th, 2014

Building Connection: The SCS Conference

by Molly Parker

by Molly Parker

The SCS conference was a bit of an adventure for me last year. Not only was it the first SCS conference, but for me, it was also the first time I met all of my coworkers in person. Although I had been with the company for 5 months, we all work remotely and are scattered across the country. Climbing into a “stranger’s” car outside of Chicago Midway Airport, I met 3 of my coworkers for the first time face to face and I met the rest throughout the day.

Connecting with the DIS team for the first time.

Connecting with the DIS team for the first time.

I had no idea what it would be like to meet the DIS team face to face for the first time, but I wasn’t too sure about this conference either. I imagined that it might be a bit like going back to school, sitting in a stuffy room listening to an administrator lecture on how to improve Christian schools. I thought it might not be too relevant for someone who works on the websites of Christian schools, but rarely has the opportunity to set foot in one. However, one of our duties for the conference was to sit in on the sessions, to learn more about the challenges that Christian schools face and also support the session leaders.

And, wow, was I wrong. From my very first session, I was impressed at the level of personalization and connection that was built into the sessions. This was not a session leader talking to his or her audience, but the session leader talking with the attendees as colleagues. People gathered around circular tables, sat together on comfortable couches, and leaned in to share experiences and knowledge.

It was a pleasure to talk to the administrators and teachers and learn more about their schools. One customer thanked me for a support issue I’d helped him with a few days prior… in person! What a rare treat that was. We held a session just for our customers where they could talk to us about any product they had questions about. We listened to their unique challenges and shared website tips with them. We do this through our ticket system each day, but there is a connection you can only experience face to face.

I was also overwhelmed by what a wonderful group of people the DIS team is. I suppose I’m rather biased, now being a part of this team for over a year, but the SCS conference was the first time I realized how much the DIS team cares. We care about helping Christian schools and supporting them in their work to grow strong Christian leaders. We care about our customers as a whole, but also as individuals. The SCS conference brought that to life for me in a new way.

It’s a rare delight to get to meet our customers face to face, to hear about their challenges and have the opportunity to be present for them. I hope that you’ll take the opportunity to join us at the SCS conference. You will have the chance to “get strengthened” as Jeremy put it, and we will have the chance to connect with you!

Posted on October 9th, 2014

How to Start a Blog

by Molly Parker

Are you looking for a new way to engage your users? What if you could not just engage them, but keep them coming back to your website to stay up to date on the latest information? A blog is a great way to start building an audience who regularly visits your website and keeps up on you!

So, what exactly is a blog? A blog is regularly updated content, organized into posts. You’re reading one right now! A blog is often associated with being like a journal or diary for personal purposes, but it can also create a powerful impact for businesses, schools and churches. It engages your audience, keep them updated on your latest happenings and also helps new people, unfamiliar with your organization, learn more about who you are. In Site Manager, you can easily add a blog using a blog tool.
Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 4.27.42 PM

We’ve put together a few of our favorite blog tips to help you have a successful blog for your organization.

  1. Create the blog on its own page and make this page prominent on your site. To fully utilize all of the features of the blog tool, put it on its very own page. Adding additional content to this page can make it overwhelming, as the blog is a very robust tool in itself. And, make sure that this page is featured prominently. Some of our signature themes feature the blog right on the homepage, but at the very least, it should be an option in your drop down menu navigation. Adding a link on your homepage or in your utility navigation is preferable as well.
  2. Update regularly. We know that this is hard; we find it to be a challenge for our own blog sometimes! However, this is one of the most essential steps to having a successful blog. If you keep it updated regularly, you can build up an audience of people who subscribe to your blog or check it often for updates.
  3. Have a variety of authors. Updating your blog regularly can be a bit time consuming, which is one reason why it’s helpful to have several authors. The other reason to have a variety of authors is that some readers respond better to different writing styles, so having a variety of authors can help your blog appeal to a wider audience. We’ll be talking more about this and how some of our schools are using a variety of authors in an upcoming post.
  4. Schedule posts. You may find it easiest to write several posts at a time. Our “schedule status change” option for the blog tool allows you to schedule when you would like your posts to go active (be published). Perhaps you can schedule one day every few weeks to write several blog posts and then schedule them to go out periodically throughout the few weeks between your writing days.
  5. Connect your blog with social media. With the Social Stream database, you can have your blog posts be published to your Facebook or Twitter feeds immediately. This helps your posts get out there for all to see and also helps build content on your social media feeds.

Are you ready to get started on a blog? Check out our support center for instructions on how to add a blog to your page.

The blog tool is available on the Premier and Enterprise plans. If you would like to learn more about how to get started with the blog tool or switching to one of these service plans, please contact the DIS | Faithwebsites support team.

Posted on October 7th, 2014

Seven Reasons to Attend SCS Dyer 2014! (Part 2)

by Molly Parker

by Dan Beerens, DB Consulting

Dan Beerens speaking at the 2013 Dyer SCS Confernece

Dan Beerens speaking at the 2013 Dyer SCS Confernece

In my last post, I gave four reasons you to consider about attending the SCS 2014 conference. I would like to finish off the seven reasons by giving you three more reasons to consider (and tip you right over that fence of indecision!)

  1. You will not find a conference that is a better value! This year again we are charging a $100 registration for two days of quality professional development and you can also bring a board member for free! We have top quality leaders coming to present because they believe in Christian education and in our mission of strengthening Christian school, not because we are paying them a big fee. We use any extra funds to fund future conferences such as the ones we are doing next year in Florida and California. We have no organization or salaries that need supporting – that allows us to keep this very reasonable to attend.

  2. We have amazing food! Faith Church was kind enough to share the name of their caterer with us and his cooking was incredible. We had a meal at lunch that seemed more like a buffet than anything and also had snacks available all day long. People were raving about it the whole time!

  3. Beautiful, relaxing facilities and a convenient location – Faith Church is a beautiful mega-church that is conveniently located in Northwest Indiana near many reasonable hotels. The facility is spacious, yet intimate and not overwhelming. It is a great place to meet, learn, and connect!

I hope you can see why after these 7 reasons that SCS is a conference you should attend! If you would like to register, please go to www.scscommunity.com now.

Posted on October 3rd, 2014

Seven Reasons to Attend SCS Dyer 2014! (Part 1)

by Molly Parker

by Dan Beerens, DB Consulting

Dan Beerens (right) talking with a conference attendee

Dan Beerens (right) talking with a conference attendee

Last year SCS exceeded our expectations as organizers and as you can tell from the pictures and comments of last year’s attendees - they had a great time too! This response inspired us to try to make this year’s event even better. In this post I will share the first four reasons of seven to help you consider attending this year’s conference:

  1. We have doubled the amount of workshops and speakers and now are offering two or more options in every track! We have many of your favorites back from last year and many new faces – deeply committed Christian educators who are really at the top of their professional game and who are leading the way for others.
  2. We got great feedback on our 3 hour workshop blocks last year. This amount of time offers the speaker/presenter to provide background, context, and best practice as well as time for attendees to learn from each other, and most importantly make action plans to impact their work back home.
  3. This is a “big tent” event! You will have the opportunity to meet other Christian educators from around the country and learn from others outside your normal networks. Our attendees share common missions and visions for helping students flourish, and it is a great time to connect with, and learn from, others.
  4. We are adding a time to meet on a one on one basis with our expert conference presenters. Sometimes we want to get a second opinion on our situation and just prefer it be a more private conversation. Times will be available on a sign-up basis at the conference.

I hope you are catching our enthusiasm! Come back to this space to read the next three reasons to attend SCS Dyer 2014.

Posted on September 30th, 2014

Understanding Aspect Ratio: Photos and Frames

by Molly Parker

Understanding aspect ratio is an essential part of understanding why some photos work better on your website than others. But, if you aren’t familiar with working with images, it can be a difficult thing to understand.  To demonstrate, let’s go back to the classic picture frame and printed photo. Our picture frame represents the slideshow that we need to fit our image into. 

IMG_7171

The first step is to upload your photo. What if you upload your image and you find it is too small for picture frame, your slideshow or image gallery proportions? Your photo will have some blank space around the edges.
IMG_7188

Not good, right? The best solution here is to find a different, properly sized image to use instead.

However, most of the time, when you are using a digital camera and the image hasn’t already been resized or dramatically cropped, it will be too large for your slideshow or image gallery proportions. You could just cut some off the sides.
IMG_7172

But, you could also make the photo a bit smaller and literally “reframe it” to fit the proportions of your picture frame. If this was a physical picture, you’d have to go to the printer and have it scaled down to fit. Fortunately, in Site Manager, it’s a bit easier! You can use the cropping tool to drag the crop box out at the corners to fit your image and the system will automatically make it smaller.
IMG_7173

What if your image is a portrait orientation instead of a landscape? Well, let’s try to put it in our picture frame!
IMG_7184

Again, we could move the frame up or down to make it look how we’d like and then cut off the rest. We’re losing quite a bit of the image that way.
IMG_7181

What happens if we try to shrink it down vertically to fit into our frame?
IMG_7182

Again, a lot of blank space which is a big “no-no” for your slideshow tool.

It’s generally best to put a landscape-oriented image into a landscape-oriented slideshow or image gallery tool. However, if you do have to put a portrait-oriented photo into a landscape-oriented slideshow(or picture frame!), you need to be aware that you will be cutting a lot off on the tops and sides.

That’s how aspect ratio works. If you’re ready to dig and learn more about aspect ratio and the details of cropping your photos in Site Manager, check out  The Crop Shop: Preparing Photos for Web by Josh Feit.

Posted on September 19th, 2014

You are not alone!

by Lisa Gutknecht

A post by Mike Vander Berg, Partner, Dynamic Internet Solutions

Mike opening the 2013 SCS conference in Dyer

Mike opening the 2013 SCS conference in Dyer

Strengthening Christian Schools is here for you…You are not alone!

The purpose of the Strengthening Christian Schools (SCS) concept is to build a community of experts in a range of fields, all of whom are passionate about getting every Christian school to the next level.

We know Christian school leaders are facing a lonely day-to-day struggle to stay on top of things. As a result, we’re connecting with, and bringing you into community with, some of the top names in Christian education. We recruit and vet our session leaders based not only on their reputations and unique expertise and thought leadership… but just as important, on their willingness to invest of their time and themselves in you and your schools’ needs after our conferences.

Our goal is simple … whether you have 100 students or 1000, we want to provide the help and support to make the most of the time and resources at your disposal … and take your school to the next level. That’s why we’ve gone out of our way to make our conferences affordable for any and every school. It’s just $100 per attendee… plus, we’re so passionate that you’re on the same page as your school community that you can bring a board member for free for each paid attendee.

With our SCS Conference, you will leave with support – leave with ideas– and leave with an action plan – as part of an ongoing community committed to strengthening your school. At these conferences, we make time to digest and reflect on what you’ve learned. And that plan will be vetted not only with session leaders … but also your colleagues and peers as you build mutual understanding and community.

Posted on September 16th, 2014

Church Websites and Front Doors: Part 2

by Molly Parker

In Church Websites and Front Doors: Part 1, we posed some questions and offered a few examples of how you can use your website to make that same great first impression that you do with your front door.

When you work with DIS | Faithwebsites on a new design or design upgrade, we encourage you to take time to think about the content of your website, in addition to the overall design.  Here are some of the top content tips that every church should consider:

  • What to expect. Do you have a “what to expect” type of paragraph or page on your site? This content would include the style of your worship services, your worship schedule, before or after services (receptions, fellowships, greetings), language interpretations, nursery / small child care, handicap accessibility, etc. You can put your service schedules on this page, or have a link to the page where your service schedules are defined.
  • Sunday School and/or Small Children / Youth programs. If you want to welcome families, this content is a must.
  • Avoid using program names for link names. If your church has specific program names, such as “Adventurers”, “Greenhouse”, “Club Kids”, don’t use those exact terms as the navigation link names. Instead, label your links with a term a new visitor would understand, such as Youth, Kids, Nursery, etc. The page titles, however, can be your unique name for the program – just be sure that you are clear who the program is for.
  • Regular attendees and members do not need prime “real estate” on your website. What we mean by “real estate” is the space on a web page. The home page is the most sought after real estate, but it should be dedicated to visitors and the audience you wish to reach out to. For your members, think of ways to create buttons and quick hops to the content they need without taking up a large amount of space that should be reserved for newcomers.
  • Images are just as important as text these days. Is there a photographer in your congregation? Chances are someone is blessed with talent behind a lens. Tap into that resource, and ask them to shoot some photos of events, the church service, interaction between people. Tell them its for the website, so shoot wide / horizontal. Keep your website fresh and real with images of the people that make up your congregation.

Do you feel that your church website provides a great first impression? Do you have tips for how you manage to update your website? Drop a comment or contact us today – we’d love to hear from you!

Posted on September 15th, 2014

SCS – Get Strengthened!

by Lisa Gutknecht

A post by Jeremy Eisenga, Partner, Dynamic Internet Solutions

As one of the owners of Dynamic Internet Solutions (DIS), I would like to personally invite each and every faith based school leader to get strengthened at this year’s Strengthening Christian Schools (SCS) conference in Dyer, IN on November 13 and 14. I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing over and over again how challenging it is to operate a Christian school in today’s world. The challenges are at times overwhelming. So come to Dyer in November and get strengthened! Not only will you be able to engage with real experts in Admissions, Development, Technology, Leadership and more, but you will also have the opportunity to interact with leaders from other schools. Some of those leaders need to be strengthened by experiences you can share. All the while, you get to be strengthened by the amazing session leaders and by experiences shared by the other attendees.

To top it off, DIS customers will have an additional benefit – networking sessions for the DIS services that you use. Come get strengthened by learning how to better leverage the tools that you already use – tools that help promote your school, organize and map your curriculum, and help you coordinate and manage your fundraising auction. Many of you attended our 2013 conference in Dyer and left great feedback. As a result, we have even more topic based sessions to pick from plus more networking opportunities in case you want to learn more about leveraging the tools that DIS provides to you.

So, please come. SCS has no profit-minded agendas. We’re not holding these conferences in the middle of a big city in an expensive hotel. We are partnering with generous host churches and generous session leaders that are passionate about Christian education. We’re simply holding these conferences to help you get strengthened in doing what you all have a big heart for – leading Christian students.

Jeremy

Jeremy and Mike meeting with Christian School leaders at SCS Dyer 2013

Jeremy and Mike meeting with Christian School leaders at SCS Dyer 2013

Posted on September 12th, 2014

Church Websites and Front Doors: Part 1

by Lisa Gutknecht

Church websites and front doors have the same role. They both serve as the entrance and one of the first impressions of your church. What first impression are you providing? And does your home page on your site look as inviting as your front entrance and church foyer?
lightstock_74946_small_user_5588936

Every church website leaves some kind of impression, but home pages and main navigation will make the biggest impact. Here are the top items we recommend to customers contacting us to update or upgrade your website:

  1. Are you on a current design? (If you haven’t done a redesign in the past 2 years, the answer is most certainly “no”.)
  2. Do you have horizontal main (top) navigation or only left side navigation? Horizontal navigation has been the practice for some time. If you’re not there – ask support for help to make this (free!) change today!
  3. How do you want people to feel about your church? Does your home page portray that? Does your home page offer any current and relevant images that evoke the culture and personality of your congregation?
  4. What information do you have for a first time visitor? How many clicks until they find it? How easy is it to read? How organized is it?
  5. Have you addressed questions for every type of visitor in some fashion on your website?

The top items are a mix of website design, navigation (which is part design, part content planning), and content. Providing a positive user experience and a good impression is to organize your information in simple, clean and easy to find layouts. For example, dedicating an entire web page to a map is a poor use of good visual “real estate”. Instead, consider placing a simple address and link to a map on the right side of the page, and use the main content area for other important information.

Now, back to the front door. I’m guessing that your entrance is an area you pay special attention to. Your church makes sure its clean, neat and welcoming. You might even freshen it up with flower pots and seasonal decor. Greeters open or stand near the doorway ready to shake hands and welcome people. It’s an important part of the ministry of your church, right?

How can you take that same approach with your website? It’s your virtual front door, and your website reaches people you have no idea are visiting, seeking, searching. What about developing a practical approach to your virtual front door? Would you be able to recruit volunteers or assign members to care for your home page in a similar fashion as your service greeters?

I would challenge you to think creatively with how such a real approach to your virtual front door could be accomplished. For starters, is there a photographer or two in your congregation, and if yes, would they be willing to serve in shooting pictures for your website? What other roles could volunteers serve in? With Faithwebsites CMS, you can create a volunteer access to the website and give them sections to keep updated.

However you would like to approach the maintenance of your website, we urge you to really consider the impact your site for first impressions. Stay tuned for Part 2, to learn some practical things to consider when thinking about your church content.