Seeker-Friendly is a new blog series which will share some simple tips to making your church more accessible and appealing for someone looking for a new church. While some people still find a new church by word-of-mouth, more and more people, particularly young people, are scoping out churches online, to figure out the options and narrow down their choices. This blog series will cover the “must-haves” for creating a website which is welcoming to the outside world.
Today’s tip is simple, but it is absolutely essential. Take a look at your homepage and see how quickly you can find the answers to the following questions:
- Where do you meet?
- When do you meet?
- How can they contact you?
How many clicks does it take your users to find these answers? Ideally, all of these answers should be quickly and easily found on your homepage. For a question which might need a bit more detail, like where you meet, there should still be a prominent link to that on your homepage. On the inside page that you’re linking to, you can have a clickable Google map and possibly some directions, if your location is hard to find or the parking is in a different location.
Also, confirm that all information, particularly your contact information, is current and accurate. Is this an email address which is checked regularly or is there a better one which might get interested individuals a faster response?
The main purpose of this exercise is to think about how accessible your website is for someone searching for a church on the internet. To visit your church, your guests first need to know when and where to find your church, and know how to get in touch with you beforehand if they have questions. These may seem like simple things, but they are absolutely key to get visitors in your door.
We hope your summer days are spent poolside, not in front of your computer. But, make a few updates to your website can help keep your information current and relevant when school or your ministry programs start again in the fall. We’ve compiled a few tips to help you make the most of this slower season.
- Change your calendar properties. During the school year, you have a busy schedule with many events every week. During the school year, you may only have a few events a month. If you go into your calendar properties (found the “Tool Menu” in Site Manager), you can adjust the date range to be longer, displaying events that are further out. This is particularly essential for any calendar tool on your homepage.
- Build and schedule fall content. If you have some spare time in the office over the summer, you can build pages or tools for fall events, but leave them inactive. You can schedule a status change so that they will become active when you need them.
- Create pages for end of summer events, and link to them from your homepage. When your users get home from vacation, they’ll want to take a quick look at your website to double check your calendar for the first day of school or when ministry programs resume. Make sure that this is clear and easy to find on your website.
- Review your pages. Summer is also an ideal time to go through your website content and review what needs to be updated. Even if you don’t want to tackle it all quite yet, make yourself a list of what you should update in the fall.
- Archive old resources. Do you have all of your sermons on one page? Athletic event scores and details? Weekly newsletters still on your main page? If you aren’t willing to part with these older items, create an archives page where visitors can find the older resources, without cluttering up your key pages.
- Learn a new tool. Still have some free time? Create an inactive test page and play around with a tool that you haven’t tried before. Using a variety of tools creates engaging content. Some tools to check out– Column Display, Announcements Database and tools, Social Stream Database, or any of the tools available for the right side.
Give these ideas a try and reach out to us if you have any questions or need feedback on your latest updates!
Auction Trak will join RenWeb’s growing family of online products serving schools and nonprofit organizations.
Faithwebsites will remain largely as it is today – serving churches and ministries with the same easy-to-use, yet robust Content Management System.
Business As Usual
Right now, even today, not much will change for you and your users. We’re not moving underlying networks or making any significant changes. Support and service will continue as normal.
For Curriculum Trak customers, you will continue to work with the same team – including Sheryl, Dan, Laura and Mike. Again, Curriculum Trak remains under the same ownership and management of DIS.
Riding Along the Change
One of the reasons we are excited is that most of our Faithwebsites team is going right along with our customers – they have joined the Nelnet team and will continue serving you just as they always have. This includes Jeremy, one of the founding partners, as well as Matt, Molly, Amanda B, Bekah, Graham, Amanda S, and Will. They are determined to continue doing what they do best – serving ministries and exploring new avenues for growth in websites and online auction fundraising.
Some Changes Are Tough
There’s always some hardships with change, isn’t there? As part of this, Mike and Jeremy had to pursue different paths, after a 14+ year business relationship together. Jeremy is moving on to new development opportunities with RenWeb, and will remain a part of both the Faithwebsites and Auction Trak teams. Mike will continue to operate DIS and focus on growing and developing our Curriculum Trak product. The needs of curriculum mapping are quite different from website building. While this change is hard, the blessing is that it allows each product to flourish and meet the specific needs of our customers.
Bob, a long time member of the customer support team, will be continuing with the Faithwebsites team through the transition. However, in the coming months, he is transitioning to full-time ministry.
Also, near and dear to our team’s heart is the changing relationship with Lisa, our operations manager. After 5+ years of managing things here at DIS, Lisa won’t be moving on with the Faithwebsites team. Not to worry though – Lisa will officially rejoin the Faithwebsites, School Site AND Curriculum Trak products as a customer and marketing consultant!
For those of you who personally know or have been able to work directly with us (Mike, Jeremy or Lisa), know that going forward, the Faithwebsites and Auction Trak team hold our vision for the company mission dear and will continue to honor what this company was built upon – dedication to those who serve others through ministry or education.
RenWeb’s School Site and Faithwebsites – how are they different? How are they the same?
School Site, the CMS product for RenWeb, is actually the same Faithwebsites CMS! DIS and RenWeb have been partners for many years, so this acquisition really just brings all the products under one roof.
School Site differs from Faithwebsites in that it is integrated with RenWeb, and supported by the RenWeb customer support team that already works hand and hand with those schools. Faithwebsites is not integrated with RenWeb, and additionally certain service plan levels for Faithwebsites do not offer the same level of tools, modules and storage that the School Site’s plan may offer.
Going forward, Faithwebsites will look to grow by serving additional churches and ministries. School Site will continue to focus on serving private and Christian schools. While we may start to enhance each CMS differently in the future, right now, there’s are no changes for you and your users.
I’m a current Faithwebsites customer, do I have to move to RenWeb / School Site?
No! All current customers of Faithwebsites can simply continue as you are – FWS customers! Like we said above, it’s business as usual for you.
As mentioned above, DIS and RenWeb have been partners for a long time. As RenWeb’s niche market is serving private and Christian schools, and a good share of Faithwebsites customers are schools or church & school combined customers, it made great sense to put all the products under the same roof.
We are a church, not a school… where does RenWeb fit for us?
RenWeb doesn’t currently work with churches specifically, although working in the Christian education industry, they connect with churches all the time. It has been a goal of theirs to begin serving the church and ministry sector, and with this acquisition, that goal can begin to be realized! Remember though, Faithwebsites continues serving churches and ministries.
I’m a customer of Curriculum Trak and Faithwebsites and/or Auction Trak – how’s this going to work?
DIS will continue to provide, support and develop Curriculum Trak, and your invoicing will continue to come from DIS. In the near future, your invoice for Faithwebsites and/or Auction Trak will change, but you’ll receive an update of that before it happens.
Will my rates change?
No. At this time, all current customers will maintain the same service fees. Fees for new customers, or new services, may be increasing in 2016, but your fees are going to remain the same for now. We can’t guarantee that forever, of course, but we can assure you that there is no immediate service fee increase due to this acquisition.
Thank you and more coming soon!
We are so deeply grateful for every person that’s contributed to our story so far. Our team members, our friends, our family and certainly you – our customer. Thank you for being a part of this growth, for trusting us with your business, your ministry. Because of your support, our future is filled with potential and exciting growth opportunities. We can’t wait to see what 2016 brings, and are thrilled to have each and every one of you be part of that.
We’d be remiss to not take a moment and share this video with you – a few of you have already seen this but most of you haven’t. It’s a video that shares who the team at DIS is, and that passion continues as the team moves forward now, part with RenWeb and part with Dynamic Internet Solutions.
Mike Vander Berg, Jeremy Eisenga and Lisa Gutknecht
Responsive was a buzz word. Now it’s a term that’s often heard, but not always understood. One of the simplest and perhaps best descriptions I’ve read is straight from Wikipedia:
“Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).”
And the image above provides a visual for what responsive content is. I personally love this word picture – content is like water – but it’s still a bit hard to grasp. I mean, “water becomes the cup”? Yeah…
The point is that content must be free to flow and move – filling the vessel in which it is in at the moment. And that vessel can be just about anything these days, and I’ve no doubt that devices, screens and other technologies will continue to be invented, creating even more ways and forms web content can be viewed.
What does all this mean for you?
Responsive isn’t a temporary thing that is going away anytime soon. It is the way that content on the web needs to work. It’s gaining ground, changing and growing more mature as an established must. In short, you need to get your head around the changes you must make in order to continue producing a website – and any web content – that will be deliverable and readable for your users.
To get started, we’d recommend the 2 items below:
- You need to move – or make plans to soon move – to a responsive web design.
- Start learning and continue understanding how to best build your content so it works well on a responsive site. There are two areas we’d love to see our customers really learn and expand upon: image size & placement, and how to organize and lay content out on a page.
The good news is that Faithwebsites has multiple ways to help you achieve both of those goals above. The reality is – both require time and resources, which means this requires a commitment from you and your organization.
Is it worth it? Yes, we really believe so. Churches and Christian Schools alike are continuing to see growth and even dependency on online communications, and your website needs to be the center hub of your online presence. Your users need to know they can depend on your website to get the info they need fast and easy. A non-responsive site will soon create frustration and confusion.
If your goals include any type of marketing, outreach, evangelism, or enrollment/admissions, then moving to a responsive site and learning how to build content better for responsive behavior is essential. You’ll lose your reach (or potential reach) with simply not having content that flows to the device/screen your visitor is using.
Interested in learning more? Contact us for information, and be sure to follow us for more content-flow building tips.
The Expand-Collapse tool is a very simple tool, but can be useful for specific applications on your website. This tool allows you to create accordion-style text, where your users click on a “+” to read more about a specific topic. It’s ideal for text-heavy pages where your users may be looking for very specific information.
For example, for a frequently asked questions pages, you can put the questions as the initial content that shows when collapsed and the answers as the expanded content that show when your users click on the “+”.
For a Frequently Asked Questions page, this allows you to include detailed answers to your questions, without forcing your users to scroll through all of the long answers to get to the question that they’re looking for. The FAQ page is by far the most common way that this tool is used on our customers’ websites.
Like with any tool, there are also creative uses for this tool. Rock Valley Christian School shares their supply lists by grade using the Expand/Collapse tool. This allows them to put all of the grades supply lists on one page, without forcing parents to scroll through all of their lists to find their grade. You can see their example here.
Another customer who uses this tool uniquely is Victory Christian School in Tulsa. They have a directory of all parent businesses. In the collapsed section of the content, they have the types of businesses and then in the expanded content, they have the full business information and how you can contact them. This is a great use of this tool to encourage school parents to support each other’s businesses. You can see Victory Christian School’s parent directory here.
There are lots of ways that you can use the Expand-Collapse tool, but do use caution, like you should when doing any content-building on your website. You may wish to have the initial content larger to make it stand out, but we do not recommend using one of your larger headings such as Heading 1 or 2 for this purpose. In addition to making the text very large on the page, it is a poor search engine optimization practice. You can read more about how headings affect SEO in this recent blog article.
While we mentioned at the outset that it is ideal for text-heavy pages, if your end users will generally want to read all of the content on your page, then the Expand/Collapse tool may not be the best option for you. You should also be careful to limit how many sets of content you put onto one page, generally to about a dozen or fewer, excluding special exceptions like Victory Christian School’s parent directory. It is better to break your content up onto multiple pages if it is becoming difficult to find the initial question or content at a quick glance.
The Expand/Collapse tool can be a robust tool for the right applications. Use this tool for your FAQ page, or another creative use. If you need additional assistance on the details of adding this tool to your website, see our support article here or contact our Support team.
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