DIS & FWS Blog

Posted on October 28th, 2013

Enhancement: Scheduling Status for Faculty Tools

by Molly Parker

Faculty tools now have the ability to schedule status changes! Many of our Christian School customers have requested this, and we’re happy to deliver.

Scheduling a status change is a great way to manage date or event-specific content on your website. It allows you to have the status of a tool change on a specific date. On a tool level, the change can either be from active to inactive or inactive to active. You can also schedule status change on for an entire page or for individual items in a Resource/Content List.

Here are some ways that you can use this great feature:

  • Build event or holiday content in individual tools on the same page. Then schedule the tools inactive after an event or holiday is over.
  • Add two weeks of homework at a time in to two separate tools. Have one turn off on the weekend and the other turn on.
  • Add a new tool to a page and set it to inactive (be sure to save!). Build your content in that inactive tool — inactive tools do not show up on live pages. Schedule your content to active at the date of your choice.

To schedule a status change for a tool:

  1. Click the schedule status change button below the tool.
    Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 11.19.05 AM
  2. Then, select if you would like to change the status to active or inactive, enter the date of the change and if you wish, you can enter an email address to be notified when the status changes.Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 11.19.15 AM
  3. Click “Close”.
  4. Click the “Save” button below the tool.

Remember that all pages in the main website and the faculty website module have active/inactive and scheduling tools. To schedule the status change for a page, go in to the page “Properties” Tab and click the “Schedule Status Change” button at the bottom of the “Page Navigation” page.

Please note that when a page is inactive, it is still accessible for anyone with a direct URL and depending on your settings, these pages may be indexed by search engines. If you want a page to be unreachable, even for someone with a direct URL, make the page “not accessible”. Inactive tools are not accessible for your users.

For more information on the Faculty Database (Module), or Site Manager’s Scheduling tools, contact Support.

 

Posted on September 23rd, 2013

Employing your Website as Customer Service

by Lisa Gutknecht

I recently read an article, Customer Service in the Church, and would recommend that you read it too. The article brings out a simple truth that “customer service” is not necessarily labeled that way in most churches, but is vitally important.

This brings up some recent conversations I had with a few Christian Schools and their website redesign projects. Your website has a key role in the first impression, and ongoing communication and connection for your members or families. Is your website doing a good job in it’s customer service role?

Questions that you might ask yourself to determine the answer might be:

  • Is your website easy to find in searches (this may require some basic SEO work)
  • Is your website easy to navigate? Are the menu options clear, simple and obvious?
  • Do you have contact info, address and directions on your website? A common mistake that we see is just embedding a map, and not actually including the street address. This could make things very difficult for users who want to plug the address into their own mapping application.
  • Are your hours posted?
  • Is your information kept up to date? Especially in key areas such as worship, children’s ministries and outreach groups for churches, and admissions and academics for Christian schools.
  • Is your calendar and event information regularly updated?
  • Do the images on your website pages accurately reflect the culture of your organization?
  • Do you have “real” images on your website – are some of your images of actual members, students and families? (Don’t use all stock photography!)

Thinking of your websites as a vital customer service role for your organization is a great perspective. Give it a try!

Posted on September 19th, 2013

Using Web Safe and User-Friendly Fonts

by Molly Parker

 

 

Before your users even begin to read the text on your page, they notice the fonts. Just as body language and tone are important with speech, fonts are important with the written content on your page. As you likely know intuitively, a bold, bright font can express an assertive message. Or, a curvy, light colored font can express a more playful tone. Not only that, but fonts can also effect the amount of traffic that comes to your website by effecting load times and search engine rankings. For all of these reasons, we take great care in choosing which fonts are available in Site Manager. Our goal is to help you create a beautiful website which is both user-friendly and search engine optimized.

Here’s just some of the reasons why these particular fonts are chosen:

  • The screen is not like a printed work. Behind each character, there is a technical translation – a conversion – that tells the “bots” of the great internet technology what those characters are. Therefore, all websites are limited to either a) web safe, or web compatible fonts, and b) using a web font replacement code. The web replacement code is not recommended, and has been viewed for years as bad web design. Faithwebsites will not knowingly release “bad web design”.
  • With that in mind, we must look at web safe fonts. That is why all of FWS products are limited to web safe fonts – so that all of our customers content can be read by all browsers, smart phones, tablets AND by all search engines. You see, web safe fonts aren’t just for display readability on screens – they are also the same fonts that search engines, such as Google, know how to read.
  • Each font that is used on a site must be loaded. Every different font used, even web safe ones, increases page load times. That means that it takes longer for your web page to load on your visitor’s screen/device. Mobile phones and tablets need a MUCH faster load time. More than one font on a page can cause your mobile and tablet viewers frustration in how slow your pages load.
  • Google and other search engines measure your font usage and your page load times, and if you are using too many fonts, too much formatting, etc., it is considered cluttered and not user friendly. Users are expecting consistent and clean formatted content, and Google knows it – therefore they measure you, and thus rank you, by those standards. (NOTE: every instance of bold, italic, colored font loads a code called HTML or CSS, which if used in great volumes can slow down load time.)
  • Current standards for screen text readability dictates the consistent use of one main body font with consistent sizing and spacing, nearly always left aligned, and the use of formatting sparingly. Only two to three font styles should be used site wide, and the alternative font styles can be safely used only in your logo / organization name / footer and other designed areas of branding. Not as main body or regular site wide text.

These are just a few of the many technical, current trend and current protocol reasons that fonts are limited. Our newer designs are limited to one primary font and applied consistently throughout the site in order to ensure maximum readability, load time, and search engine optimization (SEO). Implemented sites have a very limited number of fonts to chose from, and DIY sites are given a few more options. Either way, we encourage all of our customers to consider these standards as you update and build new pages.

Sometimes, you have a specific marketing event that requires a special font for branding purposes. In those situations, you may wish to create a PDF document and link to that on the website. In creating a PDF, you are not limited to the fonts available on the web. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You must create the PDF with the fonts embedded in order for the fonts to display as you have designed them for all users. Otherwise, the end user’s computer will translate those fonts to web safe ones, even in a PDF. Also, use some caution when designing your PDF.  A PDF embedded with lots of fonts can be really slow to load and those users on a slower internet connection may never be able to fully download the file/link.

This great article on Mashable discusses four basics:
  • In Readability, they address that it’s generally considered bad form to have more than 3 different font families.
  • In Mood and Message, they address the types of fonts and the use of font weights (bold). Different fonts, font weights, and colors can express different emotions. For example, a bold red font often signifies anger or yelling.
  • In Font Families, they address the biggest item that many admin users have to adjust to: print offers flexibility that web does not.
  • Finally in Cross-Browser and Cross-Device, they address one of the core reasons that fonts are limited in Site Manager – ensuring that your content is displayed on all platforms.
Looking to understand why web fonts are so limited? This short video by Google Webmaster Central answers some of those questions.

Hope this helps provide you with some understanding on the use of fonts on websites versus print, and how best you can use them on your own website.

 

Posted on July 23rd, 2013

SEO: Meta Keywords

by Lisa Gutknecht

We’ve had several inquiries lately about Meta Keywords which has brought to light that we are behind on updating our interface, and more importantly, our customers about changes that have evolved over the years with keyword meta tag.

Meta keywords are a series of keywords and phrases that can be added to your site, on a page by page level. They used to be one of the most popular ways to influence Search Engine rankings, and a favorite stand-by for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The emphasis is on “used to be.” Some search engines may still use them, but Google has stated quite clearly that they do not use keyword meta tags. Bing appears to still be using them – but as a signal for spammers, not ranking (which is a big danger and a negative)!

Meta keywords became a method abused by spammers, resulting in most search engines ruling them out. Most SEO experts will tell you to remove them and not use them – not only because of the possible association of spam, but also because competitors can see what keywords you are trying to target. Now, for most of our customers at Faithwebsites – such competition is not a concern, but the possibility of being associated with spam / spammers should be a concern.

At DIS | Faithwebsites, we recommend that you do not use the meta keywords anymore. But — some meta tags are still used — just not the keywords.

One of the most important meta tags that Google and other search engines do use is meta description, which in Site Manager is “Meta Tag Description”. (See screenshot below)

Site Manager SEO fields

Screenshot of the SEO fields in Site Manager

In conclusion, we would recommend that you do not add or create any more meta tag keywords to your site. We will be working to eventually remove or re-purpose that field in Site Manager in the future. We would recommend that you continue the practice of updating your Title Bar Override and your Meta Tag Description fields.

You may find this video from Google Webmaster resources useful (keep in mind the video was produced several years ago). If you have questions, contact Support through your Support Center ticket system.

 

Posted on June 3rd, 2013

Social Media Guide

by Lisa Gutknecht

Many of our customers are still trying to figure out what works for them with social media posting. We can relate – we are still working on that too! We’re busy – so are you. We found this guide recently – and while it was originally created last year, it provides short and practical advice. Hope this helps you out!

Social-Media-Posting-Strategy-Free-Download-Image1-e1342001362737

Original source from http://topnonprofits.com/posting-guide/

Posted on May 20th, 2013

Free Image Editors You Can Start Using Today – and why you should use them

by Lisa Gutknecht

Images are an important part of website content. I would venture to say that you should be investing about 30 to 50% of your content building time and effort into building images. But any old stock image isn’t going to cut it these days. Today, your audience is filled with image-centric, image savvy individuals and website images need to be awesome to meet those expectations.

Sound daunting? It can be. But like all content building tasks, start with baby steps and work into more. Here is our short-list of recommended “do’s & don’ts” to start with:

  1. Crop your images to fit your space – and enhance your message. When building content in Site Manager, always choose to crop your photos whenever possible. Cropping ensures a perfect fit, fast page load time and more. And don’t forget that cropping can enhance the vision, mission or emotion you’re looking to portray on that page.
  2. Add text over images – in moderation. Adding text over an image is a great visual. However, more than a couple lines of text, using a font that is hard to read or a color that is hard to read, will quickly turn that positive image to a negative user experience. Stick with easy to read fonts and keep the text short. Use the tools in Site Manager to add URLs to your images and direct your users to more content.
  3. A collage of pictures can sometimes be a better choice than a slide show.
  4. Choosing images that have a similar color as your site’s background can add a measure of professionalism to your site.
  5. “Image” does not always mean people or nature pictures. Create stunning announcement slides or landing page visuals using an image of a texture or background. But use a photographic one, or maybe a vector – and not clip art.
  6. Avoid clip art, mis-matched icons, animated GIFs.
  7. Be responsible – be sure you have permission to use (or re-use) the image file.

Now on to free online image editors. No doubt you’re already not sure how to go about accomplishing some of the above list. Some of the tasks you can handle right inside of Site Manager (like the fact that the slide show tool has built-in cropping to the precise dimensions of your slide show!), but many will require the use of an image editing application.

While many of you may have a software installed on your computer, free web based image editors offer the ability to crop, resize, add text and much more to your photos. And even if you have a computer software program (like Photoshop), you may just want to explore some of these options as fast and easy ways to be creative with images. Like every type of application – take a little time to explore each application, and have some fun working towards your objective!

  1. PicMonkey
    At the top of our lists right now because of its simplicity, drag and drop and super fun effects, PicMonkey is worth a try. Not all of the features are free, but the basic cropping, image resize, photo edits (lighting, sharpness, etc.), adding text and even frames are all free. Jump on, upload your photo and you can be done in minutes. Save your photo back out to your computer and you’re good to go. Ideal for building collages, banners (think inside webpages, Facebook pages), and especially for creating the square format that is so popular with social media currently. (Tip: build a square photo for your social media stream and add it, in a smaller size, to your right side bar on your webpage!)

    Sample screenshot of PicMonkey

    Sample screenshot of PicMonkey

  2. Pixlr/Editor
    This free online editor is more advanced and offers traditional features that would be similar to Adobe Photoshop. While it offers more advanced features, users can quickly learn how to use the Layers palette and add text and other images (think logo on top of a texture image background) to create a well designed slide. You can save the layered file (to your computer or online if you build an account) to be loaded back into Pixlr for more editing at a later date. Which is a nice advantage if you have one image that you just want to edit the date on regularly, for example.

    Sample screenshot of Pixlr/Editor

    Sample screenshot of Pixlr/Editor

  3. Splashup
    Very similar to Pixlr in that it offers layers and plenty of filters and image editing tools, Splashup may be a bit more user friendly. It’s a good mid-level option to explore – and offers easy sharing plus being able to save your images to your computer.

All of the above websites offer easy options for cropping to specific dimensions and/or aspect ratio, resizing, adding text overlays, and minor touch ups. Explore other features like applying color filters, fading out part of an image and much more! If you’d like to know more – watch our upcoming newsletters or forum for User Group Trainings that feature image tips.

Posted on May 9th, 2013

Keep Learning! New User Group Trainings

by Lisa Gutknecht

A big thank you to those that joined us for our live “Welcome to Site Manager” webinars. They were such a huge success that we were encouraged to move on an idea we’ve had for a while – User Group Trainings. Your feedback and survey responses helped to form some of the first topics we’ll be presenting.

Learn keyboard key. FingerOpen to all of our administrative users and totally free, we kick off the series with our first webinar on Monday, May 20th – starting at 11:30 am Central Time. Our first topics will be training on the new File Uploads Database, image management basics and our new Copy Tool released with Site Manager 1.0.

The format of the webinars will feature approximately 15 to 20 minutes demonstrations on each topic and then offer Q&A time at the end. Questions can be asked of the panelists at any time throughout the webinar (through a Questions panel that you can type in your questions or comments to us) and our team will work to answer those questions as they come in. A microphone is not required to participate.

If time permits, our team will also answer questions regarding Site Manager that may not be related to the session’s topics.

The sessions are scheduled for 1.25 hours (75 minutes), but you are free to come and go as needed. If there are still questions in the queue our team will continue afterwards to try to get to everyone’s question.

And, in anticipation of a very common question – no, these sessions are not recorded and will not be available afterwards. Each User Group Training will be unique and fresh topics and tips presented. We encourage you to try to join us live for as many as possible.

Learn more and register on our support site. Registrations are kept open up until the start of the session.

Posted on April 25th, 2013

Make Mother’s Day special…

by Lisa Gutknecht

… on your website too!

To help you do just that (and keep your home page updated too), we’re offering our customers FREE images. We’re continuing our free image promotions throughout this year with Mother’s Day images to use on your home page slide show. We hope that you and others are blessed by these. Drop us a comment or a note on our Forum letting us know!

mom1_400x250

mom2_400x250

Click the links below to download the size needed. Be sure to choose a size that is large enough (or larger) than your slide show dimensions and use the built-in crop tool to size the image perfectly. To download, when the image opens in a new tab/window, right click and choose Save As or Save Link As.

Striped Mother’s Day – wide 980×400
Striped Mother’s Day – medium 600×400
Striped Mother’s Day – small 400×250

Sunflower Mother’s Day – wide 980×400
Sunflower Mothers’ Day – medium 600×400
Sunflower Mother’s Day – small 400×250

 

Posted on March 27th, 2013

Site Manager Paves the Way for Future Change

by Lisa Gutknecht

All we’ve been talking about lately is our new admin website interface – Site Manager. If you’re a current customer of Faithwebsites, by now you know that you’ll be moved to Site Manager in the month of April, and you may have even joined us in one of our live webinar sessions.

We’re not just excited because this is a new interface and way to manage your website. We’re excited because this interface change really was about creating a platform that enables us to push out new tools, enhancements and updates in ways we never could before.

With Site Manager’s release, the new integrated blogging tool* became available. This tool features standard blog platform components – like categories and tags, and is using the new File Uploads tool so that you have easier ways to manage multiple images per post. You can also schedule posts and customize what you want to show up on the right side bar of the web page of your blog.

Speaking of File Uploads, the new tool will save you time, offers you drag and drop, easy file organization, better thumbnails, and access to your documents and images from multiple page level tools! We’re excited to hear your feedback on this tool – be sure to join a live session and watch us demo this tool in action!

And that leads me to the topic of feedback. We’ve launched our own user forum – The Neighborhood – for DIS and FWS website users. We’d love to have you join and participate. Many of you are looking for content ideas, ways to keep your site updated, tips and tricks on how to do certain tasks, and much more. We have to keep our support team focused on helping you learn the CMS, but what about the other aspects of building a site? It is our hope that our users will ask, answer, provide feedback and offer opinions on The Neighborhood forum – so that together, all our users can benefit!

We’re excited about our development plans for 2013! With special thanks to our Site Manager Early Adopter group, we’re off to a great start! Stay tuned for more updates, anniversary promos and yes – more updates and upgrades to Site Manager.

 

*The Integrated Blogging Tool is part of the Premier and Enterprise Service Plans.

Posted on March 6th, 2013

Understanding Social Media Trends – Infographic

by Lisa Gutknecht

We found this interesting and thought we would share. Is your church or organization on one or more social media streams? If you need help connecting your social media to your website, be sure to contact our support team – they’ll be happy to help!