The first questions to ask yourself when looking at getting a website is: who will update this in the long term and will they really do it? Are there others in the parish that will help to generate content for the person who will update the site? In a lot of cases you will be better off having no website, rather than one that is out of date and is visually poor.
Keeping your parish’s ‘A Church Near You’ entry updated can be enough. A Facebook page will also give you an opportunity to have a web presence through which you can post information about events and keep in touch with people. This would also be searchable from Google, so even without a website, people can still find you.
If you are sure a website is right for you then there are two options:
Option 1 - Do it yourself
You may have heard that there are ways of building a website for free, and there are. Wordpress.com and Wix.com are examples. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should! Building a website is always time-consuming. You will need to create striking and engaging content in the form of headlines, text and pictures. Pictures will need editing to the right size for uploading, will need to be copyright free, or permissions will need seeking. You will need to map out the site yourself and train others on updating it.
Your website will reflect your parish’s personality to the world. If there are pictures of empty churches, stretched poor quality images, clashing colours and clunky menu structures it will not create a good impression!
Before you take this route ask yourself a few questions: Are you sure you are confident in design, colours, fonts and the use of images on a website? Do you have at least a basic knowledge of html? Do you have the time to do it properly and complete it? Do you understand the difference between a PNG and a JPEG? Do you know what a responsive website is? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then go to Option 2.
Option 2 - Pay a professional
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good website. A local decent web designer should be able to do a very nice website for well under £1,000 and many should fall in the £400-£600 mark. A couple of companies have set up nationally to offer rates even cheaper than this. Though the downside is that the sites will not be unique in design, however, they are worth a look if budgets really are tight:
- Church Edit (www.churchedit.co.uk) - Ready made template websites from £175 a year.
- Church Insight (www.churchinsight.com) - Ready made template websites from £19.95 plus VAT a month.
Some local web designers you might want to try:
Creative Stream (www.creativestream.co.uk). Sheffield-based.Ideal for larger groups that have a slightly bigger budget for a very well designed, bespoke website. See its dedicated Church Website page for lots of ideas and examples.
You Say Social (www.yousay.so). Sheffield-based. These are experts in social media but also develop nice websites using a product called Squarespace. Examples include Sheffield Cathedral and Whirlow Spirituality Centre.
Mirata Limited (www.mirata.ltd.uk). Based in Doncaster, Mirata also has experience working on website projects for Christian organisations and churches. It has designed the Doncaster Minster site and also the one for St Michael's Rossington.
Note: Of all these listed above are not affiliated with, or endorsed by, the Diocese and it is up to you to do all the necessary checks to ensure the service and product you are receiving is what you expect.
What is a domain?
A domain name, like www.sheffield.anglican.org, is a lot like a street address for a house or business. It's an easy way to reach the exact location of a website. A domain name consists of, at least, a top-level and a second-level domain. A top-level domain (TLD) is the part of the domain name located to the right of the dot ("."). The most common TLDs are .com, .net, and .org. Many domains, also called extensions, can be registered by anyone from a number of providers.
Where do I buy a domain?
Many companies sell domains on the internet. Some popular examples are provided below, but it is up to you to do your own research. You do not have to have a website to secure a domain (but you do need a domain to have a website). If you are unsure, the web designer can do this for you.
How much does a domain cost?
A domain can usually be purchased for a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 10 years. Costs depend on the domain ending, the more traditional endings eg: .co.uk, .com, .org, .uk should cost less than £10 a year. In 2014, a series of new domain endings were released, eg: .coffee, .marketing, .digital, .builders (and many more). These cost upwards of £20 a year.
What is hosting?
All websites need to be hosted on a server that people can access via the internet. A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server owned or leased for use by clients, as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center.
Where can I get a hosting package?
A web designer will advise you of this and set it up for you. They will also probably agree a small fee to manage the support and hosting of the website throughout the year. You can purchase and manage hosting your self, but you do need to understand a bit about the basics of websites and hosting to do this.
How much does hosting cost?
This varies greatly depending on the size of the website (in terms of storage) and how much traffic it gets. All hosting packages should offer automatic back-ups as a matter of course. If you purchased hosting yourself for a typical parish website you would expect to pay £30 - £50 a year. However, a web designer will charge a little more for the time it takes them to set it up, and may also offer you a fee for yearly support. This is a good option to take and is usually worth the extra cost.
What is a responsive website?
Responsive web design 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 different sized computer monitors to tablets and mobile phones). In recent years, a increasingly significant proportion of internet searches are carried out on a mobile or tablet. This is likely to increase. Websites SHOULD be responsive. A good designer will do this as a matter of course, and it should be built into their price structure, but ask the questions as some still try and charge extra for it.
In 2014, 25% of visitors to the Diocesan website viewed it on a mobile or tablet. In 2015, that had increased to 35%, in the first two months of 2016 this is running at 51%! You exclude a large part of your audience if they cannot view it properly on their device of choice.