Summer Review: Time for a New Theme?

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Fall in the United States typically comes with some standard themes – changing colors in the trees, cooler temperatures (in the Southern part of the U.S. it changes from unbearable heat to comfortable), and the standard school year begins. Even where there are no fall leaves or sweaters coming out of summer storage, new clothes and school supplies are purchased. Long after we are out of school, or perhaps our children are out of school, there is a feeling of longing for new things, a new look, perhaps.

Just as spring brings an urge to clean out our closets and dust the corners we only get at rarely, in the fall we are often seeking out new things, new projects. And as you are reviewing your website, you may want a new look for that as well.

There are lots of ways you can give your website a makeover. We’ve talked about cleaning up old information, replacing old pictures and making sure your website is organized in a way that is inviting and makes sense to visitors. With many website platforms and themes, you have the opportunity to move elements around on the home page and other pages in the site, to change fonts and heading sizes, all of which can update the look and feel of your site. But, what about changing the theme altogether?

With many platforms, this may be as easy as clicking a button, then making sure to adjust for different element areas and sizes. With some platforms, it may require actually moving content. You may need to pay an additional fee for a change or upgrade. If you are planning to simply change the look of your website with the same website provider or platform, you should check to see what that will require.

The Benefit of Worship Times Membership

If you are a Worship Times member, changing themes is simple. First, take a new look at our Divine Designs page – we regularly update our theme options to keep them fresh and up-to-date. Once you choose one or a few themes, use a support ticket to connect with Worship Times, and we will connect with you about updating your theme.

 

You can update your Worship Times theme at any time, and make any adjustments needed yourself. However, most of our members are, understandably, a little squeamish about making those updates on their own. The good news is that with your Worship Times membership comes the option for Worship Times to do a theme update for you up to once a year. Many of our members forget that option, but it is a great benefit of working with Worship Times.

Many ministries update their websites as they are doing discernment about the future. They may start with a theme that is perfect your current mission and community, and as they evolve they find it no longer fits. If you find that your theme no longer fits your identity, we’re happy to help figure out which theme is a better fit at this point, and help make that update.

Never be afraid to ask us about a new theme. It doesn’t hurt our feelings when people want a new look for their site, and our intention is that your website doesn’t get stale. The industry standard for a particular look for a website is around three years. If you get to that point with your particular theme, we’ll start nudging you to look at an update, anyway.

So, as you do your website reviews, keep the overall look in mind as well as the structure and content. And let us know if you are ready for an update!

Worship Times Features: Hidden Gems

When we hand off a newly built Worship Times site to a member, we offer a run-through of the site’s Dashboard, the tools you will use in editing and adding to your site. One of the most important areas of the Dashboard we highlight is our custom Worship Times area.

There are four sub-items under the Worship Times area, labeled Worship Times, Support Center, Learning Center and Social Media Settings.

The sub-item labeled Worship Times is where we enter the name and contact information for your ministry. The email listed here will be the default email listed in your contact information and in forms settings. If your name, address, phone number or main email change, this is where you will update it. Note: You will want to change this in your local SEO settings, as well.

Social Media Settings is where one enters any social media accounts to list on the site. (Take a look – there are quite a few possibilities!)

Those are important tools, but the Support and Learning centers are the real hidden gems.

With the Support Center, you always have direct access to Worship Times support. It is the most efficient way to contact us, and we are happy to answer any question you have about your site. Do you have a question about creating a form? Did a page accidentally get deleted? Perhaps you just need to reach out to a friendly Worship Times employee to say, “Hi!” We are here to help, and the Support Center feature helps us keep track of your questions, and resolve any issues quickly.

The Learning Center has a series of video tutorials to help accomplish needed tasks on your Worship Times site. We know most of our members are not spending all day building and maintaining WordPress websites. Our short (2-7 minutes each) tutorial videos will help you master the tools available in your Worship Times site. They are always available in your Dashboard, and we continue to add to our tutorial videos collection.

Next Steps

Look through these custom Worship Times features, and try them out. Learn a new skill with a tutorial video, and put it in practice. You can even send us a note in the Support Center to let us know what you tried!

Quick Fix: Resizing Pictures

The correct size and shape of pictures will help a website looking great. If you have a Worship Times site, this especially applies for pictures included in the staff and slider plug-ins, and if you are using featured pages and posts.

WordPress does include some simple cropping tools for your pictures. However, it is easier and less frustrating to edit your pictures prior to loading them to your site.

Helpful Tools

There are a variety of tools you can use to edit your pictures. Most computer operating systems include a simple picture viewer and editor. Adobe Photoshop provides a powerful set of editing tools that can assist not only with simple cropping, but also in color correction and beyond.

Online picture editing programs are available to upload pictures from your desktop and offer the tools to accomplish everything from cropping a picture to creating fliers and graphics for your organization are available. We have used and recommend PicMonkey, Snappa and Canva. All offer free versions with some great basic tools, as well as upgrades to increase services and options.

We encourage you to try out different tools to see which one best fit your needs and comfort level.

Try It Out

Let us use the example of adding a staff photo to your site to illustrate best practices as you edit and add pictures to your site.

Note: It is helpful to know that all picture measurements in WordPress will be noted in pixels, so we will also use pixel measurements in our example.

Here is a sample staff picture (you are not always going to have professional pictures to use):

The standard size for pictures for the Worship Times’ staff plug-in is 125 pixels wide by 145 pixels tall (dimensions for sliders and featured pictures can be found in slider and theme settings). If you let WordPress automatically crop the staff photo, it might look like this:

To better control the look and consistency of your pictures, we recommend:

  1. Start with a larger version of your pictures.
    (Like the sample photo above, much larger than 125×145 pixels.)
  2. Crop the pictures to have consistent framing.
    However you crop your pictures, consistency between the pictures is key. How you do your initial crop will also depend on the size and shape of your pictures – you may not have as much room to play with as our original picture. If your crop doesn’t work, simply undo and begin again.

    For sliders, it’s best to crop out unnecessary space that takes away from the main focus of the picture.

  3. Resize your pictures.
    In this case, we resized to the correct width for the staff picture, because we know we have extra length we will crop out in the final crop.

  4. Do a final crop to your desired size.

You can use this technique to crop any pictures for your site.

Note: Regardless if you use the recommended 125×145 pixels, make sure ALL pictures for staff pages are the same size. This created a uniform page and alignment.

Now you are ready to upload your staff pictures to your Worship Times site!

ABC’s of WordPress with Worship Times: Pages, part 2

Yesterday we re-introduced you to Pages, and how to enter basic content on your WordPress site. Today we will look at the additional tools you can use to build beautiful pages throughout your site.

Your page content and format is the main way you will distinguish your pages from others on the internet, and even others within your website.

Extra Tools:

WordPress has some additional tools built into their sites, as well as Worship Times plug-ins that can help you create a great page.

With the ‘Add Media’ tool, you can not only add individual pictures, picture galleries, video or pdf documents from your Media Library, but upload pictures from your computer, and more. You can add event lists from the Event Manager, and embed videos, calendars and social media content directly from other websites and platforms:

Other tools are available to help you add forms and picture sliders you have created in your site as well as maps, location addresses and office hours. Explore these tools, and see all the things they can do as you make your pages unique and welcoming to your website visitors.

Helpful Hint: We recommend adding and editing your text content before adding in media, forms, maps, etc., for ease of editing.

Visual vs. Text

You may notice as you’re editing that you are editing in the Visual editor of the content box:

What is the text editor, and do you need to worry about it? The text editor displays code that assists in building your page. You will almost never need to look at or worry about that tab in your content box. BUT, you might accidentally click on it and see a bunch of code. You can always click back over to the Visual tab, and see the view you are used to.

One more note on the content box: Because the fonts and font styles are unique to your theme, the layout of the content box will not look exactly like the actual page. If you look at the actual page, and want to move text or pictures, or change headers size or styles, you can always go back into the page’s editor and make those changes quickly.

Screen Options

You will notice that there are other boxes with options for your page. For most pages, you will not need to do anything with these options, but we will introduce you to them briefly. If you can’t see some of the available tools, you can find them in the screen options for the editing section, and choose which sections you want to see or hide:

Page Attributes:

There are two main options within Page Attributes that you will use. Parent pages indicate whether the page you are creating is a “child” page to another page in the site. For instance, you might have a main ministry page, and list pages for specific ministries as child pages.

Example: “About Us” would be a parent page. “Our Staff” would be a child page of “About Us”

Templates determine the type of page that will appear to your site’s visitors. You can create blog, blog archive and landing pages as well as the typical pages that will make up most of your site’s content. The best way to see what each template looks like is to test them out.

Page Layout:

With the page layout settings, you can easily change the look of a page. For most themes, the options are a right sidebar, a left sidebar or no sidebar. Some themes have more layout options. You can use these options as it makes sense in different parts of your site.

Featured Image:

Featured images can be added to pages you intend to use as featured pages in a widget section on your home page, landing page or in a sidebar.

Yoast SEO:

SEO, “search engine optimization,” is how your site and individual pages and posts within your site show up in search engines. We will address this further in a future post, but we encourage you to spend some time learning about SEO, and how this plug-in can optimize your site’s search appearances. There are some great posts on SEO on the internet, and you can explore the Yoast plug-in on your own to discover some of its tools, as well.

 

Next Steps:

Have fun! If you haven’t spent much time exploring the tools in your WordPress Pages section, try them out! Create a test page, and play around with adding different types of content, editing, different headers, page templates and layouts. Plot out a potential content layout, and enjoy the creative options.

 

 

*Most blogs on WordPress-based sites utilize ‘Posts’ rather than ‘Pages.’ Look for future information on Posts, why you use them to build a blog, and other uses for Posts.

ABC’s of WordPress with Worship Times: Pages, part 1

Periodic refreshers are helpful from time to time. These how-to can be a help to remind, encourage and instruct WordPress users as they work on their sites.

Pages

Pages are the basic building blocks of your WordPress site. Unless your site’s overall focus is a blog*, most of your content will be contained on pages.

This displays what you see when you add a new page (labels are courtesy of Worship Times):

Page Title:

You can change this later, but the original page title gets incorporated into the page url (web address), so if this is a page for an annual event, like Vacation Bible School, you might consider naming it the more general name, ‘Vacation Bible School,’ rather than ‘Vacation Bible School 2017.’

Once you publish your page, the permalink url will appear under this title bar:

Content Box:

The content box has several parts. The editor or main box is where content is added. This includes text, pictures, forms, maps, etc. The tool bars above the editor or content box help you add content.

 

Main tool bar:

When you first log in to your WordPress site, and open a page (or post*) you will likely see only the top line of the main tool bar. You can make the second line visible by clicking on the Toolbar Toggle option.

You will notice most of the tools are similar to a basic word processing program. You do not have the option of choosing exact font size, but the drop-down menu in the upper left of the tool bar does allow you to choose whether your text is Paragraph, or one of the Heading sizes and styles built into your particular WordPress theme. This is both to streamline your choices, and to help you create a web site that is easy on the eye, without a mishmash of fonts and font sizes.

Another unique WordPress tool is the quotation option – where you can highlight a section of text within your page by selecting it and choosing the quotation option. This will set apart the selected text from the rest of your text, often with indentation and a separate font style.

You can add links within your pages by selecting the link text and choosing the little chain link icon, and entering the url into the address bar:

You can also select the gear on the right of the url box to choose more options, including linking to other pages within your site:

You can learn what each of the other tools in the tool bar are by scrolling over them with your cursor. We encourage you to  explore the different headings and tools to discover what each of them can accomplish.

Preview, Publish and Update

The publishing box, located in the upper right corner of your page editor has helpful tools for you to know about, and one very important function that you will use on every page you create:

Regarding the appearance of your page, you can preview your newly created page (this will open a new window – to continue to edit, go back to the original tab or window), or any future edits before you publish your page, using the ‘Preview’ option, which will open a new tab or window with a page preview. You can then simply close that window or tab when you are done with the preview, and continue working in the editing section of your original window or tab.

When you are ready to publish, you will need to click on the ‘Publish’ button (the text will change to ‘Update’ once you have published the page) to make it live on your website.

Note: Simply publishing your page will not automatically add it to your site’s menu. If you want the page to appear on your site’s menu, you will need to go to your menu options under ‘Appearance’ in the main WordPress Dashboard.

There are a few other tools within the publishing box that are not used as often, such as Visibility – whether your page is public, private (only people who can log in to your website can see it), or password-protected, publishing schedule (can set it to publish in the future), and some other information about the page status and search engine optimization (SEO).

Now you have the tools to publish a basic page. Tomorrow we’ll cover more important tools offered in WordPress Pages to create a unique and welcoming website.

 

*Most blogs on WordPress-based sites utilize ‘Posts’ rather than ‘Pages.’ Look for future information on Posts, why you use them to build a blog, and other uses for Posts.

Black computer keyboard with a 'Connect' key in place of the 'Enter' key

Summer Review: Accessibility

This week, we are honored to hear from a guest author, the Rev. Laura Bratton, about the importance of making your websites accessible to those with different physical and mental abilities. Rev. Bratton is a coach and consultant who works with people to face difficult situations with courage. You can find out more about Rev. Bratton’s work on her website, Ubi Global, and you can find out more about reviewing and improving the accessibility of your website through the links she has provided at the end of her post.


Black computer keyboard with a 'Connect' key in place of the 'Enter' keyIs your website accessible to people with disabilities? Typically this question is not at the top of our list of things to do. As churches, ministries, and nonprofits, we often strive to make our buildings accessible. What about our websites? It is true that only a small percentage of the people going to our website will have a disability. Yet what a powerful message we can send when even our website is accessible. A message that indeed all people are welcome and included!

As a person who is blind, accessible websites are the only way I can navigate the internet. The wonderful advancements of technology have allowed me and other people with disabilities the opportunity to have the same access to information. Through the use of a screen reader, such as Apple Voice Over, I am able to navigate the computer and internet. Both personally and professionally I use the internet constantly. When I come across a website that is not accessible, I am quickly frustrated. It means that I have to wait until someone can describe the website to me and help me navigate the site.

There are many resources that are available to help make websites accessible. Below are three links to help you create a website that is user friendly to all people. Thank you for your effort to have an accessible website so that everyone can use it equally.

https://webaccess.berkeley.edu/resources/tips/web-accessibility

http://www.w3.org/WAI/gettingstarted/Overview.html

http://www.afb.org/info/accessibility/creating-accessible-websites/23

-Laura Bratton

Summer Review: Organization

website organizationFollowing up on last week’s post, we are talking about doing some website review and cleanup as we close out the summer. Last week we talked about getting rid of old and outdates information and photos, and this week we want to talk about your website’s organization.

Many people don’t think much about how their website is organized once the initial design and build is complete, and the website is launched. However, like any system, as people use it, you will find places that your organization doesn’t make much sense, or is overwhelming. Websites are dynamic, and sites built on WordPress, like Worship Times sites, are meant to be changed easily. If something isn’t working, rearrange!

Some things to think about for menus:

  • Does the menu make sense – does the order flow in the way you would expect if you were visiting another church or ministry’s website?
  • Do you need all the menu items you currently have? Clutter is overwhelming, can you move page links to header pages instead? You do not need to list every page in the site on the menu.
  • Is there anything glaring missing? (Like staff pages or your calendar.)
  • Are your menu items clear? Do they use common, rather than insider language, i.e. would anyone outside your membership know what they mean?
  • Do you have sub-menus? This goes back to the clutter issue, and sub-menus are not always as mobile-friendly as your main menu.

Some things to think about for general organization:

  • If you have programs or events mentioned in several places, are they linked in those places?
  • Check your menu and in-page links to make sure they are all working. If not, you may have lost a link in a previous re-organization, or you may just need to freshen up the link.
  • Look at content on individual pages. If there is a lot of information on one page, you can add separate pages for programs/items listed on that page that link back to that page, but don’t also need to be listed on the menu. You could also insert a summary, with a link to “Read More Here,” if they are interested (especially for history page).
  • Additional pages do not need to be added to your menu (this applies to the previous point as well as any new pages you add for new programs, events, forms, etc.) Do link them on the appropriate pages but, once again, not everything needs to be on the menu.

Some things to think about for layout:

  • Are your pictures the right size and in the right locations?
  • Do any of your front page widgets need updating? Information, size, display? If they don’t make sense as they are, you might think about trying them in new locations. If you have a place for sermons that never got uploaded, delete or replace it with another widget.
  • Look at styling – header sizes, bold and italics – on different pages. Do they look proportional? Are the bold and italicized items necessary, or do they detract from the look of your pages?

That’s enough to think about to get started. It’s also good to get fresh eyes on your site – ask other staff and members for their input as well as friends or neighbors who may not use your site often or at all. They may be able to spot problematic areas that you can’t see by working on the site more often. You don’t need to make every change other people suggest (there definitely can be too many cooks in the kitchen), but you can get an idea of places you might want to look at updating your organization for the best user experience.

And if you need a refresher about how to edit your menu(s), add or edit links, customizing your front page and other widget areas, or other tasks, our tutorial videos are always there to help you out.

Summer Review: Old Stuff, New Stuff

broomsAs the rate of support requests increases at Worship Times, we can tell summer is winding down for our member ministries. Vacations are ending, Fall programs kick-offs are on the horizon, and people are looking to clean up their websites. This is a perfect time to kick off our end-of-summer blog series on reviewing your websites.

Perhaps you have a dedicated staff member or volunteer who keeps your website up-to-date on a weekly or monthly basis. But even if you do, there are some things it is good to do on a yearly basis to keep your site looking fresh and welcoming.

The biggest thing we see when we review church websites is old information or pictures. Even if you are updating your announcements, events and sermon media each week, you may not be looking at many of the other pages in your site that often. This is a great time to take a deep dive to see if anything needs to be updated, deleted or added. Staff pages, education and mission pages, long-term events are all areas to check out to update bios, pictures, meeting places and times, curriculum information, etc.

Pay attention to the pictures throughout the site. If you are using pictures of children, especially, ones that are a couple years old are already severely out-of-date. Preschoolers are now 3rd-graders, 3rd-graders are middle schoolers, and your confirmation class could be in college.

If you have any new staff, new classes, new sermon series or new members, you want people to know about them. Make sure you are not hiding these things under a bushel basket, but let them shine!

One more thing, if you have any new staff or volunteers working on your website, or any staff or volunteer changes that affect the website, and who we need to contact at your ministry, please let us know. We want to update our own records, and offer any assistance we can as people get familiarized with your Worship Times website.

Simply looking at these areas of your website once a year will prevent old information from confusing visitors, or causing them to think that your programs are as outdated as your website. A quick look once a year can save a lot of work down the road.

Next week: Let’s look at organization.

So, You’re Ready for a New Website: Content

content blog imageA Good Church Website Communicates:

  1. A reflection of who your church is.
  2. Your commitment to communication in various forms.
  3. Your awareness to reach outside your walls.
  4. Ability to generate discussion and connection.
  5. As body language, grammar, and eye contact are to personal communication, a well-designed website is to digital communication.
  6. “Design isn’t just what it looks and feels like, it’s also how it works.” Steve Jobs

What are the things that should be included in our new website?

Here are Worship Times’ Top 11 things people want in your church’s website:

11. Organized Navigation: too many menu items and dropdowns can be overwhelming. Cull what’s not needed and organize!

10. Text, but not too wordy. Do you want to read pages upon pages of text when you visit a website? Neither do your visitors.

9. Audio/Video of sermons. 50% of visitors to a church website downloaded a sermon (it’s a great preview) 80% of first-time church visitors listened to a sermon online before they attended a particular church.

8. Updated information. Your site isn’t vintage. It’s old. Update it.

7. Coordinating colors. Rainbows and neon green don’t look good. Period.

6. Visitor-centric language – Using churchy language or language that’s unique or insider to your congregation or ministry is exclusive. Be inclusive and include information that’s easy to understand for all visitors and members, alike.

5. PICTURES/images. Of people actually in your church/ministry. A picture of the building is nice, put what goes on there? Sharing the life of your church tells a story. Great pictures can tell it well.

4. How to contact someone. Email a staff person. Fill out a contact form. How they call the church. 60% of visitors to a church website couldn’t find the information they were looking for or even a way to find it out!

3. When Worship Services are! It’s amazing how many church websites we’ve visited that didn’t list their worship times, anywhere.

2. YOUR LOCATION! The two indispensable items guests want on a website are address and times of service. It’s that basic!

#1 – A website. It’s 2016, and many churches still don’t have a website. It’s the new front door. 85% of people who are first time visitors to a church visited the website, first. 

What messages need to be included in our church website?

  1. Who are you as a church.
  2. What you offer: for spiritual growth, Christian education, mission and fellowship.
  3. How visitors can benefit from being part of your community.
  4. What you would want to know about the church.
  5. If it doesn’t answer the questions above, get rid of it.
Mouse hovering over the "Settings" option on the WordPress Dashboard menu

So You’re Ready for a New Website: Choosing a Web Company

Choosing the right website company is important in building your new website.

Mouse hovering over the "Settings" option on the WordPress Dashboard menuCost is an important factor in most ministry budgets, but there are other important considerations when choosing a company to build your ministry’s website.

General Website Builders vs. Ministry Specialists

Though we all too often try to treat the church like a business, the church world is just different. Decisions take longer, money is often tighter, and well-intentioned volunteers can’t easily be let go. There are sensitivities not mirrored in the business world. In addition, a company that understands the missions and stories of ministries realizes that a website isn’t just a tool for information. It’s a tool to reach people with THE story, and connect people with the congregation’s call in the world.

This does not mean that a website company that does not specialize in ministry will not understand your needs. Likewise, not every church-based website company will automatically meet your needs. Pay attention to how well the company is able to anticipate or respond to your unique needs. Creative design ideas or solutions come from designers who listen well and ask good questions.

Design

Custom vs. Template-Based: It’s all about having options. Templates often offer quick and simple solutions, which is appealing. However, custom options can offer a range of flexibility that fit the many facets of ministry. Once again, a company that listens to and understands your needs can make the process easier. You may want to use a platform or tools the company simply doesn’t have expertise in or offer. A good website company will be honest about what they can do for you and what they cannot.

Platforms

What is the best platform for your site. Choosing a platform that you understand or that can easily be learned is crucial. Our time is valuable. Learning a new language, be that computer can feel like a foreign language. Whether it’s WordPress, Rails, Joomla, or another, platforms need to meet skill set and needs. Keep in mind, any platform will have a learning curve.

Features: Consider your needs and your user’s experience. Do you want publications or an event management system included in your site? Do you use a specific directory or online giving program that you want to access from your site? Making sure the company you use has the tools you need or can assist you in creating the needed tools is key.

Price

With most ministries, budget is a concern. Finding a company that can work with your budget is important. Remember, you get what you pay for. Cheap websites are often just that. Going with a reputable company that can work with your budget can be more beneficial to your bottom line than the path of least expense. You also want to ask questions up front about additional costs or hidden fees so there won’t be unpleasant surprises down the road.

Being very clear about your needs up front, and what it might cost if you change your mind about particular elements is important – some costs may be included in the initial price, and some may not.

Support

When you need help, help should be there. When looking for a company, ask about their support system and typical response times. Keep in mind some support needs are unique, but response and attention is key.


These are some of the major considerations that go into choosing a website company, but you probably have some specific questions and concerns we haven’t addressed. Make sure any website company you talk to is willing and able to clearly address your questions and concerns in your initial conversations with them. And if you have any other suggestions or questions about the process of choosing the right website company for your ministry’s website, please let us know in the comments.