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You want to build it yourself, but you're not sure how. You don't want the website to fail like the last three. What are other organizations doing that allows them to succeed? Maybe a bit of what follows. I've been building websites for nearly a decade, and I'm still learning more (like how to use an intro image properly or a page break--see right).


Why Websites Don't Work

Content not updated

The number one reason your website is not working like you want and will not work like you want is because you don’t want to spend endless time updating the site. Tools do exist to make this process easier, but the fact remains that most clients I have worked with have no interest in maintaining a legitimate web presence on their own. They might want a content management system because they’ve heard it’s the way to go, but they really just want a few static pages and a blog, maybe.

The truth is that your site, whether old school, CMS, a Facebook page, or even an app, is going nowhere without updated content. Depending on the system, this can be done by one person or many individuals, but it needs to get done. There are a few tricks that will be mentioned later on, but adding content to a site is the most important task in having a website anyone cares about.

Too difficult to use on both ends

A reason for avoiding content updates might include the difficulty in learning the system, especially if employees are responsible for certain sections or pages. It also might not fit into the main role of the employee. For example, when I was teaching, I needed to create assignments and then add them to the site. That’s an extra step. However, I saw it as a one-time commitment because the assignment would be there next year. Most paid CMS systems are business solutions adapted to church or school applications. Therefore, the parts might not fit perfectly. Most LMS systems (like Moodle) have a very steep learning curve for the user, and I’ve seen more neglected sites using these systems than any other.

My idea, and if you’re a network administrator, you might be able to figure this out, is to force employees to update the page they’re responsible for upon login. You can’t go anywhere in the morning until you update your page. Another idea is just allow static content for those who just want that and provide incentives to those who update their pages. Finally, you could hire someone to provide not only the system but also work with the individuals on their pages to at least create a uniform look and feel, whether updated or not.

Websites are often too difficult for the user, as well. A few years back, many prominent sites started getting away from mega menus in order to clean up the main pages. However, navigation gets difficult. Not all menus show up well in tablets or phones, too. I’d say have the huge menus as people with real computers can get where they’re going quickly. I would also important main page content with links to currently relevant pages, even if those pages are several years old, like a fundraiser you do every year. You don’t need to recreate the page all the time; just bury it in a menu and write about it once a year.

Not a destination

Even if you have current information, people may not flock to your site. In many cases, churches and schools send our e-newsletters completely separate from the site. People rely on these more than visiting the site, which makes the site irrelevant and the content on the site only an archive. This is especially annoying at my church because I have to login somewhere just to read the e-newsletter, but that somewhere is NOT the official website. Rather, it's some paid service that not only gets all the traffic but also probably is allowed to send out its own emails or throw some ads on its site. A CMS will generally have a free way to send emails out. It can also store emails and profiles, which could save you time over other systems (or could add time).

Other options for driving people to your site would be for photos, videos, or other ways for members to interact in a unique way. We all get all kinds of text messages and emails, but seeing a picture of yourself volunteering for church is kind of exciting. You could send out an interesting question that a pastor or principal has answered on the site only. If you are really on a budget but have a little extra time, find out each member's cell phone provider so that you can send free texts out to their phones via email (yes, this works). Conversely, you could opt for refusing to cater to laziness and only put general information on the website. No newsletter or texts or anything, but an updated, relevant website. A combination of these methods is likely the best scenario, which means time and talent.

Not responsive

Since you're trying to reach everyone with you website, you do need to make it a "responsive" design. Some web designers have just made this a default skinny design, which still might not show up right in phones, but probably works most of the time. Of course, these fixed thin designs take away from the professional appearance. Some have made these designs just for the mobile version of the site. However, if you're looking at a redesign or upgrade, just go with one responsive template. You can check out responsiveness by simply resizing a site in your browser to look like the dimensions of a phone or tablet. If nothing resizes and it looks awful, you might need some changes. Keep in mind that sales of PCs and even notebooks are no longer the majority of device sales in America, so you need to plan accordingly.

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