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Website Design

by Tim Isbell

Prospective participants in a church (or nonprofit) nearly always visit the web site before visiting the physical location. Regular or occasional attendees expect the website to tell them what's going on from week to week. Participants in the organization love to point friends, relatives, associates or neighbors to their organization's website. Leaders want ways to communicate a wide range of helpful content to people. And every non-profit wants an easy way to send current information to a subscriber list. A good website does all these things, and at a cost far less than phone book advertising and paper newsletters. But many small and mid-sized non-profits lack a good, up-to-date website! This Website Design resource helps leaders develop websites. Once developed, paid and volunteer staff can add to and maintain the site with skills on a complexity level about like what is needed to run Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

You can develop a website at a start-up cost of $50-200 and an ongoing cost of under $50/year. In the process, you will uncover up a wide variety of other extremely fruitful tools that you can use throughout your organization.

A few years ago at New Life Church we decided to redesign our site. One criteria was for non-technical ministry leaders to be able to create new pages with text and graphics, link these to other pages, all while maintaining the “look and feel of the site." Since New Life has 3 congregations that worship in 3 spoken languages and 2 written languages (English and Chinese), we also needed a bilingual site. Four of us developed a completely new site in about a month – while continuing our regular jobs. On the English language side I did the overall architecture; Rich was our computer science expert and mentor, and Geneva was our graphics designer who set up the colors and general "look and feel." Simultaneously, Atlas mirrored the English language side to a Chinese language side. We never held a single face-to-face meeting; we did it all by collaboratively working on the site while simultaneously communicating by email. Today we probably would have managed our interactions using shared Google Doc files and comments on web pages instead of email. You can see this site at New Life Nazarene Church. Others have maintained the site since I left in May of 2010.

I semi-retired in May of 2010 from New Life and soon decided to develop my own website; it's the site you are now looking at Tim Isbell Online. This time I wanted to personally build as much of the site as I possibly could. I ended up needing outside help in two areas. The first was to ask my graphics designer son, Geoff, for help with the custom logo design (it's the banner at the top of every page). If you look at it closely, you'll spot the subtle message buried there, including a hint of something coming in the math area. The second was to ask a computer science friend, Rich, for a bit of advice in Stage 3.

By the fall of 2011 our Math Coaching program was up and running to the point where we needed a website to communicate to our students, their parents, our coaching team, and any other social entrepreneurs who might want to start something similar. So I developed another website as a sub-domain to my primary site.  You can see this one at Math Coaching

Design flow

Here’s the top-level design flow for a public site. This design flow will help you find your way. You can give site design method a try by working on stages 1 and 2. This builds the expertise you'll need to administer your domain and site in the future. Once you get through stage 2 you will probably need a tech-savvy friend to help you with Stage 3, or you can contract with an inexpensive setup service to help you (for under $500). If you are a Nazarene ministry in the Northern California District of the Church of the Nazarene and lack a tech-savvy coach/consultant for Stage 3, contact me and I'll try to work something out. If your ministry is not nearby, contact me anyway and I'll see what I can do.

Make sure to hold to the requirement that the site must be simple enough that your organization's leaders can create and update content all by themselves. Computer science people sometimes do things in ways that only another computer science professional can maintain. Do not let that happen! 

The top-level development stages

1.  Sign-up for free Google email. (It comes with the suite of apps you need to develop your site, and more.)

2.  Design your site in your gmail account.

3.  Setup your domain.

4.  Copy your site to your Google Apps account.

5.  If you are a non-profit, upgrade your Google Apps status to Education edition (might still be free). 

6.  Polish site.

7.  Start inviting people.

8.  Throw a party!

For the details of each stage, click Website Design Details.

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Subpages (1): Website Design Details