What Do You Need to Redesign Your Parish Website?

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on July 22, 2014

in parish, website

RedesignOver the next few months, I will be working on a resource to help parishes redesign or design their websites for mission. Just having a website is not the ultimate goal of our online presence. We need to have a mission-focused website. In my research on parish websites, I have discovered that there is very little guidance to help parishes to do this well and very few good examples to help parish leaders see what is possible.

The importance of websites has evolved as technology has advanced. People expect more from the parish website today. What was “great” a few years ago, can be mediocre today. It is hard to keep up with this constantly changing field especially if you are involved in other full-time ministry. This is understandable, but we cannot accept the status quo. We have to learn how to create, produce and maintain quality, mission-focused websites.

With an understanding of the process involved and clear guidelines or recommendations for what is essential, effective and practical for a mission-based website, I believe that parishes can do a much better job with their websites. I am putting together a resource that will contribute to that understanding.

Recently a reader wrote:

My work involves putting the parish bulletin together for publishing and maintaining the parish website and Facebook page. We have had the current website for the last 4 years. We use WordPress and it is hosted with GoDaddy. I would like to update the theme and have started looking at themes available through WordPress. Since this is the first time for me, I am not completely sure how to decide which “designer” to choose, especially if we need to pay for the theme. I am concerned about support for the theme should a problem or concern arises. I would like to find a theme designer who supports Catholic organizations, if possible. I would have to say that my expertise with websites is at an intermediate level. I can do all the basics of adding pages, reordering pages, adding links, etc. I just don’t know a lot about the setting up a website from scratch or how to “transfer” a website to a new theme.

This parish is fortunate to have someone who has technical expertise and who recognizes that there is more to learn. These are very good questions and I hope to provide her and others in the same situation help in coming to the right decisions for their particular parish in my new resource.

If you have any questions that you would like answered in this new resource, please put them in the comments below. I want this resource to meet real needs. This will not be a technical course (i.e.how to upload an image), but it will be how to plan your site, create a mission focus and work with a designer to present your community in an attractive way and to carry out its mission effectively. And to be clear, the mission is the proclamation of the Gospel and the building up of the kingdom of God on earth. We do that by being joyful witnesses and humble servants everywhere including on our websites.

I have not decided yet what is the best format for this resource. You can help me do that by completing the one-question poll below. If you know people who would be interested in this resource, please share the poll with them, so that I get their input. If you think they may have questions to be covered, please share this post with them as well. Thank you very much.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth July 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

I look forward to this new resource! I designed my parish’s website in 1998 and have continued as “web person” since then. In it’s day it was great, but really could use a makeover. My skills are about the same as that of the reader’s that was quoted. I have no knowledge of computer language having designed the church’s website using MS Frontpage at that time which I know is now considered “passé” ??

Joreen Kelly July 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I just updated our page today, so my thoughts are fresh…

I’ve been creating and maintaining our parish website for several years. During that time I’ve put it through major “renovations” at least every other year or so when I see that the concept of the ideal website has evolved. Before I do anything I spend several weeks gathering my ideas on paper, picking the brains of the pastor and staff as to what they need, and researching other parish websites for design ideas.
Why do people go to a parish’s website? Visitors go there for basic information such as Mass times and confession schedules, directions, bulletins, etc. I make sure that that information is right on the homepage to make it easy for them to access, especially from a mobile phone or tablet. I also have visitor’s information such as local hotels, restaurants and nearby attractions.
Parishioners will go for specific information; schedules, calendar of events, meeting and group information. That information is easily accessible through the menu.
More important, though, than just a way to give information, the website needs to evangelize. Someone who is seeking a spiritual home or has been thinking about getting back to the Church will look at your website to see if your parish is welcoming, prayerful, spiritual, and active. First impressions mean a lot.
This past Spring my husband and I traveled to another state. There were at least five Catholic parishes within a short distance from our hotel. I looked at each website and read each bulletin (if it was posted) to get an idea about what the parish and the people were like and had decided on which Church to attend before we even got on the plane.

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