Presented by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Office of Communications
St. John the Evangelist Church, West Chester
March 30, 2011
Best Practices
for Building and Maintaining the Parish Website
1) Technology to Choose

(a) Traditional HTML websites

(i) Less Expensive Hosting – the hosting requirements are slight, just some space and some email addresses

(ii) Web host assumes you know what you are doing. They provide little to no help.

(iii) Lots of templates available

(iv) WYSIWYG tools are available – Dreamweaver, Coffee Cup

(v) Typically must purchase your software and take a class or two

(vi) Lots of help available in forums

(vii) Typically have only one webmaster and all information must go through that person and their schedule

(viii) Online Forms are another coding process to learn

(ix) Additional coding process to learn for animation or additional functionalities like image rotators, page transitions, timers. Etc.

(x) To add blogs, forums, or other interactive functionality, you typically must use the services of 3rd party websites

(b) Websites Developed by Coders – like PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, Ruby, etc.

(i) Hosting is still inexpensive

(ii) Website can have a lot of functionality

(iii)Can be nicely scalable as the site grows

(iv)You need the coder or a lot of time to learn

(v) Takes a long time to put together

(vi)Dependent on your coder

(c) Content Management Systems

(i) The software runs on the web host server

(ii) No need to purchase software. It appears in your browser

(iii)You can work on the site from any Internet-enabled computer

(iv)Database driven which means it is much more capable to handle data and users and permissions and much more

(v) Hosting is more expensive because the hosting environment is more involved

(vi)Some hosting providers offer user-help on every-day topics

(vii) Some Open-Source programs are available at no cost

(viii) You can have as many pages as you need.

(ix)Training is available

(x) Large user-base means community support is available

(xi)Many features are already built-in: Photo Gallery, user management, forums, blogs, expandable content areas, content timing, announcements, link lists, mass emailing etc.

(xii) More and specialized add-ins are available in a 3rd party market.

(xiii) You don’t necessarily need to know any code. HTML, Javascript, PHP, etc.

2) Design Matters

a) Create your own website design

b) Use a template

(i) Many, many templates are available

c) Get a Graphic Artist!

(i) No matter how you create your design, use a graphic artist experienced with website design to help design your site and or just the site graphics. It shows when a website is designed by an amateur.

d) Understand the trends – What’s Hot Right Now?
(i) video and audio

(ii) Functional Animation, for example, text blocks that open and close on rollover

(iii) Creative use of text

(iv) Unique website designs – different from the pack
(v)  Connections to Social Media
(vi)  Active Interaction





Once the new website is rolled-out, the website effort is not "finished." It just changes focus. You need to shift into the mode of keeping it fresh with new content and graphics, updating the ministries pages with the changes in personnel, getting your announcements and news items online in a timely fashion and religiously reviewing your pages for content and form and design consistency.

The act of simply putting new announcements on the page can lead to a subtle or not-so-subtle degradation of the design. Pay attention to the use of formatting for the text and stick to the design specifics. Review often.


Who should edit? One or Many?

If you are doing things right at your church, chances are that you have a lot of ministries, parishioners with positions and there are a lot of activities going on. Keeping all this information current on the parish website is a big task. Many churches are only starting to realize that assigning the "additional task" of maintaining the parish website to an already busy staffer will not be enough commitment to do it correctly. How can you staff that work load?


There appears to be three primary approaches.


1.)   Assign sections of the website to the staff people who are responsible for the corresponding ministries, groups or activities.


2.)  Enable some chosen parishioners to help with the updating tasks. Committee chairpersons perhaps. Sometimes just a motivated volunteer or two can make the difference.


3.)  Hire a third party to keep the website up do date.


The classic one-webmaster approach is falling away due to the logistics and impossible work load. Make the decision early-on to use a Content Management System for your website. It is the proper foundation for equipping multiple people to help maintain the site.


How can we improve the site, offer more, do more


Here are some possibilities:



Sermon Streaming


Podcasts Video Streaming
Blogging Forums

Online Scheduling
   Rooms, Resources, Events & Activities

Online Donations

Chat Online

    Parish Registration,
    Event Registration,
    PRP, VBS, extra events Registration


Photo Galleries


Connect with Social
Networking Sites
Content Management Systems


Prayer Requests


Contact Request Members Login Feature


Live Service Streaming


Search Engine Optimization Typography


Motivational Quotes


 Message to Pastor  Live Calendar










Discussion Topics

  1. Increased coordination with the other parish communications.

  2. Who is the target for parish websites? Parishioners, Prospects or Both?

  3. How do we keep our parishioners coming back to the website once the novelty is gone?

  4. How do we embrace the new social media websites for parish use? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc?

    a.  Is it better to use these services or emulate them?

  5. The growing size and disjointed interests of church groups, youth, Fathers group, other groups who want their own website.

  6. The use of Audio

  7. Homilies

  8. Choir practice

  9. Other?

  10. Is there any way to create online forums and discussion around a theme on the parish site. Who would manage the interaction, should someone’s comments automatically post or be reviewed first.

  11. How do we take advantage of multimedia on our sites.  




WYSIWYG Editors 

ASP.NET Web Matrix
Adobe Dreamweaver
BestAddress HTML Editor
CoffeeCup HTML Editor
Hyper Publish
Microsoft Expression Web
Microsoft SharePoint Designer
Microsoft Visual Studio
Microsoft Visual Web Developer Express
Microsoft Publisher
NetObjects Fusion
Opera Dragonfly
Quanta Plus
SeaMonkey Composer

Top 25 Church Website Design Tips

Smashing Magazine - Web Design Trends

Sample Website Reviews

Trends in Church Websites and a list of Awesome Website Designs



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