WEB SITE DEVELOPMENT for RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
As shown at http://www.religiousresources.org
TERMS you might want
to know when taking your ministry online.
What is a Web Site?
Basically, a web site is a set of documents (called 'web pages') that
you can view via a computer network called the Internet.
Web pages are in a format called HTML (HyperText Markup Language, if
you really want to know), and the program that you usually use for viewing
these documents is called a web browser.
If you're viewing this web page in its original location on the Internet,
then you at least know the basics of how to view such documents, even
if you can't explain exactly what a web site or a web page is.
There are two things that make web pages different from other documents
that you view on your computer (say, a word processing document or a
1. Web pages can be located on any one of millions of computers located
all around the world. If you view, say, a spreadsheet, on your computer,
typically the document itself is located on your computer or a small
computer network (like an office network).
2. A web page can contain links to any other web pages on the Internet.
A link in a web page is a pointer to another document, and when you
click on a link in your web browser, you're telling your browser to
go out and find the document to which the link points, retrieve it and
display it for you to view.
In principle, creating a web page differs little from creating any other
type of document on your computer, such as a word processing document.
In reality, just like you need to know how to operate your word processing
program in order to write a letter with it, you need to know something
about web pages and the programs used to create them in order to create
So, if you want to create a web site for your religious organization,
you'll be creating a set of documents about your organization, and these
documents will probably contain links between each other.
Web Site Development
for Religious Organizations offers
advice and information for religious organizations about planning, publishing
and maintaining an organizational web site. For more information about
this site, including the assumptions being made about organizations
undertaking these tasks, see our About This Site page. The information
in this site is divided into two general areas:
This section addresses organizational and process issues that arise
in regard to the organization's web presence, including issues such
as the importantce of getting organizational support for the web presence,
clarifying your goals, and assessing your resources.
This section addresses technical issues that your organization may face
with regard to its web presence, including, for instance, where and
how to host your organization's web site and whether your site should
have its own domain name.
Get Organizational Support
In order for your congregation's web site to be the most effective,
its development should be undertaken as a group. If your congregation
does not understand the need for a web site and support it, then it
will by definition not meet the congregation's expectations.
On a more practical level, developing and maintaining an effective web
site is a big job. If you don't line up your resources in the congregation,
you may not be able to achieve the things you have in mind, or when
the crucial few people move on to other things, the web site could languish.
So, before you start thinking about site design, where you're going
to host your site, or anything else, sell your congregation on the need
for a site. This may well be a long process, especially if many members
of your congregation have little or no experience with the Internet,
but it is a crucial first step.
Clarify Your Goals
A vital step in deciding what type of web site is right for your organization
is to clarify what your organization wants to accomplish with a web
site. This decision will affect, among other things, the content and
organization of your home page, where you publish it, and how you maintain
Some of the goals that I have seen include the following. Of course,
many religious groups have several of these goals for their web site.
- " To provide information about our group to people new or existing
resitdents of our area in the hope of attracting them to our group.
- " To disseminate organizational information among our members
(e.g., online newsletter, organizational directory, etc.)
- " To contribute to the general presence of religious groups (or
groups like ours) on the internet.
- " To provide our members a forum for expressing their views about
a cause they are interested in.
Define Your Audience
Hand in hand with clarifying your goals is defining your audience. Who
is the intended audience for your web site? This seems pretty common-sensical;
if your goal is to attract new and/or existing residents of your community
to your group, then your audience is people in your community who are
not affiliated with your group. If your goal is to publish information
that's useful to your group's existing members, then your audience is
your existing members.
Here are some possible audiences for religious groups' web sites that
I've heard about:
- " People who are moving to our community.
- " People who already live in our community but are not a part
of our group.
- " Members of our group.
- " Ex-members of our group.
- " Members who do not live locally.
- " People globally who are interested in a certain cause or issue.
- " Other members of our denomination, sect, etc.
- " The online faith community as a whole.
- " The online community as a whole.
If you want to include information on your organization's web site for
more than one audience, then you need to start figuring out which information
is intended for which group. Ask yourself some marketing-type questions,
- " What exactly is each audience looking for?
- " Which audience does my site need to "grab" immediately?
- " Which audience is more likely to take the time to look a little
more for the information they're seeking?
The answers to these questions will help you when you begin to structure
and design your web site.
Assess Your Resources
Before you get down to the work actually working on your site, you need
to know what resources you have to devote to it. Taking stock of your
resources in advance will ensure that you undertake a project that is
appropriate for your group, and helps you to utilize your resources
The resources that are necessary for creating a maintaining a group's
web site include the following:
- " General organizational support
- " Human resources
" Technical resources
- " Financial resources
- " Sources of content for the site
General organizational support
In many cases--especially back when few people understood what the internet
was all about--the entire impetus to publish a web site comes from a
single individual or a small group within the religious organization.
In any case, it's important to start off by having a realistic understanding
of how the group as a whole understands the idea of publishing a web
site. In my opinion, the web site will be most successful when the group
as a whole understands its purpose and supports it the same as other
projects within the organization.
- " Does the organization as a whole understand and support this
- " Do the group's leaders understand and support the project?
- " How does the organization view the web site project in its
overall goals and missions?
- " Does the group view the web site as a long-term or short-term
The organization's web site project will probably be most successful
if you find ways for various kinds of people to take part in it, not
just the techies. Of course, people who have technical skills to contribute
will most likely be the most interested, but if the web site is to become
a vital part of the organization, it must also become a central focus.
And like other vital projects of your organization, it gains strength
from the participation and interest of a variety of people.
- " Who is interested in helping create the group's web site?
- " Who is interested in helping maintain the group's web site?
- " What skills does each person offer? What role can each person
play in the project. Don't fall into the trap of only considering people's
- " What different types of tasks does publishing and maintaining
the web site involve?
- " What level of commitment does each person offer (i.e., amount
of time to spend, etc.)?
- " Does the group as a whole have access to the internet (office
computer, for instance)? If not, is there a way to allow the group access
to the site, at least occasionally? This can even be something as rudimentary
as a member lugging their computer to the building and dialing up the
internet from there.
- " Which individuals have access to the internet?
- " What types of computers, different browsers and different types
of access to the internet do the various members of the group have?
The good news is that many times religious groups can publish and maintain
a web site for virtually no money whatsoever. In order to undertake
a realistic project, however, you should go into the project with a
realistic expectation of what financial support the project has.
- " What financial resources, if any, is the group willing to commit
to the creation and maintenance of its web site?
- " What financial resources, if any, are individuals willing to
commit to the group's web site?
Sources of content for the site
If you want to publish a web site, you've got to have some content to
put on it. Since the content of the web site often overlaps with existing
group publications (e.g., bulletins, newsletters, pamphlets, etc.) many
groups start by gathering and sorting through these sources. But you
should also ask yourselves what other resources you have for content
generation. What web site content will be unique and how will it be
generated? Who is willing to help generate content for the web site?
How can the collecting of content for the web site be integrated into
Design Your Web Site
This subject could well be the subject of an entire web site. I'll just
list a few things to think about.
A lot of web site designers, it seems, want to use the most sophisticated
technology: animated graphics, frames, Java, etc. If you've surfed the
web even a little, you see a lot of sites that concentrate heavily on
form and design. However, every article and book I've read on web site
design starts off by reminding the reader that although your site should
be attractive, content is what it's all about. The same is true for
the web sites of religious groups. You do not have to use cutting-edge
technology in order to create a web site that is attractive and offers
useful information. In fact, the simpler you keep it, the better you
can be assured that your page is accessible to users with different
types of browsers and hardware.
Design Guidelines for Religious Groups
The following are some guidelines that are specific to web sites for
Organize your web site according to the needs of your perceived audience(s)
For example, if you want to include information on your web site for
prospective new members and for your existing members, you might want
to put the most pertinent information for new members on the main page
(e.g., times of services, location, etc.), and information for existing
members on linked pages. This assumes that people who are "surfing"
are less likely or willing to find the necessary information than existing
Spend the most time and effort designing the home page
Since the home page is most likely the first page that your audience
will see when they visit your web site, this is the page that needs
to be most effective. Again, if attracting people to your group is your
goal, this is particularly important. If you have defined your audiences,
then ask yourself if the home page makes it easy for each audience to
find the information you think they will be looking for.
Don't make assumptions: Don't make any assumptions about the
knowledge of people who visit your web site. Remember, although you
may have a very specific target audience in mind,once your site is published,
you may get visitors from anywhere in the world. Before you publish
your site, let an "outsider" proof your site. Your site may
unintentionally contain references that make no sense to someone outside
the group. A simple, but very widespread example of assumptions is the
use of acronyms. If you're publishing a web site for John Doe United
Methodist Church, don't just refer to your group as "John Doe UMC."
Some visitors to your site may have no idea what "UMC" stands
Make it clear who your group is and what you believe. Remember
again that anyone could visit your group's site. An easy-to-find short
statement of your group's vision, or even a slogan, will help to identify
your group with those who may otherwise know nothing about your group.
You may also want to include links to other groups similar to yours
(e.g., denominations, etc.) in order to help identify yourselves. Don't
assume that people will know what your group's beliefs are just by its
affiliation with a denomination, sect, etc. Visitors to your site may
have never heard of your denomination, sect, etc.
Get feedback on your web site. Get feedback on your home page
from as many people as possible. Ask them not only about the general
design, but also how they think the page as a whole communicates your
group's goals, beliefs, etc. Also get feedback from people who are not
related to your group or who know nothing about it. This sort of feedback
is always a good reality check and brings out issues that members of
the group just may not have thought of.
General Web Site Design Guidelines
The following guidelines are generally applicable to any web site:
- " Keep it simple!
- " Limit your use of graphics (including backgrounds) so that
they do not slow down the loading of your pages and distract the users
from your content.
- " Make your main page a short menu page, with links to other
pages that contain different types of information. That way, users can
select the information they want, and don't download a page that contains
a lot of information that they don't necessarily want.
- " On the other hand, don't make your users hunt for the information
Organize your web site in a way that your audience(s) will understand.
One menu page with links to one level of content pages is probably the
most simple and effective organization.
- " Keep each page relatively short, not more than one to two printed
- " Each and every page on your group's web site should contain
the following elements:
1. An identifying text or graphic banner;
2. A short, descriptive page title;
3. The title of the web site;
4. Navigation links to the home page, and possibly to other pages on
5. E-mail addresses of the author and webmaster and other contact information,
6. Copyright statement, if applicable.
- " Use vertical and horizontal white space to enhance readability.
- " Use bold face, italics and underlining, different fonts an
font colors sparingly.
- " Check all the links on your site frequently, especially links
to other sites.
- " Test your design in as many different browsers (e.g., Microsoft
Internet Exlorer, Netscape, Opera, etc.) and computing platforms (e.g.,
Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, etc.) as possible.
- " Test your site without loading graphics to make sure that it
is easy to view and navigate without graphics
Maintain Your Web Site
I think the the biggest consideration in maintaining your group's web
site is participation. Does your group have enough people who have the
skills and willingness to help maintain your group's web site for the
I suggest that you model maintenance of your web site on how your organization
handles printed matter. For example, if your organization's newsletter
is produced by paid staff members, then consider allocating the resources
for staff to maintain the web site as well. Getting the knowledge and
skills necessary to maintain a web site shouldn't be much more difficult
than the skills and knowledge for creating a newsletter
From what I've heard, many religious groups that have web sites rely
heavily on one or two volunteers to maintain the site--usually the same
person or people who proposed and created it. However, if your group
has approached its web site as an organization up to this point, hopefully
you've attracted several people to the project, and you've designed
a site that your group can maintain easily with its given resources.
Assuming you have sufficient human resources, then the concern is coordination
of efforts. If you have pages that need to be updated weekly, for instance,
make sure that the person or people who are responsible for updating
the pages get the necessary information in a timely fashion, just as
your group would do with information for bulletins, newsletters, and
other printed matter.
Another concern that I've seen in religious organizations is the perception
that if you're not a computer savvy person, you can't help out on the
web site. That concern must be overcome for the web site to be an organizational
success. Find ways for people who don't necessarily have technical skills
to participate.For example, if some of the people who want to be involved
in your web site project have access to the web but don't have the technical
skills to help update the pages, then assign them the task of checking
the web site on a regular basis. They can proofread updates, check to
make sure that links from your pages are still working, just make sure
that your server is up and running correctly, etc. Get creative here.
You might also work out some means of making new versions of the web
site available to select people before they are published. It can be
very embarrassing to proof the "live" version of the web site.
I often place new versions in a password-protected sub-directory on
my web server. Then, when I ask people to give me feedback, I give them
the location and the login information. You may even need to implement
a low-tech method, such as copying all the site files to diskette and
passing it to people to test from diskette before you publish it.
Creating Your Web Site
There are entire library shelves devoted to web site creation; I'm not
sure how much I can help you in one short page, but I'll try to address
some basic issues and provide links to more information.
If you're new to web site creation, I recommend you read our page What
is a Web Site? before continuing with this page.
How to Create a Web Site
Web pages are written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language). You can see
what the 'raw' HTML of any web page you visit looks like by using your
browser's 'View Source' option while the page is displayed in the browser
Since the first days of the web, a battle has raged between those who
believe web site developers should learn to 'hand-code' HTML versus
those who believe it's okay to use a WYSIWYG HTML authoring tool that
lets you to lay out the web page much as you would a document in a program
such as Microsoft Word, with the authoring tool generating the HTML
code for you.
I am of the opinion that WYSIWYG editors are just fine, but it really
helps to understand the principles of HTML (I create web sites both
ways, depending on the circumstances). There are a couple of ways to
learn HTML. The first is by viewing the source of web pages you visit,
playing around with the HTML and seeing what your changes look like
in the browser. There are, however, many good web sites that teach you
the fundamentals (if you prefer to learn off-line, then buy a book about
HTML, but I guarantee that you can find the very same information online
in dozens of places).
Some good web sites about HTML include:
- " A Beginner's Guide to HTML
- " Beginners' Introduction to HTML
- " HTML: An Interactive Tutorial for Beginners
- " HTML Tutorial
(NOTE: It's hard to keep these lists of links current. Please send us
a note via our Feedback Form if any of these links don't respond.)
Just as there are big differences of opinion regarding hand-coding HTML
versus using an editor, so too do many people have strong opinions regarding
which HTML editor is best (these web site developers are opinionated
folks). The good news is that there are many good HTML authoring tools,
and many of them are free or very inexpensive.
The best way to find an HTML editor is to ask around. But if that fails,
here are some places to find HTML authoring tools:
- " Yahoo's category of HTML editors
- " Download.com's list of HTML editors for Windows
- " Download.com's list of HTML editors for Macintosh
(NOTE: It's hard to keep these lists of links current. Please send us
a note via our Feedback Form if any of these links don't respond.)
Personally, I'm a fan of Microsoft FrontPage. The best news is, if you've
got Microsoft Office (for Windows), you may well already have FrontPage.
Also, if you're used to working in other Office programs (e.g., Word
or Excel), FrontPage will feel very familiar to you.
Getting a Domain Name
A domain name is a unique identifier for a web address. This page offers
some tips on whether to get a domain name for your organization's web
site, and other related information.
Why Have Your Own Domain Name
If it's at all possible, I strongly advise you to get a domain name
for your organization's web site, for two simple reasons:
First, having your own domain name makes it easier to identify and remember
your organization's web site. A church I used to attend, University
United Methodist Church, in Austin, Texas, is a good example. Before
they had their own domain name, the address of their web site was, I
believe, 'www.io.com/~uumc'. Now, it's www.uumc.org. My current church,
Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin, now has its web site at www.goodshepherdaustin.org.
That's easy enough to tell people and to remember. (The character ~,
by the way, is called a tilde. Try telling people a web site address
containing one of those!)
Another very good reason to get your own domain name is that it allows
you flexibility in where you host your web site. A domain name is, in
essence, a pointer. You set up hosting for your web site and then point
the domain name at that location. If you ever move your web site to
a different host, all you do is point your domain name to that location
instead. Visitors to your site will never know it has moved. With a
site-specific web site address like 'www.io.com/~uumc', if your organization
ever moves its web site to a different host, you'll have to change your
web site address as well. Address changes are always a hassle.
NOTE: If you host your web site in certain places, it may not be possible
to use your own domain name. See our page Hosting Your Web Site for
more details on web site hosting options.
How to Get a Domain Name
Getting your own domain name is pretty easy and cheap. There are dozens
of domain name registrars you can use, and it costs $10-$35 per year
to register a domain name. Notice that I cited a per-year cost for domain
name registration. You don't actually buy a domain name; technically
you register it for your organization (like renting, I guess) and pay
an annual fee for that service.
To get your own domain, visit the web site of a reputable domain name
registrar and try to find an available domain name that's suitable for
your organization. Most of them have a form where you can enter a domain
name that you want and find out whether or not it's available.
I use register.com for my domain names. They're not the cheapest registrar
out there, but they have a good reputation and I've had no problems
with them. You can get a list of all accredited domain name registrars
Deciding on a Domain Type
In a web site address such as 'www.example.org', the domain name is
actually the last two parts, example.org. The last part, '.org' in this
instance, indicates what type of organization the web site represents,
and the middle part, 'example' is the unique identifier for that organization.
The first part, 'www', indicates the computer on that domain. 'www'
is the convention most commonly used for the computer that hosts the
organization's main web site.
The first question you face is what type of domain name ending to get.
'.org' was intended for use by non-profit organizations, though that
is not strictly enforced. The most common ending, or course, is '.com',
which was intended for commercial businesses. Now, there are other also
.biz, .info, and .name, each intended to be used for a particular use.
I would recommend .org for religious organizations, since it is intended
for non-profit organizations. Some people argue that you should use
.com since people are most accustomed to that web site address ending.
But, personally, I feel that .org is common enough that people are familiar
with it, and many people are also familiar with its intended use for
non-profit organizations. It might confuse some people if your web site
has a .com ending, since that ending is intended for commercial operations.
Deciding on a Domain Name
Finding an available domain name can be tough these days, as so many
good domain names have already been registered. The rules of thumb that
I recommend is that it be short, descriptive and easy to remember. Let's
use my church, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin, as an
example. The most obvious choice, goodshepherd.org, was not available.
churchofthegoodshepherd.org would have been too long. ecgs.org, while
short, would have been too abstract. I think goodshepherdaustin.org
was a good choice. It incorporates the part of the church's name that
people remember most, and seeing as their are many churches named 'Good
Shepherd', it adds Austin to distinguish from other churches with similar
Another consideration is similar domain names. My kids, for instance,
attend St. Francis School in Austin. The school's web site is http://www.stfrancis-school.org/.
That's not a bad address, except that http://www.stfrancisschool.org/
is for a school in Kentucky. Forget the hyphen in my kids' school's
name and you get the wrong place. Following the example of my church,
a better choice of domain name for the school might have been stfrancisschoolaustin.org,
though that gets pretty long.
In a similar vein, the address for the web site of the U.S. president
is http://www.whitehouse.gov, where .gov is reserved for U.S. government
domains. Opportunists have taken advantage of the fact that people might
enter the wrong ending while trying to access the president's site:
www.whitehouse.com takes you to an explicit adult web site, and http://www.whitehouse.org/
is a political parody of the real presidential web site.
Hosting Your Web Site
A web host is the computer on which the documents of your web site reside.
There are many different options available for hosting a web site, ranging
in cost from free to hundreds of dollars a month. This page describes
some of the options and the suitability of each for a religious organization's
Free Web Hosting
There are two free hosting options many people are familiar with. The
first is the web space that comes along with an Internet access account;
this web hosting is intended for personal use. The other commonly known
free web hosting solution is on a free web hosting service like GeoCities
or AngelFire. I do not recommend either of these options for hosting
the web site for a religious organization.
I advise against hosting your organization's web site in the bonus web
space that comes along with Internet access because it usually has very
few features and if you ever have to change Internet service providers,
you'll have to move your web site. Also, because this web hosting is
intended for personal use, it is not necessarily as reliable as other
The offerings of web hosts like GeoCities or AngelFire
has changed significantly over the last couple of years, as those companies
have discovered that all-free services isn't a very viable business
model. Now, I believe, they offer a free hosting service with very limited
features, and for-fee plans with more features. If you're thinking about
paying a small monthly fee for hosting, then you might as well find
a low-cost web host that better suits your needs.
This is the option that I feel is most appropriate for many religious
organizations, in my experience. With this option, your organization
goes out and contracts with a web host for web site hosting. Typically,
contracted web site hosting is a separate service from internet access,
though many ISPs offer web hosting as well, and may offer a discount
if you get both your Internet access and web hosting from them. The
point is, though, that you're explicitly paying for hosting services,
and that it's not a bonus feature of your Internet access.
There are literally thousands of low-cost hosts available, and you can
usually find suitable hosting packages for under $25/month. The main
considerations are finding a web host that serves your current and anticipated
needs, and a web host that seems reliable and stable. Some of the specific
factors to take into consideration when finding a web host are explored
Feature Description and Comments
Disk space allotment Most hosting plans offer a minimum of 20 megabytes
of disk storage space for the files in your web site. That should be
sufficient for most small sites, unless you have some specific disk
space needs. It's good to know, however, what the fees are for exceeding
your disk space allotment.
Allows your own domain(s) Whether or not the web host allows you to
point one or more domains at your web site. See Getting a Domain Name
to see if this applies to your site.
Bandwidth allotment Refers to the amount of bandwidth consumed each
month by the total of all files requested from the web. Unless you have
some specific need such as big file downloads or streaming audio or
video files, it shouldn't be a concern: the common minimums of 1-2 gigabytes/month
should be sufficient. It's good to know, however, what the web host's
fee structure is for exceeding your bandwidth allotment.
Microsoft FrontPage Support FrontPage is a common web site authoring
tool. If you use it for your web site, you get all kinds of added features
if your hosting account supports it.
FTP Access Whether or not you can copy files to your web site using
FTP. Important depending on how you author your web site. Most hosts
allow FTP access.
E-mail features If you have your own domain, then you probably want
to have e-mail accounts using that domain. There are a variety of e-mail
features that web hosts offer, including the number of regular e-mail
accounts you can set up, if you can configure them yourself, if you
can set up auto-responders and e-mail forwarding, etc.
Customer support Most inexpensive web hosts offer minimal technical
support, and it can take many forms: from FAQs on the web host's web
site to live phone support. Decide what level of support the people
who will be working on your web site are comfortable with.
- Mailing lists If you want people to be able to subscribe to mailing
lists, for example of newsletters or weekly sermons.
- Streaming audio/video Useful if you want, for example, people to listen
to recordings from your web site. I don't know much about streaming
audio and video.
Shell/Telnet/SSH access Command-line access to your web site. An advanced
feature usually only for geeks.
- Programming Features There are a variety of programming features that
you may want, including pre-installed scripts for doing things like
feedback forms, the ability to run custom scripts, support for scripted
web page languages like ASP and PHP.
- Uptime guarantees and backups What promise does the web host make
about the availability of your web site or backups (you should always
maintain your own backups regardless)
- Web-based control applications Some web hosts offer online tools for
managing your site.
A number of religious affiliations offer free or inexpensive web hosting
for their affiliated groups. You should check to see whether such arrangements
are available for your group. But, make sure to evaluate these arrangements
the same way you would a commercial web host: reliability, features,
We used to maintain a list of links to affiliated web hosting offers,
but they are too numerous and change too often for us to keep up with.
Our apologies. To find out whether your congregation's affiliation offers
web hosting, we suggest you visit the affiliation's main web site, if
it has one, and inquire there. Also, you might try searching on google.com
for the words web site hosting plus the name of our affiliation. I did
a search for web site hosting united methodist church, and it did return
information about that denomination's web hosting offer for congregations.
Our Personal Experiences
Web hosting is a rapidly changing and competitive business. Our previous
web host (for religiousresources.org and aphids.com) was sold two times
in the space of about three years, with some amount of confusion and
changing terms of service each time. It's tough to gauge whether or
not a given web host is reliable and whether it will continue to be
in business six months from now. Get recommendations and seek others'
input whenever possible. A search on Google for 'web host reviews' turned
up a number of sites that purport to review web hosts or offer forums
for people to post their experiences. Those sites might be valuable,
though I would approach those sites with skepticism. I suspect some
of them are just fronts for particular web hosts or have business arrangements
with particular web hosts to try to direct customers toward those hosts.
We host religiousresources.org and aphids.com and all the different
web sites under those domains at FutureQuest. When we moved from our
previous web host, we went through a lengthy process to identify our
needs and to find a web host that met those needs (in our case, primarily
bandwidth and programming needs). In addition, I investigated the reputation
of the web hosts we identified. I selected FutureQuest because it got
good reviews at a site that allowed people to post their opinions about
web hosts and because, when I investigated the FutureQuest web site,
they came across as very professional and tech-savvy. For instance,
I noticed that FutureQuest offers forums where their customers can communicate
about technical issues, which is nice. That allowed me to read posts
from current FutureQuest customers (which was all very positive). Also,
I noticed that employees of FutureQuest frequently responded to questions,
and that the customers who posted to the forums seemed familiar with
the FutureQuest employees and happy with their service. We've been very
happy with FutureQuest.
I know a couple of people who host small sites at Server 101, and they
have not had any complaints. Server 101's basic plan offers a good amount
of features for $9.95/month. Not bad.
Promoting Your Web Site
You can create the greatest web site in the world, but it won't do you
much good if people don't know about or can't find it. Promoting your
web site is an integral part of making it a success.
Some people mistakenly believe that if you simply submit your web site
to the major search engines, that's the extent of promotion, but in
reality, there's much more to promoting your web site effectively.
Promoting through Internal Publications
Just as many businesses do, the first approach to promoting your organization's
web site is to associate the web site address with every printed instance
of your organization's name: signs, newsletters, flyers, business cards,
advertisements, etc. The goal would be to make the two synonymous in
people's minds. However, this would require, I assume, that your web
site address be relatively simple and obviously related to your organization's
Promoting Your Web Site Locally
Make sure that any existing community that lists your organization gets
updated information, including your organization's web site address.
It's probably also a good idea to identify local online community directories,
and submit your web site for inclusion in the proper categories. In
Austin, TX, for instance, we have three major local directories: Austin.CitySearch.com,
Yahoo! Austin, and Austin360.com. If you live in a smaller town or rural
area, of course, you may not have such sites. Other possible sources
for locating local directories would be your local newspaper, Chamber
of Commerce, tourism board, etc.
In writing this article, I did a quick test search on Google for Austin
Texas churches. My search returned quite a few local and national directories
of churches. You should be able to apply a similar search to find places
to submit your organization's site.
In promoting your site locally, don't forget to use good ol' fashion
networking. Swap links with other local congregations of your affiliation;
ask members of your congregation to post links on their personal web
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