The Future Church - A Church Communications Podcast
Church Media + Communications
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E010 - Tips For Maintaining Your Website

James: Joanna we are going to be talking today about how to maintain and update your website. What are some quick helpful tips on doing that?

Joanna: Yeah the number one thing for me is thinking about it backwards, reverse engineering. Building a website that you can actually maintain quickly and cheaply in-house yourself.

James: Alright Joanna just before the intro you were talking about you know working backwards. What do you mean by working backwards when you're building your church website?

Joanna: A lot of people when they're looking for a new website or they're looking for a company to help them do it. They're thinking of what the end result is going to be like this beautiful new website but they're not and so they're wowed by that but they're not actually thinking about oh can I actually keep this up? Because the reality is of any website is week to week there is stuff you have to do to maintain it whether that's adding the latest sermon removing the youth event that happened last week there's constantly things that have to be updated. And if you don't have the skillset in-house to do it you might be sold from a designer on this amazing layout this beautiful website that looks really fresh and innovative but you don't know how to do anything on it. And so when I say reverse engineer making sure that the main goal is that you can actually keep it fresh and up to date within the capacity and costs you have the budget you have for your own team.

James: One of the things I've learned when building even my own websites is you can get really excited about how it looks and how it feels one day. And if you fast forward just a month or two almost then it doesn't work anymore. So for visualmediachurch it's gone through like six or seven rebuilds and that's because I would build it and I'd be really happy with it. And then it wouldn't work for something new that I want to do with the site. And so all of a sudden it had to be redone and rebuilt. It's the same for churches like you can build a website that's great for your small little church but then what happens if you grow and then also you have multi-sites? Have you built it and designed it in such a way that now it works to are adding multi-sites to it? And if you haven't built it that way then who's going to be doing that work to do it right? Like it's it's a lot of work to constantly be rebuilding and redoing and rejigging. So I think planning you know at the start of it like how are we going to update and how we do it and who is going to be that person, Either a staff member or a volunteer that's gonna be able to come along and do that kind of work.

Joanna: Yeah that's right. So yeah it's as we said like with our church we had a really fancy looking website for a period of time and then recognized we didn't know we didn't have the skills or knowledge of how to update it regularly so we were constantly having to pay someone outside the organization to help us. And so we just realized hold on, we would rather have a website that is less flashy that we can actually update ourselves then something that's super fancy that we don't know how to do anything on.

James: And you're saving yourself as a communications person though a lot of headaches right because what's going to happen is if things aren't working all of a sudden pastors, senior leadership, elders are going to come to you and say "Hey Joanna the website's not working" Can you please fix this? And then you're like well actually I can't because I'm not a I'm not a developer I can't be the one to fix it. So let me get you a quote and tell you how much more this is going to cost. And people are looking really like we just finished this website.

Joanna: That's the first impressions thing to like if if that happens that you don't actually know how to update your own website and maintain it for yourself then people are gonna come on a website and see that everything's out of date and that's a really bad first impression. Like if it's July and you still have Christmas stuff on the main page that's not good. It looks like nobody's caring about the website. So for me like one at one of the really practical things we do in our church we use Slack as a communications tool it's basically like instant messages between staff and you can have different channels where different groups are talking about different topics and so on Slack we have a channel that's public for our whole staff or maybe would be key volunteers to in your church that basically just allows them to post requests for updates or maintenance to the website. We need to take that event off or add this new event for youth please or I notice a spelling mistake on the welcome page or this link doesn't seem to be working to the sermon whatever it may be. They posted there and then for me and my team we use that as like a checklist of the things we're doing to for maintenance on the website because we built now a website we can maintain ourselves through template through Squarespace. That's what we happen to use. We use that then as the way to constantly maintain and we spent a few hours every week doing those updates.

James: So if someone has a request for you what is you know a normal turnaround time? I guess someone says "Hey and you end up date to the events page for a youth event". How long does it take you or your team from requests point to like it's live on the website?. Everything's good to go.

Joanna: Well of course it depends on the week and what's going on. I mean for some things like if it's we noticed a spelling error. That's something I usually try to fix straight away because it takes 3 minutes to fix the spelling error on the website where some people might be asking for a larger overhaul to their youth page or something that might take more hours. So we'll kind of prioritize it based on how critical it is.

James: But even even that is really awesome to know that like if there is a spelling mistake if there is some small errors or a broken link like you can be in there 5 10 minutes later fixing it and ready. So if your ministries are sending out emails or sending parents just to a certain page for an event they're not worried that's now going to be hours and hours and it's basically you're trying to cut a red tape right. The church shouldn't operate that like that where it takes weeks to get something fixed they they are now trusting you as a communications person more and more because they know it's just gonna get solved and get fixed right away and being responsive like that. It's amazing how that can help morale amongst other people.

Joanna: It builds trust too when when you sit when you're able to fix something really quickly that's like it's such an easy problem to solve to fix a link on a website. If you know how to maintain your website and so that's another thing that when I talked about that reverse engineering I think a lot of people forget when they get excited or get sold on a product from a company that's gonna build you a really flashy website. They forget that oh look we also need to factor in how much maintenance this is going to be and I know for for my boss that was some education I had to do with him around understanding actually like these constant requests are normal. This is a normal and expected thing. A website is going to have a little bit of time every week as part of your regular work just like you got to mow the lawn every five or seven days at your house in the summertime.

James: Absolutely. Joanna, That's a great episode. Where can people find you?

Joanna: Joannalafleur.com or at joannalafleur on Instagram.

James: And people can find me on Instagram at visualmediachurch.