Help with developing my parish's website

I’ve just been cleared to be the new webmaster for my parish!

But, I need some help/suggestions on how to proceed.

I do have some web experience, but nothing hard core. I can do quite well with intergrating difference technologies to work together.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to start? (The existing website is pretty bad, there is nothing from there to keep on the new site.)

Congrats!

Depending upon what website service you're using, there are different things you can do, but here are some general suggestions:

First, check with your diocesan office's IT person to see if your diocese has specific guidelines for parish websites. This is your starting point.

Next, browse other parish websites for good ideas. :)

Use Tabs if at all possible. An example of tabs being utilized well would be right here at Catholic Answers. They have 7 main tabs at the very top of the page which are always there. If you click on any one of the 7, you go to that section which will in turn have several sub-tabs. You don't want too many different categories or else it will get confusing and people won't be able to find what they're looking for.

For a parish website, I think some good main tabs would be:
[LIST]
]About Us* - List the names of all priests and staff with contact info. Include a parish mission statement if you have one. You might even include a sub-section with a brief history of the parish.
]Events* - Post a calendar with upcoming events at the parish. This section can be subdivided by type (for example, adult faith formation, youth events, etc.).
]Ministries* - This is a section which highlighs all the different ministries your parish offers, as well as contact info for each one. If people want to get involved or have questions, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to find what they need.
]Contact Us* - Even though the parish contact info should be at the bottom of every page in the footer (as well as in the "about us" and other sections), you need a separate section for this because you will have people looking at the website solely because they need to talk to a priest. You want them to know immediately where to click so that they can do that.
]Mass times & sacramental info* - You want people to be able to quickly find Mass and Confession times (especially around Christmas, Easter, and Holy Days of Obligation. It's also a good place to include sub-sections on sacramental prep requirements. Driving directions and restating the address here is also a good idea (or simply point them to the "Contact Us" page).
]Catechesis/Education* - You can use many sub-sections in this section to post content on Catholic teaching. Of course, if you're posting anything original here, you definitely need to clear it with your pastor; you could even have your pastor do a weekly blog post on a certain topic (it could even be a posting of his homily). This section might also include info on the grade school and high school associated with your parish.
]Media* - You could have a new media section on your website with pictures and videos from parish events (make sure you have the necessary permission for this; diocese's often have guidelines about this, particularly when it involves pictures/videos of youth).
]Links* - You could have this be a sub-section of the Media or Catechesis tabs, or you might make it it's own. Here you can highlight all the great online Catholic resources out there. Of course, you'll need the usual disclaimer that your parish website is not responsible for the content of those sites and their inclusion on your site does not indicate that you endorse all the views contained therein. :)
[/LIST]

Oh, an of course you want to make the site as visually pleasing as possible. Make sure you vet any Catholic images as not being copyrighted before you use them. Google "free Catholic clip art" for some good sites. You can also utilize Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia for images. Just click on an image and scroll down to see the licensing info related to any given image to make sure you can use it.

These are my suggestions for starting off. You want to make sure you get a good infrastructure established for your site. Then you can plug in things a lot easier as time goes on.

Happy webmastering. :)

To get around the copyright issues, just do your own photography and make your own graphics. :)

The headings listed above seem to be the standard, these days.

The things people want to know are, what the requirements and dates are for Sacramental Preparation, marriage, and baptism, Mass times, Confession times, how to get to the Church, and how to get hold of someone at the Office, so keep these things near the top of your file hierarchy, and easy to find. Also, keep them up to date -there's nothing more frustrating than thinking you're late for this year's First Reconciliation classes, so you check the web site to see if you've still got time to register, and the information is two years old. (Once the classes are finished, take the dates off, and put a message of congratulations to the students who completed, together with a note that the page will be updated as soon as next year's dates are approved.)

As a rule of thumb, new information should get on to the web site within 24 hours of you finding out about it. Be in constant communication with the Office, so that nothing slips past you.

Have a calendar of upcoming events - CWL meetings, Christmas parties, etc. - and also keep this up to date (just copy it out of the weekly Bulletin every Sunday afternoon, and upload it as soon as possible - or, better yet, have the secretary e-mail it to you at the same time that she's putting it into the Bulletin). Take old events off immediately after they happen; don't leave them up there for days or weeks on end.

Put a "News Feed" on the index.html, and link to everything that requires input from the congregation - for example, if SVDP needs volunteers, put a headline about it in your news feed, and link it to a page that gives all of the necessary information so that people can respond right away. That's also a good place to put up the Advent and Christmas calendar of events, as well, so that new visitors don't have to go digging for the information. :)

Cool stuff to have - if your parish has unique artwork, have an art page that people can look at, featuring your parish's artwork - people might choose to come to your parish because of the art. :)

A photo album page for recent celebrations is also a nice touch - put up between five and seven photos of the parish Oktoberfest, or Christmas party, or whatever. (Don't use full names, and don't put the names of children, for safety, but just "Kids visit Santa" or "A good time was had by all" or whatever is appropriate.) This shows that your parish is a welcoming and friendly place to come.

Thanks guys for those.

I'm be doing every one of those suggestions - except making my own art. "I'm a programmer, Captain, not an artist." LOL

I'm currently looking for a free WordPress theme that I can use.

If you follow the excellent advice you've received, you should do well!

However, just to stay on the straight-and-narrow, you might want to check out The Seven Deadly Sins of the Parish Web Site.

WordPress seems to be the preferred CMS these days - I'm sure that's a good starting point.

I agree with what the other posters have said, especially about making sure to keep websites up to date.

One other thing I noticed, as I recently looked at a number of local parish websites, there has to be a balance between pretty design and useful design. I’ve seen some websites that are beautiful, but couldn’t find any kind of useful information on them. I’ve also seen some that have plenty of info, but are horribly ugly. It didn’t make me want to stick around and find info on them at all.

Websites need to both look nice, so people want to stick around, and have findable and accurate info.

[quote="Joe_5859, post:2, topic:219663"]

Events - Post a calendar with upcoming events at the parish. This section can be subdivided by type (for example, adult faith formation, youth events, etc.).

[/quote]

If I could add to this point, Google Calendar is a very easy way to do that. Manage the events through Google Calendar and they have a way to embed it in a website. You also spend less time developing a nice-looking calendar.

[quote="Joe_5859, post:2, topic:219663"]
Oh, an of course you want to make the site as visually pleasing as possible. Make sure you vet any Catholic images as not being copyrighted before you use them. Google "free Catholic clip art" for some good sites. You can also utilize Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia for images. Just click on an image and scroll down to see the licensing info related to any given image to make sure you can use it.

[/quote]

I know this may be counter intuitive (copyright issues and everything), but Wikimedia Commons only actually accepts images that can be freely reused (sometimes requiring as little as an attribution, and a link back to the source should be enough for that).

Thanks everyone!

We're likely going with Joomla. And a few modules, including the Google Calendar module.

Feel free to offer more suggestions................. :thumbsup:

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