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The Inglepine guide to setting up a church web site

The following do not need to be followed in strict order, but items 1 to 4 should ideally be done before item 5. However, if you know which domain name you want, you should go ahead and place your order as this reduces the risk of someone else taking it.

1 Purpose

Decide what you are trying to achieve (possible good reasons include evangelism, publicity, teaching, resourcing, communication to members, to get your domain name before someone else does, to provide a new activity for your youth club).

2 Domain name

Choose your domain name. You don't have to have your own domain name, but there are a number of clear benefits and it need not be expensive. Our all-inclusive package costs from only £40 per year.

Domain names are allocated on a first come first served basis, so your first choice may already have gone. Pick a name that will be easy to remember (the name or initials of your organisation are always a good choice) and ensure that you can justify your right to use the name. If you choose the name or initials of your organisation, or a generic name that describes your ministry, then you should have no difficulty defending your right to use it. If you choose someone else's trading name and cannot justify your right to use you will probably end up losing it to them at a later date.

You can check on domain name availability at our Customer Centre. There is no need to register or to log in unless you wish to proceed with a purchase.

If the name you want has gone, then choose another. Strictly speaking addresses are intended for commercial organisations and is for non-commercial ones. Unless you have a commercial aspect to your organisation, we recommend that you use a or an international name. Once we have registered your domain name it is not possible to cancel or change it (strictly speaking, we could do this but it would cost more money than it would cost to forget about the old one and just register a new one).

3 Responsibilities

Agree who has overall responsibility for the web site ministry, and who has overall technical responsibilty for the site.

4 Choose Options

Decide on the various technical options on offer. The main one will probably be which email addresses to set up and whether to redirect them to existing mail boxes or whether to set up new mail boxes for them.

5 Order

Order your name and hosting package (preferably from us)!

6 Structure

Plan the structure of your web site and whether you are going to roll it out incrementally or in a big bang. The Brigada web site has some good ideas for site content.

7 Write the pages

Create the web site and upload it to the server. Before you start, read all the advice you can about what makes good and bad sites (see our links page for some advice specifically aimed at christian web sites). You need good content, the site must be portable (ie viewable on most current browsers, so don't try to be too clever with new techniques), look good, be easy to navigate and download quickly (avoid too many graphics).

8 Register with Internet Content Rating Association and SafeSurf

Register your site with both ICRA and SafeSurf and update your web pages to reflect your ratings (full instructions are on their sites). This will allow people who turn on their browser's content advisor to view your site. It also encourages others sites to register and thereby makes the web a safer place for children to browse.

10 Check your pages

Validate your html and all the links on your pages. There are various tools to help you with this.

We suggest that you try out NetMechanic. This will validate your html and your links and point out browser compatibility problems. If you enter an email address it will work offline and email you details to allow you access the results. If you do not enter an email address, it will work online and give you the results when complete.

11 Register with Search Engines and Directories

Register your web site with the main search engines. It can be very expensive to get someone to do this for you and we suggest that you do it yourself. Some useful sites that give advice on this are:
  • SearchEngineWatch
  • The Chicken's Guide To Search Engines
  • The following site is also useful:
  • LinkPopularity
  • Don't forget to allow a few hours, days, weeks, or, sadly, months (depending on the search engine) for your registration to take effect. If you want to pay someone else to register your site, then please contact Sales through the contact form on this web site.

    A number of web sites will submit your site to multiple search engines free of charge, but many people find that submission by hand is more effective. It is probably best to submit to the major engines by hand and do others automatically. If you wish to try automatic submissions, the following may be of use. Make sure you read any instructions carefully.

  • There are a number of Christian Directories available on the web and you should get your web site listed with them. We suggest some of these on our links page.

    12 Register for some awards

    Try and get some awards for your site. Having some awards may increase the chances of your getting listed on some of the web directories (where admission to the directory is by use of a reviewer). Some awards are automatic and some are only awarded to, say, one site per month. Most are somewhere in between.

    Display any awards you get on your web site, but don't overload your pages with graphics. It is suggested that you display your latest award on your homepage and display all your awards (in reverse chronological order) on an award page.

    You do not have to get awards to have a good site, but in general you do have to have a good site to get some awards. An award will bring extra traffic to your site, but this will often only last for a few days or weeks. Getting a good listing on a search engine can bring in visitors over a much longer period of time and should therefore be a higher priority for you.

    13 Maintenance

    A stale site is worse than useless. It presents a bad impression of the church and visitors will not return. One of the worst web site sins is a reference to something that was to happen by a date now in the past, eg to have a message at Christmas time stating that youth activities will recommence in September.

    While our fundamental message is unchanging, the focus of our ministries may change with time. Society certainly changes with time and we must remain relevant to where it is at the present (not to where it was a few years ago). Technology changes with time and it may be appropriate to make use of new features.

    Search engines change with time (some go away, new ones spring up). A search engine where you were registered may drop your listing for no apparent reason. Check the key ones regularly to ensure that you are still listed.

    Apply for new awards. It does not look good if all your awards are from a year or more ago.

    Validate your site regularly. The html won't change but some sites you have linked to may disappear. The links on this site are all checked at least once a month and it is surprising how many disappear.

    When updating the site, make sure that your ICRA/RSACi rating remains valid. Christian web sites will in general have ratings of zero in all catagories, but there are passages of scripture that deal with subjects that require higher ratings. If you are dealing with such passages or with issues of sexuality or violence, you will need to rate those pages carefully.

    The nature of a web site is that it is a work in progress. Ensure that it is maintained in such a way that it provides a fresh, friendly and useful resource to your target audience.

    If you have any suggestions that would improve this guide, please contact Support through the contact form on this web site.

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