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How to bring your website up to date - Part 1

The World Wide Web has now been with us for 20 years, and during that time it has changed a lot: from Times New Roman fonts and clip art images to Web 2.0 social apps like Twitter. What hasn't changed is that having a credible, appealing and engaging website can dramatically improve the fortunes of your charity, business or church.

 But how do you get from having nothing to something that will draw a crowd and deliver results? Worse still, what do you do if you've been landed with something that looks like www.theworldsworstwebsiteever.com and have the job of sorting it out? This guide will shed some light with ten steps to getting the website you want and need.

#1 – Decide outcomes and measures

Without clarity about what you want your website to achieve the end result is likely to be ineffective. Try to make sure you write down some SMART objectives before you start work. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound. This will make sure you don’t end up with something worthy but unhelpful like ‘proclaim the good news to my town and the nation’. Make sure you capture information to help you decide whether you've met your objective, this could be via sign-ups online, testimonies or just plain old Google Analytics for web stats and www.bitly.com for link tracking.

#2 - Make technology your servant not your master

It’s easy, but not necessary, to get bogged down in the technical aspects of web design. You do not need to get a copy of Adobe Dreamweaver or learn to code HTML or PHP in order to build and manage a website. You do need to be very comfortable using web-based tools, but if you can order your weekly shop online you can manage a website. Of course if technology is your thing then feel free to dive into all the mind-bending things you can get up to under the bonnet. But just remember this: the more complicated you make things the more time you’ll spend doing techie things and the less time on creating content and communicating with the outside world.

#3 - Choose the right Content Management System for the job

Do not build your website from scratch by coding it. Not unless it’s your day job or you can develop to a professional standard, and even then it’s not advisable. For security, ease of updating content, free plugins and the ability to have multiple contributors you’ll need a Content Management System. They all have pros and cons, but check out www.wordpress.com for blogs and basic websites, www.joomla.com for slightly more complicated websites and www.premierchurchinsight.com for church websites. There are more besides, but test drive a few to make sure that they will deliver on those objectives you set at the start.

#4 - Getting your site built

By grabbing a free Wordpress or Joomla template you can have your website built today. If you are doing it yourself make sure that you do your research and that the site is search engine optimised, secure, and legally compliant (see later tips for this). If you are getting someone else to build it for you, ask yourself if you will then be dependent on them for updating it. Make sure you don’t ever become dependent on one person for the future of your site. If you are commissioning an agency, make sure the specification is 100% nailed down in advance and that the fee is clear and fixed. Choose yourself a domain name (URL) which is short enough to be remembered but contains words people might actually Google for e.g. www.churchinchelmsford.com or www.allsaintsbromley.com. You’ll also need somewhere to host your site; look to pay £5-£20 per month for an average site and do make sure you read reviews to ensure that they provide a good service.

#5 – What’s your content promise?

It’s customary to put some content on your website - but what? You should decide what your promise to the visitor is. For example, this could be expressed by: ‘visit our site and you will get the latest news, special offers and free audio downloads’. Make sure you deliver on that promise. Got a blog? Say how often it is likely to be updated and stick to it. Disappoint people when they visit and they will never return. Beyond that, just keep it fresh, relevant to the audience and focused on what you are trying to achieve.

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