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How I DIY church websites using paper

Designing a website is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t know code, or HTML or JavaScript or whatever it is that they call it. There are a lot of technical processes involved, and it can become a complete mind boggle when you sit down to put a website in action, and you’re stuck at the very beginning. 

Um, how do I do this? 

I can tell you that if this is you, you are not alone. Lots of small churches are feeling the same struggle. You need a fancy looking website to keep up with the fact that 90% of your visitors will find you there, but you don’t have the time, money, resources or know-how to make it happen. 

So you do your best!

Big pats on the back for you, my friends. Volunteering for a church can take a lot of time and effort, and is often a thankless task (you’ll get that reward in Heaven, folks ;-) . 

But today I thought, why not put together a tutorial that will take a little bit of the strain out of the web design process for you? 

So, paper-lovers rejoice, because I am showing you how I design church websites using paper! I am so excited to show you this tutorial today, I’ve got so much to share (there’s a video and even a little take-home freebie for you), so stay tuned. 

Feel like listening instead of reading?

Before designing a website:

1. Talk to your pastor

You’re probably worried that the design process is a slow one. Well, it can be, certainly. But one way to combat making a great website, and then having it evaluated and having to make time-consuming changes, is to first and foremost, talk to your pastor (or whoever is in charge). 

Your pastor has a vision for your church, and could potentially view the church in a very different light to you. They may want to highlight certain points you hadn’t thought of, place an emphasis on families or events or welcoming etc., or they might want to include absolutely everything that has ever happened in the history of your church! That’s okay, so long as you are both on the same page.

Here’s a few points you might want to discuss with them:

  • Their vision for the church
  • The church’s mission statement, and how the website should reflect that
  • Critique you current church website together (if you have one)
  • Decide what information you want to include on the website
  • Make a list of who will be updating the website once its up and running
  • Look at some other church websites together and make a list of the things they like and dislike
  • Figure out a budget for the website (I recommend Squarespace which will set you back around $12/month)

2. Find a platform

Like I said earlier, I highly recommend Squarespace to you if you’re new to designing a website. It’s user-friendly, affordable, and looks great no matter what. You can find out more about Squarespace and my favourite templates here

If Squarespace isn’t an option for you, there are other great platforms out there such as Wordpress, Wix or Weebly. 

Now, onto the tutorial! 

Here’s a quick summary with a few bonus tips:

1 | Brainstorm

Have a brainstorming session where you think of absolutely everything that you want to add to the website. You can do this with your pastor, but there might be extra things that you want to add too. It can be anything and everything - from having a dedicated events page, to adding in an email sign-up form, to the fact that you want information about the women’s Tuesday night Bible study. 

Once you’ve got it all out of your head and onto paper, it will become a little clearer as to where you can fit everything in that you need to.

2 | Categorise into your navigation

Your navigation is the bar at the top of your website that has a whole bunch of options of different links you can click on. So, usually it might say ‘Home’, ‘About’, ‘Contact’, etc. This may seem like a small part of the process, but your navigation is really an organisational hub for your entire site. Its where visitors will look to access the information they need, so the titles of your navigation need to be logical, and help point your visitors in the right direction. 

You should also try to limit your navigation to 4-5 tabs. For instance, in my church’s current website navigation, there is a whole tab just for ‘Church Rosters’. You can easily fit this information in, but it needs to be ‘filed’ under a more general tab, with other information just like it. So, it could be under a tab titled ‘Resources’ where you can then put other information too, such as Bible studies, sermon recordings, or blog posts. 

3 | Design your website on paper first!

This may seem like a total waste of time, but, like anything, planning is key to doing things once and getting them right the first time. In the video tutorial, I show you exactly how I draw out my websites on paper first. This is such a great strategy because rather than just opening up Squarespace and trying to figure out what you want to say, what you want where and then how to do it all at once, we can separate those tasks so you can avoid some major overwhelm. If you’re not a paper-lover, then you could take the same idea and plan out your website on the computer, using something like Publisher or Pages. 

The simplest way to draw out what your site will look like is to find a template for your site, and copy the general look of the sample site, but adding in your own words, rough ideas for pictures, icons or logos, and buttons. You can dream a little as to what it might look like, then use the draft you’re making to then go into your website and figure out how to put it all together. 

I hope this tutorial and ideas were helpful for you. Let me know your website struggles and if there are any tutorials you’d love to see in the future! And, if you loved todays training, hit share and spread the love to your friends!