Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Foolish Virgins

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise …” – Matthew 25:1-13

I believe this is the parable that an individual in dire need of assistance was referring to when they emailed me a message who’s subject was “Help!!” and body contained the following plea:

I am a website novice,from ********, *********** and have got myself in something
of a pickle. well actually one great heap of A MESS. Our site has grown
enormously from the one or two pages of general information into a monster,
where every group in the parish wanted to have a page. It is good that
people have taken to it so well, and a lot more information gets out, and
some groups have experienced a growth in numbers because if it. We have
galleries of events, baptisms, the whole kit and kaboodle.

However, not too digress, I, like the foolish virgins, did not prepare
myself properly. I had no directories setup, so everything, images, pages,
was in one directory. I spent Christmas trying to reorganise and think I
just about have it right. What I would like to do is delete everything on the
server and stat again, as the old pages confuse matters for me. Can I do
this using dreamweaver? I know that I must sound hopelessly amateur, but I
am swallowing what little pride i have left to ask for help. Plus you sound
like you have a good sense of humour and thought you may like to take pity
on me.

Yours, with very little oil left in my lamp.
[MG], hopeless but hopeful amateur, with no technical IT
experience whatsoever but learning more every damn day!!!!!

Dear ‘MG’ … breath … relax … breath … its going to be okay. God is on your side, and so am I !-)

First, the bad news. There is no supernatural elixir I can offer, no silver bullet one can shoot, no magic screwdriver I can wave over you or your website that will instantly heal your church web site. Anyone who says there is, is as much charlatan selling snake oil as oh-so-many TV evangelists. In other words, regardless of whether of what tool you use, nothing is going to replace

  1. mapping out your site on paper first
  2. knowing enough HTML, CSS, etc… to convert the paper to a web page

Now the good news. Since you’ve already overcome the two biggest hurdles. First you know enough to ask for help, and moreover, you “spent Christmas trying to reorganise and think I just about have it right”. That to me speaks volumes. For if you have indeed rethought your pages by groups and sections into a nice organized hierarchy, then the short answer is, yes, using DreamWeaver will help you … to a degree.

I say to a degree because tools such as Dreamweaver, when skillfully applied, will insulate you from much of the coding effort while providing you the means to work smart and hard. But the operative phrase here is “skillfully applied.” Whether you use Dreamweaver or any other tool, you’re going to first need to take time to learn how the product works, especially how to set up a web site using their templates mechanism – as this buys you consistency and reduces the amount of coding on your part. That said, what you put into templates may require some third-party templates, extensions, or applications to give your page the desired look, feel and navigation. Similarly, unless you learn enough about Dreamweaver to drive the page with data, your situation with different groups may get a bit hairy, even with Macromedia’s new collaboration tool ‘Contribute‘.

I know, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. Its also the reason individuals such as yourself are suckered into products such as FrontPage – which entirely insulates you from the code – and more often than not, from a web site that offers seekers a good first impression. In other words, at some point, you’re going to have to get dirty with the code – or find someone else who will do it for you. Whichever path you decide to take, here are some guidelines to starting over:

  1. Determine your target audience
  2. Clearly articulate what you’re trying to say to them
  3. Plan your site hierarchy on paper first
  4. Pick a color and font scheme, and develop a template
  5. Start plugging in the data
  6. Test, test, test, then test again.
  7. Test some more, don’t forget testing includes proof-reading
  8. Launch the site, and enter the painful maintenance phase

Now since you didn’t give me did not give me a URL, and since I know only what I read from your email – the fact that each group in your church wants a piece of the action — I’m thinking that your particular situation may be better served with what is known as a content management system, or CMS for short. The downside of most free CMS is a) the installation and b) customization (look-n-feel). However, once you get past these two issues, it is not hard then to create new pages, new groups, new users and publish content — especially when you already have a hierarchy in mind. Similarly, there are some web-logging (blog) tools that with a bit of work, could be coaxed into doing the same. Here are some suggested systems to get you started, in alphabetical particular order.

Like I said yesterday, its just a matter of reading the rules and then putting them into practice. Or in your case MG, if you are in a time-crunch situation in which you cannot afford learn the code-thing quick enough, finding someone who’ll get it set things up for you — or purchasing enough of a template — so you and others in your church can ‘Contribute‘ to your site without breaking the rules.

Yes, I know, this is sorta of like throwing you into the deep end … then again, it sounds like you may be in a bit deep as it is. Either way, let me know if this helps … or not. Similarly, you regular readers … now is your time to pipe-up with some advice.


  1. My advice to MG:

    Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Copy a layout that you know works. The experts say left-hand navigation is best, for example. Or buy a Template.

    You have the plans and tools now, then set a good cornerstone and learn how to use the template function of Dreamweaver. Later you can add the dentils and modillions of CMS (but start learning now).

    Here is my favorite book to get MB started: http://www.veen.com/artsci/ It has a perfect balance of technical, design, and logistic issues discussed.