With All Thy Getting, Get a Site You Can Update
14 comments | Posted: 19 January 06 in General, by Andy Knight
A website that can’t be updated is a website that isn’t worth having. A site that never changes says to the onlookers, “Move along, there’s nothing to see here.” It communicates that your organization has said all it has to say.
Everybody wants to easily update their website. Duh! It only makes sense. They don’t want to learn code. They don’t want to read HTML tutorials. They don’t want to fiddle with an FTP program. They shouldn’t have to pay a developer should they? That shouldn’t be asking very much, should it?
But before I began using the free, open-source Content Management System Textpattern, it was asking a lot of me, as the developer, to create a site that was easy to update. I would have to inform the client that, yes, I could build a simple CMS, but there would be some tradeoffs.
The first tradeoff was the cost. Laying out the MySQL database; building the PHP forms to insert, update, and delete content from the database tables; and programming the content pages to pull the appropriate content from the database was time consuming. And when the client is paying by the hour, the cost quickly escalates.
The second tradeoff was flexibility. Creating a simple CMS was a little time consuming but not extremely hard. However, building a complex CMS that was flexible enough to grow with the organization—and still be affordable—was downright impossible. By the way, I had experimented with other open-source CMS tools (like Mambo), that were supposedly very stout and flexible, but for some reason, they were always way too complicated to setup.
Those tradeoffs were unacceptable in my mind, but for a while, I kept those thoughts to myself because I didn’t know a better way.
Now I’ve Seen the Light
Over the past few months I’ve setup three sites for clients using Textpattern. Each time it gets easier, and each time I get a little more impressed with its flexibility.
If you were able to peek under the hood of Godbit, you would find a well-oiled, fine-tuned installation of Textpattern that’s steering the ship. I periodically take peeks just so I can see how Nathan Smith did it and learn from him.
I first thought Textpattern is only great for blogs. Now I think: “Wow! This is great for almost any website, especially for organizations who don’t have a webmaster on staff.”
Of the three sites I’ve setup with Textpattern, only one of them, my personal site, is a genuine blog. Of the other two sites, one is a children’s ministry, and the other is a financial organization. Neither of them has dedicated website staff, but it doesn’t matter. No one outside the organization needs to know. It can be their little secret.
My wife is becoming a wonderful writer as she blogs about her experiences as a mom. She’s not a web geek like me, and she would never write down these memorable experiences in her life if it weren’t just walk-across-the-street simple. Not because she’s not smart, but because she is smart and she’s too busy to waste time on something that’s not simple.
What’s at Stake For Churches and Ministries
If you’re a church or ministry leader or have influence in your church’s website decisions, don’t settle for a site that can’t be updated in-house. If you do, then let me guarantee you: No matter how beautiful and hip the design is, if it’s not updated, then it will be obsolete one month after it launches.
A church member will visit the site once after it launches. He will visit a second time in a week or two to see what’s new. If nothing has changed, then he might not ever visit the site again. And just like that, you’ve missed your chance to communicate to that member through your site.
Someone else may be interested in visiting your church. He may go to your site to look up service times and your address. After his visit, he may check the site again to see what’s changed. If nothing has changed, he may never come back to the site again …or to the church. And just like that, you may have lost a potential member of your church.
A seeker may stumble across your church’s blog sometime. She may find it honest, authentic, and edgy enough to pique her curiosity, so she starts reading. Father may start casually drawing His net around her, pulling her into the shore of His grace. Then, if you stop posting to the blog, there’s a good chance she’ll unsubscribe from it. And just that fast, a potential convert could be lost.
Don’t misunderstand. The stakes are high. More than any other type of organization, you have a message that really matters. Don’t hinder that message. Make sure you get a site that you can easily update. Look for a web designer who understands Textpattern, or some sort of CMS.
Learning Textpattern Yourself
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. - Proverbs 4:7
Nathan Smith has written a nice little tutorial on Templating in Textpattern. There is also a forum, a wiki, and a resources blog to help you out.
Although I’ve focused on Textpattern, a couple other wonderful CMS packages worth mentioning are WordPress and Expression Engine. But no matter which one you get, with all thy getting, get a site you can update.
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