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Content-is-like-water-1980

New to Responsive? Let’s Understand More.

Responsive was a buzz word. Now it’s a term that’s often heard, but not always understood. One of the simplest and perhaps best descriptions I’ve read is straight from Wikipedia:

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).”

Content-is-like-water-1980And the image above provides a visual for what responsive content is. I personally love this word picture – content is like water – but it’s still a bit hard to grasp. I mean, “water becomes the cup”? Yeah…

The point is that content must be free to flow and move – filling the vessel in which it is in at the moment. And that vessel can be just about anything these days, and I’ve no doubt that devices, screens and other technologies will continue to be invented, creating even more ways and forms web content can be viewed.

What does all this mean for you?

Responsive isn’t a temporary thing that is going away anytime soon. It is the way that content on the web needs to work. It’s gaining ground, changing and growing more mature as an established must. In short, you need to get your head around the changes you must make in order to continue producing a website – and any web content – that will be deliverable and readable for your users.

To get started, we’d recommend the 2 items below:

  1. You need to move – or make plans to soon move – to a responsive web design.
  2. Start learning and continue understanding how to best build your content so it works well on a responsive site. There are two areas we’d love to see our customers really learn and expand upon: image size & placement, and how to organize and lay content out on a page.

The good news is that Faithwebsites has multiple ways to help you achieve both of those goals above. The reality is – both require time and resources, which means this requires a commitment from you and your organization.

Is it worth it? Yes, we really believe so. Churches and Christian Schools alike are continuing to see growth and even dependency on online communications, and your website needs to be the center hub of your online presence. Your users need to know they can depend on your website to get the info they need fast and easy. A non-responsive site will soon create frustration and confusion.

If your goals include any type of marketing, outreach, evangelism, or enrollment/admissions, then moving to a responsive site and learning how to build content better for responsive behavior is essential. You’ll lose your reach (or potential reach) with simply not having content that flows to the device/screen your visitor is using.

Interested in learning more? Contact us for information, and be sure to follow us for more content-flow building tips.

The Tool Box: Expand/Collapse Tool

open books

The Expand-Collapse tool is a very simple tool, but can be useful for specific applications on your website. This tool allows you to create accordion-style text, where your users click on a “+” to read more about a specific topic. It’s ideal for text-heavy pages where your users may be looking for very specific information.

For example, for a frequently asked questions pages, you can put the questions as the initial content that shows when collapsed and the answers as the expanded content that show when your users click on the “+”.

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For a Frequently Asked Questions page, this allows you to include detailed answers to your questions, without forcing your users to scroll through all of the long answers to get to the question that they’re looking for. The FAQ page is by far the most common way that this tool is used on our customers’ websites.

Like with any tool, there are also creative uses for this tool. Rock Valley Christian School shares their supply lists by grade using the Expand/Collapse tool. This allows them to put all of the grades supply lists on one page, without forcing parents to scroll through all of their lists to find their grade. You can see their example here.

Another customer who uses this tool uniquely is Victory Christian School in Tulsa. They have a directory of all parent businesses. In the collapsed section of the content, they have the types of businesses and then in the expanded content, they have the full business information and how you can contact them. This is a great use of this tool to encourage school parents to support each other’s businesses. You can see Victory Christian School’s parent directory here.

There are lots of ways that you can use the Expand-Collapse tool, but do use caution, like you should when doing any content-building on your website. You may wish to have the initial content larger to make it stand out, but we do not recommend using one of your larger headings such as Heading 1 or 2 for this purpose. In addition to making the text very large on the page, it is a poor search engine optimization practice. You can read more about how headings affect SEO in this recent blog article.

While we mentioned at the outset that it is ideal for text-heavy pages, if your end users will generally want to read all of the content on your page, then the Expand/Collapse tool may not be the best option for you. You should also be careful to limit how many sets of content you put onto one page, generally to about a dozen or fewer, excluding special exceptions like Victory Christian School’s parent directory. It is better to break your content up onto multiple pages if it is becoming difficult to find the initial question or content at a quick glance.

The Expand/Collapse tool can be a robust tool for the right applications. Use this tool for your FAQ page, or another creative use. If you need additional assistance on the details of adding this tool to your website, see our support article here or contact our Support team.

Google’s Mobile Friendliness Ranking

mobile websiteSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ongoing process, but before you look to do any more work to improve your SEO, be sure you have a mobile optimized or responsive website.

Starting already last fall, Google announced that mobile friendly websites would be part of their ranking equation. Now, Google has announced that starting April 21, they’ll be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. In a nutshell, this means that if you do not have mobile friendly pages, your rankings will be affected. Exactly to what extent – or how fast – is not something I can state. However, in a somewhat unprecedented manner, Google has made it clear that there will be significant impact and has even assigned a date for the release to its algorithms.

If you are a Faithwebsites customer and have a mobile or responsive website with us, you are sitting in a very good place! If you have an older website and added any formatting such as tables or text formatting with fonts, your content layout should still be reviewed and simply converted to the mobile optimized product and/or other formatting which is not mobile friendly removed. However, if you started with a new site in this past year, then move your focus on building fresh updated content for your site. Your site will pass the mobile-friendliness test!

If you do not currently have a mobile site, it’s time to look at getting a mobile optimized site, or better yet – to consider updating your website design to a responsive design. While SEO may not be a top priority for your organization, it is essential to all organizations to have some level of rankings. Beyond Google’s impact, you’ll be making the right choice for your users, more of whom are trying to view your website on a phone or tablet device.

If you are interested in learning more about mobile sites and/or responsive website design with Faithwebsites, email us at sales@faithwebsites.com.

Prepare Your Website for Easter

fws_freeSlides_2015-001_600x480_002In December, we shared some tips for updating your website for Christmas. It’s just as important to make sure that your website is ready for Easter. Hopefully, you will have many new visitors walk in your door and lots of excitement as your church family gathers together to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ resurrection. Your website is an important tool to evangelize, communicate and welcome new visitors and encourage them to walk through your doors on Easter Sunday.

1. Prominently note your Good Friday / Easter service times. Particularly if you have special service times for Easter Sunday, make sure that is clear and easy to find on your website homepage. You can download one of our free images to share the excitement of Easter with your website guests– find those in our image gallery here. You can even use a photo editor like PicMonkey to put your Easter service times right on the image.

2. Make your visuals click through to more information. One of the most visual ways to communicate Good Friday and/or Easter Sunday services is through the slide show on your home page, as noted above. However, connect your slide to a webpage that contains expanded or detailed information. Slides move quickly, and people want to click / tap for more information. Update a current webpage, or build a new webpage that contains the following:

  • service times (all services times);
  • physical location (if applicable for special events, outdoor early sunrise services, etc.);
  • nursery / child care services available or not available for each service;
  • special or extra/overflow parking;
  • details such as fellowship, coffee, breakfast afterwards, etc.;
  • clearly state that all visitors are welcome – don’t assume that people reading will just “know” that

Put a link (ideally on the right side of the page) to the pages that contain your map / driving directions, your nursery / child care page, etc.

3. Share on social media as well. Post the same information with your service times on your social media feeds as well, with links back to your website. If you are using the Social Stream Database, you can even do this right from within Site Manager.

4. Promote special events. Are you having any special events for Easter Sunday, such as a fellowship lunch after the service or an egg hunt? Be sure to include those on your Easter page and social media feeds as well.

5. Don’t forget to update your regular website calendar. For those members and regular attendees that subscribe and/or have your calendar page bookmarked, be sure to update your calendar feeds with the service dates and times. Remember that you can create a calendar event that contains a webpage link – so if you created an Easter service / event webpage, add that same page URL to your calendar event. This is an easy and efficient way of getting all your visitors to the same page and information!

Easter Sunday is an opportunity to draw in many guests to your church. By utilizing your website to share the important details, you are maximizing your opportunity to encourage new visitors.

Remember to visit our image gallery to download some Easter images. Here are some of our newest additions:

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The Circle of Content & Engagement

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You create and post content, you promote and communicate, and your users visit. But do they just visit once? What draws them back to visit your site again?

If you create content just once, or only now and then, it’s more of a straight line effort. You did all the work to get the content on your site and promote people to visit that content, but if you stop there, it ends all too soon. Having a website that’s productive and useful is a circle. More content must flow, but it must also be varied content that motivates users to return to your website.

Most of our customers being churches and Christian schools need to build continual engagement with their audience. A one time visit is not the purpose of the site. Continual visits, even a dependency on knowing that the website is the go-to place for information, is the goal.

Ideas for Creating Continual Engagement

Assuming you are already posting calendar schedules and promoting larger events on your website, let’s delve into some other content ideas.

  1. Create dependability and dependency. Be faithful with the content you post. Your users need to trust that your site will always be their quick go-to place for certain content. Keep that up and expand what they can depend on the site for.
  2. Work hard – and be creative – to get information on your website BEFORE you promote in print / in your building. Knowing that the website gets the “sneak peeks” or “heads-up” content will encourage many users to continually visit. Communicate this among your staff and make it a goal to figure out how you can do this effectively and consistently.
  3. Post exclusive content on your website. Not quite the same as above, this is where you have expanded or totally exclusive content that isn’t available anywhere else. Examples of this can include:
    • Pictures, or more pictures if you also post them elsewhere, of any event, everyday happening, auction items, building happenings, etc.
    • Glimpses into the before-the-scenes or behind-the-scenes of any event (such as how you are setting the stage for a special event, or how the costumes are coming, or how you are organizing for a large food drive, etc.)
    • Teachers have a wealth of opportunity. Ideas can include links to website resources that support lesson plans or homework, classroom pics that didn’t make it into the newsletter, helpful hints for homework, head’s up about testing, field trips, or other classroom happenings.
    • Churches can post expanded content on Sunday School or Children’s lessons, more about their youth events – which can range from links to lesson resources, or simply pictures of children in classes.
  4. Consider a blog for posting devotionals or thoughts.
  5. Create announcements (in addition to a calendar item) to more easily promote, remind and communicate about events and happenings.
  6. Be sure to use Social Media and your website together. Once you have content up on your site, either use Social Stream* to automatically post to your social media streams, and/or manually post.  (*Watch for a future blog on tips for using social media and your website together.)
  7. Push every type of content possible through your website first. Make your website the center “hub” allowing users to trust that no matter where or how the content is published, they can find it, or a link to it, on your site. While some users may be comfortable following your organization on YouTube or Twitter, others may not and they would miss your updates otherwise. Examples would include:
    • Embedding videos on your site, instead of just posting the YouTube link on Facebook (post the link to your website page that has the video instead).
    • Posting sermons and audio files on your website
    • Putting feeds (streams) of your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. on your website for easy access.

Hopefully the ideas above can start your own brainstorming process, but the biggest tip I would share with you is to plan a content schedule. Pushing content out requires discipline, and making this a calendar item with set deadlines is usually essential for actually getting this task done. You can always create your content as needs arise, but have a game plan – and a calendar or plan – for posting regular updates.

Faithwebsites customers can consider using these tools to help easily create and update content: image gallery, integrated blogging tool, announcements database & tools, message board, calendar, and social stream.

 

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