Your own website
Websites are a great way to share specific information about your base or ministry with millions of people all over the world. Think of it like being listed in your local phonebook or directory, anyone interested in finding a DTS in your country will now be able to find you! These days, without a web presence, you may be missing out on many potential contacts including future students, staff, and donors.
Choosing a Website
Once you have decided to create a website, there are basically three different kinds of websites you can make.
- The basic HTML (and possibly CSS) website (a static website)
- Flash based website
- Content Management System (CMS) (a dynamic website)
Each of the above options have strengths and weaknesses of their own, and depending on your level of experience, can be more or less difficult to create and maintain.
HTML and CSS (a static website)
Each page is a fixed file that is encoded in HTML. Pages are generally small and load fast. Used to be the most common type of website you saw on the internet. HTML is the oldest form of website creation and has been augmented by CSS to provide a more powerful way to control the appearance of a website.
- The simplest way to get a small website started. Thousands of free templates to choose from. Lots of free help all over the internet. There are many excellent programs available to enable "WYSIWYG" editing.
- Can be hard to update or add information. HTML code is not simple to understand. Hard to work on with more than one person or as a team. Sites that grow beyond a few pages become difficult to maintain. Need to use expensive programs like Dreamweaver to manage multiple pages, unless you like updating tiny details by hand on lots of pages in pure HTML code.
- If you go this route, be sure to pick out a high quality template (like those from Andreas Viklund or Studio 7 Designs), buy a good book on editing HTML and CSS, and possibly consider getting a program such as Dreamweaver to make your job a lot easier.
Flash is considered an outdated technology today, because Smartphones typically do not support it - and you don't want your mobile users stare at a blank page. (You can do almost all animation stuff in HTML5+JS). The following paragraphs are still valid.
Flash websites are created using Adobe's Flash program. The entire website is rolled up into one SWF file. All text, photos, graphics, and animations are included in the one file which can become quite large. Further editing or updating can only be done in the Flash program using the original source file.
- Allows you complete freedom to place text, photos, and graphics any way you want them. Can be used to create websites with motion and interaction (to the extent of making a video game). Can introduce appealing special effects into your website. Has the potential to be the most beautiful of formats.
- Flash is a very expensive program. The most difficult to learn; unless you already know Flash. Large files make flash sites extremely slow for many users. Requires an expert to update or add information. Making simple changes to a site is often very complicated. Flash sites tend to remain unchanged for long periods.
- Not the best way to get started. Hard to work on with more than one person or as a team. Consider using small flash animations or videos to your HTML or CMS site to add more interesting effects. If you don't know Flash, get someone to help you. If you do know Flash, try to watch your file sizes and keep things small.
Content Management Systems (CMS) (a dynamic website)
Each page is generated fresh as it is requested by a user, it is able to incorporate new information automatically. A CMS program stores all content in a database to be displayed in any number of ways (think "top stories," "related posts," "latest comments," or "random image."), ywamkb.net and ywam.org work like this as do many popular websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Amazon. It provides great flexibility and can greatly simplify the editing and maintenance of a website. Anyone given permission can add or update content on a dynamic site! See the article: Drupal websites for YWAM Centers
- The easiest to update and add information to, and therefore the most likely to stay fresh. The easiest to work on together with a team, individual users can be given permission to create or edit content. Most CMS programs have features included by default that you could never accomplish by yourself with HTML or Flash (forums, blogs, search, user accounts, access control). Able to organize content in a variety of ways, and reuse that content on multiple pages. Able to keep growing with your base or ministry. A site built on a popular CMS is easily turned over to a new administrator in the even of a staff change. Often support RSS for site summaries and subscription.
- Takes some time to learn, organize, and set up. You will have to learn how to use and manage the specific CMS that you choose. Design templates must be made for the specific CMS you are using (you must choose from available themes/templates, modify an existing one, or create your own).
- Do your research and find a CMS that meets your needs. Be sure to check out Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress. If you're going to need help/support pick the CMS that your friends or other nearby YWAM bases are using. See Drupal websites for YWAM Centers for more information.
Here are tools that help you evaluate your YWAM Website. Once in a while check the statistics that your website is generating: where is your public coming from? Which search terms did they use? Which content pages are popular and may need an update? Etc.
Managing a website is more than just creating one. See Webmaster 101 for an overview.