On Organizing a Brand New Church Website, Why I Love a Good Sitemap, and What I Learned at Click Rain

Ryan Egan —  October 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s been just over three months since I took on a new role in life and ministry as full time Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Living Word Free Lutheran Church. And boy, it has not been a slow transition! While I’m enjoying equipping writers, designers, and musicians on serving inside and outside the church, one major project I’ve been working on is the revamp of the new Living Word website.

There are quite a few things I’ve learned in this process and many things I’ve been able to apply from my previous and awesome employer that I thought I needed to spend some time sharing these “for the greater good,” so to speak.

Don’t Take a Good Developer For Granted

I’m thankful that I’ve come to realize that I am not a web developer. I can write just enough HTML to make things break. I am actually fairly decent within CSS. But when it comes to true, functional development, I’ll never be there. Enter Ben Olson, our fantastic developer that’s been working on the new site. Ben has been patient, asked great questions, gracious when facing some frustration, and just plain knows what he’s doing. I’m thanking God for Ben today and his work, and on behalf of all developers who are working with someone on a web project, I want to give you these reminders:

  • Clearly communicate the scope and expectations of the project up front. Don’t keep throwing new features at someone who was only expecting to do so much to begin with. We fell short in this area, and will remedy that in the future for further advanced development of the site.
  • Know when to say, “Good point.” There were some things that I thought would be nice. Ben convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did.
  • Be open to knew ideas. I was pretty gung-ho about using a certain Content Management System but since Ben was more familiar with a different language he convinced me otherwise. That is saving him time and producing a better end product.

Create a Site Map, and a Content Plan, and Page Tables, and Stick To All of Them

If I hadn’t sat down and marked out every page on the site, then planned out what every page looked like, then planned out how we would update each page and how each page would interact with each other, I can’t imagine how much time I would have wasted. I also can’t imagine the lack of vision I would have for what the site is going to look like in the future. Further, because of having a plan for every page and a pre-determined purpose and voice for each page, I was able to hand off several pages to another writer and save myself some time while giving ownership to a volunteer in the congregation. Win and win.

Here are some things you MUST do before even thinking about designing a new website:

  • Pair it down to the bare minimum. What MUST be on the site? Start a sitemap from that.
  • Create a sitemap, an organizational structure of every page on the site.
  • Create a page table for every single page. This is a lot of work but completely worth it and in the end you will be insanely happy that you have these. Trust me.

What I Learned at Click Rain

Click Rain does and always will have a special place in my heart. Yep, I just wrote that sentence, and despite it’s sappiness, it’s true, proven this morning by how welcomed I felt when making a quick visit back there. I loved the people. I loved the culture. I really loved what I learned.

I am applying what I learned at Click Rain literally every day while on this job, but so much of it has specifically gone into the organization of the new Living Word website. I’m so thankful, too, that Paul understands what our whole church’s culture is, which is to equip the saints for the work of service. Because of his willingness to train me up and send me, Living Word will benefit from a much better final project and, quite frankly, a much better staff member. Some specific things that I’ve learned for the website creation process are these:

  • Build a responsive site that’s completely optimized (note, there’s a lot more to website optimization than SEO these days). There is no reason not to do this. Yes, it takes more planning, forethought, and design skills; it takes more effort to make sure every element optimization is in place; but in the end will payoff big time.
  • Think about big picture strategy. We are not just having a blog on the site. We are having a blog that’s equipped with opengraph tags, Schema information, and more, so that when people share a post to social media it will perfectly pull in every piece of data that provides stand-out formatting on social media. Also, we are thinking long-term about what this site will look like, not just launching it and being done with it.
  • Measure. Measure. Measure. We will be paying close attention to statistics in every area so we can be sure this site is doing it’s job.

I’m very thankful to be working full time in a job I’ve wanted for a really long time. However, I’m extremely thankful for the experiences God blessed me with on the path to get here and how much I’ve learned and can apply now that I’m in this position.

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Ryan Egan

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Ryan is a follower of Christ, husband, father, worship leader, & creative. He is heavily involved in the Association of Free Lutheran Churches and desires to teach others to live a life of worship in everything they do.