wordpress Posts

Megalithe 1.0 – A Great New WordPress Theme for Bloggers

MegalitheInto photography and photo-blogging? Have a portfolio of visual works to show off? You’re going to love the new, mobile-responsive WordPress theme just released by StudioPress - Megalithe 1.0.

The Megalithe child theme includes the following features: 10 color styles, 6 layout options, custom background, custom header, featured images, fixed width, mobile responsive, theme options, threaded comments.

So if you have your web hosting and a WordPress-powered blog set up, consider giving Megalithe 1.0 a shot.

Here’s a full screenshot, but you need to navigate it and shrink the browser window to see the full effect of its beautifully-implemented responsive design features…

Megalithe — Premium Genesis Child Theme

When People Are Lost… On Your Church Website

404 errors. Web developers hate it when a website visitor finds a “page not found” error on a website. It’s a bug. There’s a broken link somewhere. Or maybe the visitor made a bad guess at a particular URL. Either way, they’re now lost.

Grace Hills’ website, along with 16% of the internet, runs on WordPress, which has a customizable template for the “404. Page not found.” error. So we customized ours like so…

Lost?

In case you can’t read it in the image, it says…

Lost?

We’re afraid that whatever you were looking for isn’t here. Try using the navigation above or the links below.

We understand what it feels like to be lost, and we believe that God has been on a search and rescue mission for you throughout your entire life, and He hopes you’re willing to be found.

If you are spiritually lost and looking for home, check out our First Steps page.

Visitors who click that link are taken to our page that explains God’s purposes for our lives, our lostness, and the gospel of Jesus who died for them. It’s a simple thing, and a simple way to use the website’s dead ends to head people back in the right direction.

Welcome to the New Grace Hills Church Website

We’ve just finished re-designing GraceHillsChurch.com from top to bottom. Check out this screenshot (or click it to visit the real thing) and then read more below…

Grace Hills Church Website

(Note that we have a separate design for mobile users – you’ll only see this if you’re on a desktop browser or if you scroll to the bottom of the mobile version and switch to the desktop version.)

[ghlslike]

Why the Redesign?

Primarily, for better communication. Our former design looked okay, but its information architecture wasn’t the best. It was difficult to know what was important. Since most of the information on it tended to look the same, everything seemed to blend together. With the new design, we can more easily feature the pages of our site that lead the visitor through a progression of commitments.

We also re-designed because it was time for a new look. Our brand has changed a little bit. We emphasize having a messy ministry, but our site wasn’t very messy to match, so this new “grungy” look with its fresh greens better captures our church’s personality.

The Design Details

It’s built on WordPress. I’ve been a WordPress developer for several years now and I’m an enthusiastic promoter of the platform as an excellent resource for churches (I even founded and later sold a site all about using WordPress for ministry). There are other great platforms out there, but I’m sold on WordPress for church websites for several reasons:

  • It’s open source, which tends to reflect the values of our church’s culture.
  • It’s free. You simply have to have a place to host the website (aff).
  • It’s agile. As the social web changes, we can quickly adapt with it.
  • It’s easy to use, even for people with no web design experience.

The design is based on the Moses Theme, by Mint Themes, but we’ve already gutted some of the theme’s core files, added and subtracted from the stylesheet, and have plans of converting the theme to a responsive design.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback, and I’d also greatly appreciate it if you’d like Grace Hills on Facebook, which would really help us spread the word about our ministry in northwest Arkansas.

Launch Your Church Website with WordPress

Though I still dabble to stay fresh, I’m somewhat retired, at least for now, from the business of full scale design of church websites. But when I was developing sites for clients of all sizes, I built 95% of my church websites on WordPress. I’m so passionate about it, I built a website called WordPress for Ministry (which I’ve since sold). According to WordPress’ own website:

WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.

The core software is built by hundreds of community volunteers, and when you’re ready for more there are thousands of plugins and themesavailable to transform your site into almost anything you can imagine. Over 25 million people have chosen WordPress to power the place on the web they call “home” — we’d love you to join the family.

And it isn’t slowing down in terms of its growth in popularity. I’ve attempted to convince some rather reputable clients that WordPress is the way to go. Often I’m met with skepticism. How can anything so… free… actually scale to meet the needs of a large organization? Well, ask the tech team at CrossChurch, a church running over 8,000 in weekly attendance in northwest Arkansas. They’ve developed all of their web properties on WordPress.

So how can you get started? Here are the basics…

You Need a Domain Name

And you need one that is basic and memorable. I recommend going with a .com. The .org is intended for nonprofits, so it doesn’t hurt to grab both versions, but when it comes to domains, people expect a .com most of the time. You can usually score a domain name for less than $10 using GoDaddy or another registrar. (I use GoDaddy for domain management, but nothing else.)

Typical cost: $7.50 per year

You Need a Web Hosting Package

There are plenty of options here, but one of the easiest companies to work with is Dreamhost, where you can usually score an adequate space for your church’s website for under $10 per month.

Typical cost: $5 per month

You Need WordPress

And WordPress works like any software, but it runs on a web server rather than a computer. You can download WordPress for free from WordPress.org, but with Hostgator and many other companies, you don’t need to do so. Rather, after you’ve set up your hosting account, you will be able to install WordPress with just a couple of clicks through the hosting control panel.

Cost of WordPress: FREE

Before moving ahead, it’s a good idea to have some reference help handy as you dig into the inner workings of a WordPress website. It’s simple to manage, but the capabilities of a WordPress-driven church website are virtually limitless, especially as you learn more about the system. I would recommend grabbing one or two of the reference guides listed below:

You Need a Nice WordPress Theme

WordPress Themes For ChurchesA WordPress theme is like a website template, except better. With most website templates, you buy a set of html files, then you start filling in your website content in the html code, duplicating pages and creating, by hand, an entire website. But with a WordPress theme, you simply upload the theme via the WordPress administration panel (a couple of clicks) and click “Activate.”

WordPress stores your website’s data in a database, separately from the theme or design files. So theoretically, you can add all of your website content, then change the design theme multiple times and it will have no adverse effect on your data at all.

There are a ton of WordPress themes to choose from. Some are better than others from a coder’s perspective and some are certainly better than others from a communication and design perspective. I’ve listed a few of my own favorites that I feel offer strong, solid coding plus a good communication platform for churches. By that I mean that the way that these themes present content flows with the way stronger church websites present content.

WPChurch ($35)

WPChurch is available through the Themeforest marketplace, and offers an incredible look that really captures the arrangement of information churches need to be utilizing, including a “next service” countdown clock in the top right corner and a sweet slideshow.

WPChurch WordPress Theme

Visit Themeforest

Quantum ($49, but 2 for the price of 1)

Quantum is an extremely cleanly-coded theme by ThemeTrust and provided the basic framework upon which I’ve built Grace Hills’ website (though I’ve radically altered the graphics). It comes with a built-in slideshow and several skins.

Quantum WordPress Theme

Visit ThemeTrust

Outreach Theme ($79.95)

Outreach is actually a “child theme” which simply means that you would first upload the Genesis theme framework (included with the purchase) but not activate it. Then you would upload the Outreach child theme and activate it. Outreach borrows its functionality from Genesis, the parent theme, both developed by StudioPress.

Outreach WordPress Theme

Visit StudioPress

Platform Pro ($95)

Platform Pro, by PageLines, has a special advantage. You can move the layout around and design your site using a special drag-and-drop interface from within WordPress. This makes it a strong contender as well.

Platform Pro WordPress Theme

Visit PageLines

Standard Theme ($49 for a single license)

I mention Standard Theme primarily because of its popularity among well-known Christian bloggers. I don’t think it’s the best solution for most church websites, or even for most bloggers for that matter. It’s a bit more complicated to use than the average theme, and modifying its base code can be rather tricky. Nonetheless, for the sake of inclusion…

Standard WordPress Theme

Visit Standard Theme

And there are plenty of other places to find great premium WordPress themes as well.

Are there free WordPress themes that are good for churches too? Absolutely, but you’ll have a little harder time finding them simply because you have to sort through so many to find the good ones. I would recommend checking out the list gathered by Smashing Magazine which is edited by Paul Andrew, a guy who knows.

You’ll Need Some WordPress Plugins

Plugins extend the functionality of WordPress. You upload them, similar to the way a theme is installed, and they add more functionality to the administrative side of your church’s website. There are way too many (thousands) to cover, but the plugins I’ve found most helpful for both blogging and building church websites would have to include:

And again, there are many more, but those are fairly essential to most of the church website projects I’ve worked on.

Is it really as simple as getting a domain, a hosting account, installing WordPress with a click or two and uploading a theme? Yes and no. Yes, that’s all it takes to launch a site. But you’ll find that while WordPress is super easy to use, it’s also very robust in its capabilities, so the learning curve is simple on the “getting started” side, but complex on the “wow, I didn’t realize I could do that” side.

And is it really better than the other popular open source content management systems out there? Just read this comparison between WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.

Total cost: $50 to $150 to be up and running.

If you don’t already have a logo, or if you are looking for a more customized website solution, contact me. If I can’t help you right away, I will know someone who can.

Check Out the Midnight WordPress Theme

If you’re into building church websites or blogs with WordPress (like I am), and you’re pretty handy with customizing WordPress themes, you may want to check out the newest premium WordPress theme from StudioPress: Midnight Theme.

Here’s a screenshot…

StudioPress Midnight Theme

Before you buy it, do understand that I think the “simplicity” of premium theme frameworks is often overstated. I always feel bad when people buy a theme I recommend and then struggle to customize it. It is best to use premium themes only as a starting place, and only if you have a basic working knowledge of html, css, and WordPress as a content management system.

Check It Out