3 Innovative Options for your Ministry Website

When I look at the innovative web design/development techniques that are helping take websites to a new level, I see three things happening. One, CMS systems are being used much more consistently, which is a great way to manage websites with a large number of pages, allow internal users to update only their area of the website and a great way to update the website without knowing code. Two, Parallax animation features using jQuery, HTML5 and CSS has rapidly increased and we are now seeing website that are horizontally or vertically scrolling with the click of a button. Three, more and more websites are being built with Responsive Design features that work equally well on every device. Content Management Systems (CMS) If your site has numerous pages and collects information from a variety of ministries and internal departments, a CMS is a must. It allows non-technical users to update their own areas of the website. It also allows the technical staff to manage the website, restrict access and change the look of the website with minimal repetitive work and time. The best feature of the CMS is the ability to add plugins and add ons that enhance and expand the functionality of the CMS much more quickly then having to update and revamp the entire application.

A great example of this is Wordpress, Wordpress has long been considered a blogging platform and initially it was, but over time it has evolved into one of the best Content Management Systems for websites on the market. It's price tag of FREE is very attractive to many churches and ministries who have limited budgets but would like unlimited website capabilities. With over 23,000 plugins, Wordpress has an ecosystem of developers that are continually enhancing the abilities of the CMS. There are hundreds of thousands of websites that are using Wordpress as a solution and with great plugins such as "adapt to mobile", "block spam comments", "online shopping cart" and "social media sharing", this system is a great one fore ministries. Likewise, there are over 20,000 templates, which give Wordpress the ability to change layouts quickly with the click of a few buttons. Anyone who has participated in the redesign of a website knows how drawn out this process can be and to see the possibility of it occurring in a few clicks is great progress.

Responsive design According to Mashable.com, responsive design uses "media queries" to figure out what resolution of device it's being served on. Flexible images and fluid grids then size correctly to fit the screen. Responsive design techniques also detect the type of device and change the site's behavior accordingly.

As we look to the evolution of websites that churches and ministries can use to reach the masses, it's imperative that we use techniques like responsive design to give online users great website experiences no matter the device. Google and Facebook are leading the charge in this space in their rollout of websites that are based on Responsive design. In March 2013, Facebook launched a major update to their users and created a timeline that looked the same no matter the device the user was on. The only way Facebook can look the same on a smartphone, tablet and laptop is by the brilliant responsive design layout. Likewise, Google+ started using responsive design techniques late 2012. This was the first time Google showed any real attention to their design aspects of their products. Google had already established itself as a company with great online software products but their design was always simplistic and minimal. With responsive design, Google is now showing their design chops and creating a synonymous experience on all devices.

In the mobile section of "The iChurch Method Volume 1" I spoke about creating websites that have a version for the Laptop/Desktop and a version for mobile devices, which is a great solution but essentially double work. With responsive design, you can create one website and program it accordingly to adjust and adapt to multiple devices and give a unified online experience. Here is a good website with great responsive design templates, http://elegantthemes.com

Parallax Design Another amazing website design/development feature that is gaining popularity is Parallax. Parallax animation features using jQuery, HTML5 and CSS has rapidly increased and we are now seeing websites that are horizontally or vertically scrolling with the click of a button. This development style is creating a single loading, interactive, animated web experience that engages users in a more effective manner and is often integrated into the responsive design layout. There are many templates that are available to create this experience for online users. Good ones that I have seen are: http://five3.me (a wordpress template) and http://pagescroller.com/ (a HTML5/CSS template).

For more information on this and other topics, get your copy of "The iChurch Method Volume 1: How to Advance Your Ministry Online." or The iChurch Method Volume 2: Changing the World When You Login or even sign up for the iChurch Method Online School.