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Using the UUA Website Template
Using the UUA Website Template

Several of our regional congregations have taken the plunge and tried out the new website template created by the UUA for UU congregations. We talked with two webmasters who have made the switch about their experiences and here is what they had to say. The UU Congregation of the Chesapeake's site was moved by Dee Delauder. You can view the site at theUUCC.org. Here is what Dee had to say about the template and the moving process: When the UUA released the custom template designed by the Outreach Team I was overjoyed. I’ve been wanting to migrate to a better design and a more dynamic website for years. I had reached the limits of my coding knowledge. Finally someone else did the hard stuff for me. All I had to do was add content.

My old design was a static HTML page with navigation to other pages. My web editor was Microsoft FrontPage, now it's not supported, but it still works. And I used an FTP client to upload updates. It worked great but the site was flat an uninteresting.

Moving to Wordpress was not an easy endeavor for me for two reasons.

  1. One, I had never worked with WordPress, so the learning curve was very steep.
  2. And two, I discovered my Web Host’s server is windows based, and not very good with PHP based documents. The better platform would have been a Unix server. It took me about 4 weeks and 4 rebuilds to finally get our new site built and able to replace the old site. And I still needed to pay my Hosting company’s tech support to get me up live.

I would recommend using this template only if it serves the greater good four your church. A good template alone will not necessarily attract visitors to your church. It only provides the functionality for your presentation. A top notch presentation and careful use of text and images with the UUA theme for congregations can do the trick.

Things I like: I do not need to use an FTP client and a web editor like front page any more. I can edit and update the website from anywhere, with any device, as loan as I can get on the internet.

I also like how easy it was to create a members only section where I can store secure documents that only our congregation should have access too.

There is one piece of advice I will throw out. I’ve browsed around the UUA theme forum, and I follow the UU WebLab on Facebook and I see people trying to make the template do something that is not in the design. You really need to understand what the template will do and won’t do. But most of all, unless you are a CSS guru or a scripting wizard, you have to be willing to work with what you get.

I say 3 cheers to Chris Wulff and the design team for being so diligent in their design. This is a great product for UUCC.

First UU Society of Syracuse's website was moved from their old wordpress site to the new template by their minister, Rev. Jennifer Hamlin-Navias.

What made your congregation decide to move to the new template? Our previous website had been set up several years previous.  The design needed updating and an improved aesthetic.  Our old site was really designed for members to use.  The new UUA theme is definitely easy for our members to use, but the Home page is more geared for folks who are looking for a church.  If you think of your home page for your website as your “storefront” we now have one that is attractive and inviting.  And the UUA is providing this for free. (Ed. note: there is a small charge after the initial introductory free period).

How did you find the experience of moving the site from your old design to the new one? I found the experience of moving from our old design to the new theme relatively easy.  The UUA provided a webinar on it and that helped a lot.  I was a little familiar with Wordpress so that did help.  That being said I do not know how to code.  It took time to do the change over.  I had a 9 hour train ride that I did about 80% of it.  I would guess that the whole move over took about 12 hours of my time.

Would you recommend that other congregations make this switch and why? Yes.  The cost is reasonable, there is a support community with this theme and so it is easier for me to get answers to my questions.

Do you have any advice to congregations who are considering making this switch or words of wisdom? If I could have done it differently I would have gotten a group together and worked together to make the change.  It would have been fun to sit around our laptops and each work on updating different sections of the website.  It would have gone faster and it would mean that there would now be a group of folks in the congregation who knew the inner workings of the website.  Also I used a wordpress plugin that allowed me to set up a “Site under construction” while I was updating the site.  I thought that was better than having people go to the site while I was updating I think that would have been confusing to them. Do you have experience with moving your congregation's site to the new UUA Wordpress Template? If so, please share your experiences in the comments below.

For more information contact cer@uua.org.

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