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Designing Your Congregation's Website

It doesn't have to be hard to design an effective website for your congregation; simpler is usually better in any case! Whether you choose to program the site yourself, or decide to use a Content Management System (CMS) with a pre-made theme, we have resources to help you design your site's look and feel.

General Design Principles

Consider usability and accessibility testing early and often in your design process.

Even if all you have to start with are black-and-white wireframes, it's not too early to get user feedback. Avoid getting deeply invested in any particular design before realizing you’ve neglected to make space for something critical. And if you start building your site with accessibility in mind (for mobile browsers as well as for assistive technologies), you’ll be so much happier than if you end up having to re-do everything in order to accommodate them.

  • Web Style Guide explains established design principles and covers all aspects of web design—from planning to production to maintenance.
  • "Usability" refers to the ease with which people can use a website in order to achieve their goal.
  • An accessible website doesn't exclude visitors due to their abilities, or the method they choose to access the web.
  • Search engine optimization is about making your pages succeed in search results and for human beings.
  • Prepare your website for mobile browsers and handheld devices.
  • Writing for the Web needs to be terser and more focused that other writing.
  • Consider establishing a house styles and quality standards guide to encourage consistency as you go. Read the Unitarian Universalist Association's Standards and Style Guides for ideas.

Content Management Systems

A Content Management System (CMS) requires some technical knowledge to set up (many web hosting companies today offer installation and support for popular CMS programs like Wordpress, Drupal, and Joomla), but the advantage of using a CMS is that people with little or no technical knowledge can easily update and maintain the content of the site.

One of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Websters, John Cooper, has written a helpful comparison article: When to pick Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla or another web system?

  • Joomla: UU Joomla is a Google group for UU congregations using Joomla, to discuss add-ons, templates, etc. 
  • WordPress: UU2014 is a WordPress theme designed specifically for UU congregations.  The theme is responsive to smaller screens such as mobile phones and the theme's website has information on plugins that complement the theme.  For example, Role Scoper is a plug-in that provides CMS-like permissions for reading and editing.
  • Drupal: Drupal is an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications. It’s built, used, and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the world. Sites like Drupal Gardens can help you get up and running quickly.

Hand-Coding

  • The UU Web Templates are pre-designed websites that you can adapt for your UU congregation.
  • W3Schools offers free tutorials in all web development technologies.

Join the Discussion

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Monday, February 3, 2014.

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