Even if you are not technologically savvy, you know that website coding standards, design, and security best practices change at an alarming rate. I am asking that church leadership and website team leaders consider saving time and money by moving to a content management system (CMS). In this article I will explain the reasons why I stopped coding websites and focused on producing quality content for my audience.
I was a computer science major in college, so moments after I created my first website in 1996 using Netscape Composer, I viewed the source code. I was intent on learning what made websites tick, so I could create them without the limits most editors imposed. I bought several books on the subject, and became quite savvy. After a few years (and a few more books), it got to the point where my site was more programming scripts and database calls than HTML. Yet with that experience, about 4 years ago I happily hung up my coder hat and put on my user experience one. Why? There were plenty of free platforms made by smart people that were far more powerful and secure than any system I had time to create. Here are the areas I had to consider:
While it is nice to have a website that differs from other churches, certain patterns should be recycled if people expect them. You would most likely not put your primary navigation at the very bottom of your page; it would just confuse people too much. So although you may not want the same graphics, colors, and photos as everyone else; using similar layouts is helpful. Many website builders and content management systems have excellent frameworks and component libraries that outline where content should go, and give you the freedom to change how it looks.
Security Best Practices
As more people got on the web, the larger the target for hackers. Any website with a decent amount of traffic can be used for malevolent purposes. Some are compromised and have malicious code added to infect visitors. A less destructive tactic is to simply inject links to a website in an effort to boost its search engine rankings. Regardless, when your site is compromised, the effort to scrub every line of code and audit for extra or missing files is long and tedious. Although it is everyone's responsibility to create strong passwords for your websites, the extra details of securing other aspects of your site should be left to the professionals.
Action Item: It was not my intention to scare you from working on websites. There are many situations where having an understanding of HTML comes in handy. To this day I hand code HTML when composing pages in WordPress. However it is very basic and is typically limited to some lists and sub-headings. Yet many updates can be easily accomplished using the visual editor. If you are a web team leader, please consider using a CMS. If you are a church leader, please ask your teams if they can save time and money by moving to a platform that allows them to leverage work others have already accomplished.
Photo courtesy of Gabor Heja