Since 2009 I have recommended that churches use WordPress to create their websites in a cost-effective and easy way. But I am now changing my stance after actually working with clients and helping them manage their websites (sometimes watching over their shoulder).
This is what people are actually looking for:
- Drag and drop, click and edit functionality – I have used WordPress since 2006 and think it is a pretty easy system to use. But after working with clients, I have found that they just want to be able to click on their website and edit or move their content.
- Everything built in – People don’t want to have to add plugins, install Google Analytics, log in to one website to edit their page, another website to upload video, and another website to view their traffic statistics. They want everything to be managed in one place.
- Automatic updates – I’ve never logged in to a client site that didn’t need a WordPress core or plugin update. Ever. This leaves them open to security vulnerabilities and hacking. Keeping software up to date must happen automatically.
With all this in mind, hands down, the best way for a church to create their own website is through Weebly. Here are the reasons why:
Drag and Drop Page Building
Weebly features this intuitive layout and makes it easy to train people on how to edit the website.
Mobile and Tablet Friendly
Weebly has apps for iPad, iPhone, and Android that allows you to edit your site on a mobile device. As fewer and fewer people are using computers, the ability to manage a site with an iPad is becoming critical.
Ecommerce Built In
If you want to sell an item or two, like T-shirts, adding ecommerce functionality to wordpress is pretty complicated. Weebly is ready for basic ecommerce transactions right out of the box.
Hosting (and Updates) Included
Weebly websites reside on their servers, meaning that you don’t have to worry about paying for and setting up your own hosting account. WordPress is notorious for allowing vulnerabilities for hackers if you don’t constantly keep it updated with the lastest software. After working with clients, I can tell you, people don’t update their wordpress software.
Blogging is Included
Just because you move to Weebly doesn’t mean you lose the ability to blog. Most churches use the blog for news and updates, and Weebly allows you to keep that functionality.
Most churches will want to feature photo galleries and slideshows, and WordPress isn’t the most intuitive option for photo galleries without installing a plugin. Weebly has great options built in to it.
Forms are often very complicated to use in WordPress and require plugins. Weebly has a simple drag and drop interface. Want to have online registration for VBS? With Weebly you can easily build your registration form online.
Website Statistics Built In
No need to install Google Analytics (although you can if you want).
Video and Audio Players Included
Weebly handles video and audio uploads with ease, so uploading sermons or multimedia content is a piece of cake. Of course, you can still embed code from YouTube or other sites if you want to go that route.
Since WordPress is an open source software, if you have a problem you have to Google until you find your answer. There is no one to call or email. Because Weebly is a for-profit company with competitors, they have to be serious about customer support. If you have a problem, you can reach customer support via phone, live online chat, or a support ticket.
All this probably costs quite a bit, right? Actually, you can get started for free. Here are the current pricing tiers:
- Free: Build a basic website with unlimited pages for free on their domain name (for example: yourchurch.weebly.com). You can start here and test it out before upgrading to a higher plan.
- Starter $8/month: Get a free domain name, or use your current domain name. You get a few more customization options and expanded website statistics.
- Pro $12/month (my recommended plan): This is the plan I recommend for churches. This gives you access to the video and audio players, front page slideshow, password protection of pages, and premium phone customer support.
- Business $25/month: This plan if basically for serious ecommerce sites selling more than 25 products and needing inventory management and advanced sales tax and shipping calculators. It’s overkill for churches.