Building Modern Church Websites, Part 3: First Steps

And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;

Matthew 1:8 (KJV)

And the author was unable to think of a Bible verse related to this post. Suggestions welcome!

A Note On Domains

If your website does not already have its own domain (for example gscc.ca or example.com), it should. When picking a domain, the most important things to think about are:

  • Length: it should be short enough that it can fit on business cards, flyers, and other church literature, and is easy for visitors to type in.
  • Easy to pronounce: it should be easy to pronounce, so that when you announce it on Sunday morning, everyone will be able to visit it later. For example, words like “you” and “eye” should be avoided, as when you say them out loud, it is difficult to tell if you mean the word “you” or the letter “u”. Also, EDVBGPTZ.com is probably a bad domain; just try spelling it over the phone!
  • Meaningful: this one should be self explanatory.
  • Memorable: If people are going to visit your website, and tell their friends, the address needs to be one they can remember.

If you don’t have a domain yet, my personal favourite place to buy them is Easy DNS. They make the process as easy as they can, and have lots of guides helping you get everything set up. If you decide to go with DreamHost as your web host, you will get a free domain when you sign up with them. This makes everything super easy, as the domain will already be configured to work with DreamHost.

If you already have a domain, or aren’t using DreamHost, you will need to configure the domain you own to point at your web host. Depending on your web host, and where you purchased your domain, this process differs wildly. If you are hosting on Linode, this guide might be slightly helpful.

Installing WordPress

Are you still with us? It’s finally time to get WordPress installed and running! If you’re not, don’t worry. Domains are hard, especially if this is your first time working with them. If you’re having trouble, feel free to post in the comments, and someone may be able to help you.

If you decided to host with DreamHost, you’ve got the easiest job. WordPress is available as a one click install, from your DreamHost panel. That means you just fill out some information, and DreamHost does all the work! The only thing to be careful about is to make sure to select the advanced install. If you don’t, you won’t be able to customize WordPress, in order to add sermons, mobile support, change the appearance, etc. You should have WordPress up and running on your website within about an hour!

If you’re on Linode, the installation you will end up with will be much more powerful than if you were on DreamHost. However, you have a lot more work to get started. First, follow the instructions in the Getting Started guide. Make sure to use Ubuntu 11.10 as your distribution, as it is the most supported. Once that’s done, follow this guide to configure your Linode server to host websites. You need to complete the entire guide, as Mysql and PHP are both required by WordPress. Lastly, follow this guide on installing WordPress. However, DO NOT install WordPress Supercache. Some of the customizations we will be making to WordPress are not compatible with WordPress Supercache, and if you install it now, you will have problems later. If this is your first time ever configuring a server, you should probably expect all of this to take you at least 2 days. However, you’ll learn many useful skills along the way! If you have difficulties, the Linode Community can probably help. As well, this website is currently hosted at Linode, so if you post in the comments, chances are good that I might have some advice.

If you’re hosting your church website somewhere else, I’m afraid you’re largely on your own. The makers of WordPress have some generic instructions that you may find helpful. However, these instructions assume that you’re server is already configured to host websites. If you’re somewhere like VPS Ville, this is not the case. You’ll need to get the Apache, Mysql, and PHP software working first. If you’re not sure how to start doing this, you should probably ask for help. Please feel free to get in touch with me directly, and I’ll try and offer some more detailed direction based on your particular situation.

Questions To Ask Yourself

  1. Does your church website have a domain address?
  2. Is the domain memorable, easy to pronounce, meaningful, and a reasonable length?
  3. Is the domain pointing at your web host?
  4. Have you managed to get WordPress installed and running at your website?
  5. What on earth does EDVBGPTZ stand for, anyway? (Hint: This is a joke. Do not actually ask yourself this.)

Next Week

Next week, we’ll configure the built-in options of WordPress.

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