This resource has been developed by Friends General Conference for those meetings who are interested in developing websites. FGC currently provides hosting services to several meetings through the Quaker Cloud program. While considering that option, meetings may desire to learn more about other ways forward.
When considering setting up a website for the first time, meetings should consider the following:
- Secure a domain name. The domain name does not have to be purchased from the same company that manages your hosting. In fact, it is recommended that those companies are separate so that the ownership of your domain name is clear and portable from one host to another. Domains names can be secured for less than $20 annually in most cases.
- Obtain a hosting company. This is the company that you pay, either monthly or yearly, to keep your website up and running on the internet. Your monthly price will vary depending on the amount of storage space you need and the amount of traffic you get. $10 is a common price for sites with a modest number of photos and files.
- Identify a site administrator, webmaster, or web team. This person (or these people) would be responsible for making updates to the website as well as keeping track of when payment is due on the domain or hosting. Designating a team helps to ensure there are no interruptions in service.
Options described below, with commentary from web designer Jéri L. Ogden, include WordPress, Squarespace, and Tumblr. Keep reading for additional options, including when to make the decision to outsource to a firm or to downsize to simpler options.
Friends Meeting of Narnia has been designed on the WordPress platform. As of 2022, 43% of all websites on the internet use WordPress. Over 20,000 themes (templates) are available. Many are free. Others are in the $30 to $60 range. A designer could also develop a customized WordPress site for your meeting at a higher price point.
“WordPress is the most user-friendly option for those with some amount of website experience,” Jéri says. For those just starting with WordPress, there are many tutorials available on YouTube, but it is rather easy to jump into a simple WordPress theme even with no experience.
“You can easily upload and store media on the site to create subpages/posts,” Jéri adds. A web administrator could also make posts password protected, in the event that there are sensitive documents. One example is Narnia’s minutes page, which can be accessed with the code Friends22. However, we recommend that meetings weigh the pros and cons of using their website to store sensitive data, and to investigate whether Dropbox or Google Workspace may be better for their file-sharing needs.
There are various third plug-ins that can further customize a site with event sign-ups, contact forms, calendars, and slide shows. It’s possible to get overwhelmed by the many options available for WordPress plugins.
Note: WordPress (in this context) refers to sites designed on the WordPress.org platform and hosted by a third party. WordPress sites can also be designed and hosted on WordPress.com, with some free and paid options for hosting.
Oz Friends Meeting is designed with and hosted by SquareSpace, has more “bells and whistles” within reach of the site administrator. It is, however, a more expensive option. Use the code Friends22 to access the site.
Many Friends do not have the bandwidth to learn a new system–and even though many folks like WordPress, it helps to be really into WordPress. SquareSpace, on the other hand, is intentionally WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get), which saves time and frustration. However, some WordPress people find it hard to adapt to an “easier” system and would prefer more control.
Jéri says: “This will be the best option for Friends who want a variety of options for their pages such as a photo gallery, members-only area, blog, and event information.”
SquareSpace offers a lot for the price point and may be a winning option for meetings which do not have a lot of volunteers to share the work of website maintenance.
Tumblr is a free blogging site that has been around since 2007. Although its popularity ebbs and flows, it remains a user-friendly site for those with little experience in website design. The Wonderland Monthly Meeting page is an example of a simple, one-page design.
Like WordPress, Tumblr offers free and paid templates, as well as the ability to use your own domain, rather than the [name].tumblr.com URL.
“Tumblr is an excellent option for Friends looking to have basic information on their page like photos, links to outside resources, and quotes,” Jéri says. She adds “When using Tumblr, you will likely need to store files (such as meeting minutes) on another site or tool like Google Drive and then hyperlink the files to Tumblr.”
Some meetings may desire to have a fully customized website which answers specific needs. Those needs may include storage of meeting minutes or an online member directory. Friends may know website developers in their communities who do this work. There are also companies which specialize in building websites for faith communities. Programmed friends may be especially interested in those services, as they often market ways to share sermons, either live or on demand.
Developing a fully customized site requires effort, communication, and commitment from multiple members of the community, including those dealing with finances and those dealing with communication.
If a meeting does not need a fully customized website, a Quaker Finder listing may be all that is required. Quaker Finder is a free service provided by FGC which lists facts about your meeting, such as its address, contacts, affiliations, and key information about accessibility. Requests for updates to Quaker Finder listings may be submitted by anyone in the meeting through the FGC website. An FGC staff member then reviews and approves the changes. Limited customization is available and can include photos or quotations. This may be all a meeting needs to direct Friends and seekers to the meeting for worship.
In addition to a Quaker Finder listing, some meetings find usefulness in having a Facebook page to post updates and a Facebook group to build community between members and attenders. Instagram is quite popular with younger Friends and is useful for sharing photos. Facebook pages can easily be synced with Instagram pages through the Meta Business Suite planner, which allows Friends to post scheduled updates weeks or months in advance.
Creating and maintaining a website for a Quaker meeting can be a challenging endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be if the meeting prioritizes its needs and weighs those needs against available resources. Up-front research can result in a web hosting solution that all stakeholders can feel good about, from long-time members to first-time visitors.
Compiled by Rashid Darden, October 2022