Relaunching Your Church Website: Which CMS Is Right For You?

relaunching3

[This is part 3 of the “Relaunching Your Church Website” series, click here to view all posts]

You might be tempted to skip this step in your relaunch process, you might say to yourself “Why does this matter, I already have a CMS”, but the real question is the right CMS for you?

When most churches launch or relaunch a website they make this step first but there is a reason that this is the 3rd part. But, If you don’t have a clear understanding of what your goal is and what the content strategy is you can’t decide what CMS (Content Management System) is best for you. Because when you start with the system you will soon figure out you are limited by its functionality or easy of use, which intern limits what you publish on it.

For example, our previous site iamMarked.com was built-in flash and did not have a CMS. So when we had staff changes or updates, it relied on me and me alone to open up flash, dig thru source code make a changes and upload a file. Not the most simplistic process in the world.

There are 100’s of different CMS’s to choose from so lets dig look and some simple ways to help you figure out what system is best for you. This is a starting point, if you want and in depth comparison of different CMS’s I would head over to Google for that one.

Hosted vs. Self-Hosted

Hosted:
A hosted CMS means you pay a monthly fee and they provide a web server, file storage and bandwidth for one flat rate. Normally the only thing you need to bring is your domain name, they monitor and take care off everything else.

Self-Hosted:
Basically the opposite, you need to find a hosting company(like MediaTemple, HostGator, BlueHost ex.), then add / maintain your CMS. Usually, this involves more hands on work but the cost is significantly less. You CANNOT use every CMS in a Self-Hosted environment.

Built For the Church vs Built For Anyone

Built For The Church
These systems are made with your use in mind. Most come with events management, sermon players, blogging and even online giving. Now all of these systems fall into the hosted category and price varies between systems.

Here are just a few options:

Built For Anyone
Many times it take a more configuration to make these systems work, and can be much more complicated. But they can also provide more features, lower costs and a wider support community.

There are 2 types you will see Open Source and Closed Source. All of the “Built For The Church” solutions are closed source, meaning you can only use the system on their servers and you cannot add to or alter the source code of the CMS. Open source is often free (not always) and built by the community for the community. Many open-source CMS have huge user communities that make free plugins and themes. And all can be self hosted and most have hosted solutions as well. Below are just a few popular options, there are many more.

Closed Source CMS

Open Source

How To Choose

These categories give you a good starting point to narrow down your selection but then you need to do your research and figure out which system best fits your end goal and needs. Because of the variables i discusses in part 1 and part 2, and because of how familiar I already was I choose to use WordPress. I love WordPress and think it is great but it might not be right for you, you might be better suited with a “Built For The Church” solution that has lots of support and all the features you need are built-in.

So I am not going to recommend any of these systems I am only going to give you some starting places so you can figure out what best fits you!

Other choices?

Have you used any other options or have any recommendations that are on the lists? Leave a comment below and help the community out!

More from this series:

10 Responses

02.20.13

I think Expression Engine deserves a fair mention here too. I just recently redeployed our site from a popular closed source designed for church solution. I have a hard time recommending those designed for church solutions because not everyone fits the same mold when it comes to presentation strategy. Also, a lot of those solutions are kind of backwards in workflow.

Expression engine is so highly customizable as its based on custom fields and forms. And you don't need any PHP or JavaScript knowledge though its very helpful. I've so impressed with the development community behind it and they just released core for free.

I think it is easy to get locked into the paralysis of choice when it comes to selecting a cms.

02.20.13

I've been looking into Adobe Business Catalyst (BC). I'm still in the early stages of research, but it seems promising.

No matter what your level your web knowledge is at, it seems like you can get a site up and running. This can be frustrating if you do know what your doing, but in this case, Adobe also integrates BC with Dreamworks.

But like I said, I'm still in the early stages of research. Anyone with more experience in this, please share.

02.20.13

We use to host our Drupal based site on MediaTemple's DV (dedicated virtual) machines, but since we moved all media download files to the cloud, we were able to move to HotDrupal… a hosting company which offers servers designed to optimize Drupal sites. Our developer's experience is that HotDrupal's Super v4 plan out performs MediaTemple's (dv) offerings.

We were bumping our head's on the disk limits at MediaTemple, and would soon have had to upgrade, for a second time, to a larger, more expensive package. With our files now in the cloud, the reduced disk space at HotDrupal is more than enough.

Not to mention, organizing and updating our media download files is a whole lot easier via Dropbox than Drupal/server.

02.20.13

As far as the "other" category, I think Church Web Works is a great, easy to use website tool, as well as affordable for any size church.

02.20.13

My church uses and Loves Adobe Business Catalyst (I personally have been a BC Partner since 2010 and I have a ton of experience using it!) We have multiple campuses, run blogs, and will be doing an online store soon, it even manages our E-Newsletters. Like Even said above it is an outstanding solution. Being that I also own a graphic and webdesign company i have a couple church's and non-profits that actually use BC. Matter of fact I am actually launching a service just for church's where they can get custom templates and all it's still in beta mode, but I have a tone of templates etc on the way extremely soon! Check it out! http://www.elevatecms.com

If you have more questions about Adobe BC hit me up directly I would love to talk! felix@xcelldesigns.com
You can check out my church site: zionchurchonline.com
or my personall site: xcelldesigns.com

02.20.13

I agree with Evan, BC all the way! Evan, if you have questions as your still researching hit me up lets talk I might be able to answer your questions. felix@xcelldesigns.com

I'm personally a big fan or WordPress. I think that simplecms and modx deserve a mention. Both are very robust and easy to use content management systems.

02.20.13

WordPress is really easy to use compare to others. Their plugins are newb friendly and Google friendly as well.

02.20.13

In my opinion joomla is the better option compare to other content management systems.it offers lots of good features,such as flexibility,extensible,easy to use.

02.20.13

There are about 50 church WordPress themes out there now. That means "open source, built for the church". We launched http://churchthemes.com recently and are working on church WordPress full time now.

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