At ChurchWP.net, we have started a unique Designer Interview series. It is a great way for our readers to learn about some great church website designers and get some practical content and design tips from them too! We are privileged to interview Jordan Gillman, Webby award-winning designer and the founder of ChurchSites.co. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jordesign and @ChurchSites_co and on here on Facebook.
How long have you been involved in web design and what got you started?
I’ve been working on the web for a little over 12 years now. I first got interested in design when I volunteered to design the booklets for a statewide Youth Group Conference. From there I studied at TAFE (a little like community college) and worked a few jobs in-house as a graphic designer. I eventually transitioned over to working predominantly on the web and have been freelancing as Jordesign full time for five years.
How did you get interested in church websites?
Early on I did a lot of work for youth groups and other ministries at my local church, as well as at a statewide level. I really got interested in church websites when I was first striking out on my own. I picked up a part-time contract working on Fervr, an editorial site targeted at Christian teenagers.
We were blessed to win a Webby Award for our work on Fervr in 2012. Through that–and the relationships formed while working with the organisation that runs it–I managed to find myself in a niche where I worked predominantly with churches and other ministries.
How does your faith impact your design?
So much of design is about telling a story–it’s all communication. In terms of storytelling, we have the greatest story ever. The gospel is profound and life-changing, and I feel privileged to have the chance to help churches share that story with the world.
I also like the image from Genesis of Adam being placed on the earth to bring order to it. To a very small extent I feel like I share a part in that by using design to bring order to information, making it easier for people to understand it.
Why do you think churches should use WordPress to create their website?
WordPress is a great platform for churches for a couple of reasons. One major one is simply that of cost. Budget restrictions are just a reality of life in churches (especially smaller ones), so the fact that WordPress is open-source and free is hugely appealing.
The other main appeal is the strong community surrounding WordPress. If you need a way to do something, chances are someone has figured it out before you…and probably written about it. I never cease to be blown away by the generosity of the WordPress community when it comes to helping each other out.
When did you decide to start ChurchSites? How did this process come about?
In the 5 years I have been working specifically with churches, I’ve regularly run into challenges when it comes to budget. Unfortunately, the cost of a fully custom designed and developed website was out of reach for many churches.
That got me thinking about the needs churches have from a website. While it is always best to have a tailor-made solution for their unique situation, there are a lot of similarities in what every church needs from their website–sermons, events, blogs, etc.
So I decided to set up ChurchSites to give churches a cost-effective solution that suited their needs specifically.
What makes ChurchSities unique?
The great thing about ChurchSites is that it can get churches up and running with a WordPress website that suits their needs specifically.
All they have to do is pick one of our base templates and supply us with their logo, branding, and some images. We’ll customize the design to incorporate their branding and imagery, and set them up a site complete with ability to manage sermons, events, and even multiple locations (as well as the usual content management).
We’ll handle the server setup, arrange weekly and daily backups, and even handle WordPress updates as they come around. All they need to do is enter their content.
What is the critical info that you think should be on every home church’s homepage? Why is it important? Where should they incorporate it?
In my eyes, every church should have their location and service times front and center on the homepage (and ideally throughout the site). This makes it easy for people to know when and where to go if they want to visit.
Beyond that, I think it is important that the homepage communicates what is unique about your church, whether in word or images. It’s a chance to really share the personality of your church and the things that are important to it.
In your 2014 Church Webtrends Blog, you mentioned that you think churches should focus more on the user. Why is that important? How can churches do that with their sites?
Churches can often make the mistake of building a website that suits the internal structure of the church or the way the staff want it to be. For the website to be truly effective, it needs to be made for the proposed users of the site–often the congregation and the community they are trying to reach.
It pays for churches to take a step back and think about who will be using their website. Then all the decisions about design, copy, and more can be made with that in mind.
What are the biggest mistakes you see churches make with their websites? How can they avoid them?
The biggest mistake that many churches make is that they haven’t updated their website in years and years.
There’s a great article by Steve Fogg that talks about your church’s website being the front porch to the church. It is the first thing many visitors will see, and it has the opportunity to make a great first impression.
Sadly, arriving at a church website that is stagnant, with a 10 year old design, and content that hasn’t been updated in 3, doesn’t paint the church itself in a very flattering light. So it pays to pay attention to your website.
What do you like to do when you are not developing WordPress themes?
My lovely wife and I just welcomed our first child (a little baby girl) 4 months ago, so I’m really enjoying being Dad. Not a day goes past where she doesn’t do something new and interesting.
Other than that I enjoy playing the drums, taking photos of just about anything, and am a sucker for TV series with long story arcs.
Here are some previews of the themes at ChurchSites.co: