We here at ChurchWP.net think is it important to learn about some of the folks behind the themes and plugins we recommend. We try to introduce you to them via our Designer Interview series. It is not only a great, unique way for you to get to know the designers and the stories of the companies behind the themes we review and recommend, but it’s also a good way to learn some great design tips from them too!
We are privileged to interview Bill Robbins (Facebook and Twitter @billrobbins). He is the founder of OrganziedThemes.com and the designer of the multiple church themes. You can read our reviews on his themes here!
How long have you been involved in web design and what go you started?
My first web site was for a community we were launching for twenty-somethings at the church where I used to work. At that time the church’s main website couldn’t be edited by the staff, and I wanted something that I could update myself so that it could serve as a hub for our community.
So I bought a HTML template from Template Monster in the fall of 2004 and that’s where it all began.
How did you get interested in church websites?
Initially all my web sites were for churches. Since I worked at a church for six years, it was natural to start out with church sites. I had a working knowledge of what churches were hoping to do with their websites and the limitations they were experiencing with the tools they had available to them.
At the time I started making sites, WordPress was very much a blogging tool, but I could see the potential for finally allowing churches to be in charge of their content. Being able to give churches complete content control was a huge win at the time.
How does your faith impact your design?
When I was in seminary, a professor of mine once told me that she went into teaching as a way to increase the impact of her ministry. Working in a local church, she could do quite a bit, but nothing compared to what could be done by helping to train hundreds of future church leaders. That statement always stuck with me.
I view what I create at Organized Themes as an extension to the ministry God has called me to. It’s been an incredible way to help churches all over the world with the mission that God has given them. Having a site that they can easily manage is one less worry while also being a useful tool to help accomplish their vision.
We also help quite a few non-profits too, and it’s always been exciting to see the causes that we’ve been able to help. I’m thrilled to be a part of helping so many people all over the world.
Why do you think churches should use WordPress to create their website?
Freedom. You’re in control. The church can effectively run their own site, from the initial set up to the smallest bits of content publishing. It’s no more difficult than posting to Facebook.
If you need some additional functionality, there’s likely already a plugin that does just that. Plus, with WordPress being so common, there’s likely someone already in your church that has experience and can help you out if you need it.
When did you start Organized Themes? How did this process come about?
In the summer of 2008, I noticed there were not many WordPress themes for churches and non-profits out there, despite WordPress being a great tool for both groups to use. So I started developing themes, and in September of that year, Organized Themes opened for business with a handful of themes made for churches.
We were actually one of the first theme shops around. In retrospect, I should have tested out the demand for church themes a bit before launching. There just weren’t that many people looking for church themes at the time. I noticed lots of our themes being used for other uses: architectural firms, yoga studios, restaurants, and some churches too. That was a bit unexpected, but it was still fun.
Eventually the church market grew and along with it our business. We settled in on three niches that are important to me: churches, non-profits and restaurants. The first two are a natural pairing. Our restaurant niche came about because my wife and I are foodies and had learned from experience that many restaurant websites are lacking, so we moved into that area too. On vacation this summer we were looking for places to eat in Charleston, SC and found two local restaurants using our themes.
What makes Organized Themes unique? Why would one of your themes be a good investment for churches?
There are lots of good themes out there. There really are. What we offer that’s unique is history. We’ve been doing this for years now and have quite a bit of experience and user feedback to drawn upon. We take what our customers tell us and use that to improve our themes.
We’re also very attentive to support. I really believe in going above and beyond in offering top-level support. Some companies boast about all tickets having an initial response in 24 hours. I really work hard to try and have every support request answered in the first hour it is submitted. It’s not unusual to have a response from inside of 10 minutes during normal business hours. It’s not a promise that I can always be that quick, but it’s a personal goal and one that’s met quite often too.
What information do you think every church website should include? Why is it important?
Churches typically have two main purposes behind their sites: they want to engage with potential visitors and also connect with their existing community.
For your visitors, you need to clearly communicate your contact information, service times, and location. You also need to spell out in a clear and concise way who you are as a church and what you’re about.
For your existing members, you want to have information about what’s happening—either a calendar or some event listing. You’ll also want some way for members to give and sign up for groups/events too.
What is the critical info that should be on every home church’s homepage? Why is it important?
You need to have something that indicates who you are as a church, preferably with imagery or even a short video as opposed to a lot of text. People will likely skim, so you want to make sure to catch their attention and communicate quickly.
You also need to have your service times, location, and phone number prominently displayed along with either a map or link to a map.
Are there any mistakes you see churches make with their websites? Anything churches should try to avoid?
Bad designs, poor font/color combinations. Old content. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something. Too often churches don’t think through what they hope to accomplish with their websites. They just look at other church’s sites and say “I like that” vs. really thinking through what they need and why. Every church is unique and their site should reflect that.
What do you like to do when you are not developing WordPress themes?
My wife and I love movies, so we take one in most every week. I’ve also recently started enjoying novels. I’d always read books about church, business or faith, but it’s been a nice change to read something just for pleasure.
We have three small boys who more than keep us busy, so there isn’t as much “free” time as there once was. But I wouldn’t trade that for anything. They’re only little for such a short time. I want to take full advantage of the opportunities we have with them.
Thanks Bill for taking the time to introduce yourself and your company to ChurchWP.net! We love your heart for WordPress theme design and for the mission of the church!
If you would like to learn more about what we think of Organized Themes’ work, you can read our full reviews here!
Here is a screenshot of his Epic Church WordPress theme: