One of my favorite features at ChurchWP is our designer interviews. It not only gives you a chance to get to know some of the folks behind the companies we recommend, but they also teach you practical website tips. Today, accomplishes bother. We interview, Eric Murrell. He had his wife, Lauren, are the duo behind Volacious. Eric has created three powerful premium plugins Series Engine, Prayer Engine and more recently Groups Engine. You can follow him on Twitter @EricMurrell WordPress plugins are his specialty, so we ask him some specific questions about what things you should consider when determining, which plugins are right for your church website. (Click here to check our our favorites church plugins!). Hope you enjoy it!
How long have you been involved in web design and what got you started?
For about 15 years. I was a huge nerd (still am) in High School and made some pretty amazing sites on Geocities back in the day. This sparked a passion for web development, which continued in college, and turned into a full time career over the years.
How did you get interested in church plugins?
I’ve been working with WordPress for ages now, and through my work with the #CreativeMissions project I noticed a lot of churches (both large and small) were migrating their sites to WordPress.
With that came a unique set of challenges… How do you organize sermons? How do you keep your Small Groups up-to-date throughout your site? Is there a better way to share prayer requests than just an email form?
Plugins are compelling to me because they can dramatically enhance a site (and a ministry) with very little effort. It makes WordPress the ideal web platform for most churches.
What types of things should churches consider when determining which plugin in to use?
There are a few important things to consider…
- How’s the user experience? It can be tempting to go with the most popular solution, or the first free plugin you find, but a lot of the time its your users that pay the price. Find something that’s beautiful, simple to use, and a good match for your site’s design.
- Can it grow with your ministry? Does the plugin offer the flexibility and customization you need to make it work for you now, and even with you through the years?
- Is it mobile friendly? The very best plugins should be fully responsive and provide a compelling experience on every device available.
When did you start Volacious? Why did you chose that name?
My wife and I began Volacious shortly after we were married. My wife’s an incredible graphic designer, and many times we work on client projects together. We chose the Volacious name because it’s something unique, and it refers to something that is fit to take flight (We have high hopes for our side business.).
What plugins do you current offer? Why should churches consider them rather than some of the free options out there?
Our current offerings are Prayer Engine, Series Engine, and (launching this week) Groups Engine. All of these offer solutions that are much more fleshed out than any other tool.
Prayer Engine allows ministries to quickly build unlimited prayer walls for their sites. It installs in seconds, and offers prayer teams an elegant prayer management and moderation system that’s lightyears beyond the typical email prayer chain. Visitors to the prayer wall can respond to prayer needs with one click, and the person who submitted the prayer request receives an email notification that someone is praying. It’s the best way to share prayer requests online.
Series Engine is a powerful plugin for managing audio/video sermon archives and unlimited podcasts. Within seconds, you can create media pages on any page or post on your site, and explore your content by series, speaker, and topic.
Series Engine also includes effortless podcasting, making it easy to generate unlimited custom podcasts using the content you’ve already entered into the system. Your pastor will love it!
Groups Engine is our newest plugin, and may be the best investment you can make for your small groups ministry. It includes powerful group search that’s both beautiful, and extremely simple for your audience to use. Visitors to your site can explore groups in whatever format is the best for them (including an incredible map view), view detailed group descriptions, and contact group leaders using a simple form.
Groups Engine also includes a robust contact management system and a lightning-fast report library. We think it will become one of your favorite tools in your digital arsenal.
Why do you think churches should use WordPress to create their website?
There’s a lot of power and opportunity in numbers; WordPress is one of the most popular Content Management Systems on the planet, and it gets better every month. It’s free to use, and there are some incredible themes and plugins available out there that are perfect for ministries (even those with small budgets).
No matter what you want to accomplish with your site, you can probably find a great solution with WordPress.
What information do you think every church website should include? Why is it important?
It depends on the needs of the church. Here’s some of the most popular information on our site:
- Schedule/Directions – This should be extremely easy to find and ALWAYS up to date.
- Staff Information – Lots of folks want to get acquainted with the pastor and other staff before they attend. Include big photos, links to social media, and a friendly description for each.
- Recent News and Upcoming Events – Normally on the home page. Give visitors a glimpse into the life of your church.
- Group Information – Most folks want to try out both a worship service and a smaller group meeting. Make sure this information is always up-to-date, and that its easy to find where groups meet.
- Messages/Sermons – At least the message from last week if possible. It helps visitors know what to expect, and catch up on the current series before they come.
- Contact Information – Make sure there’s a highly visible way for folks to reach out and ask questions.
What is the critical info that should be on every home church’s homepage? Why is it important?
Schedules, directions (or links to them), contact information, and an overview of what’s going on in the church. It should be easy for your visitors to get a good idea of what your church is like just by clicking over to your homepage.
Are there any mistakes you see churches make with their websites? Anything churches should try to avoid?
Your website should be the cornerstone of your communication strategy; its the front door to your church in the digital age, and is a huge factor in a visitor deciding to visit for the first time.
The biggest mistake is letting your website get out of date, or not investing in your website at all. In the long run, it’s actually one of the cheapest communication tools at your disposal.
What do you like to do when you are not developing WordPress plugins?
My full-time job is serving as the Communication Director at Long Hollow (http://longhollow.com), a large multi-site church in Nashville that has experienced explosive growth over the past 15 years. It’s unbelievable to be a part of what God is doing there.
In my free time, I love camping, reading novels, and hanging out with my awesome family.