We are trying a new thing here at ChurchWP.net. We are starting a series called Designer Interviews. It is a chance for you to get to know the people and the stories of the companies behind the themes we review and recommend.
Our first interview is with Steven Gliebe (Facebook and Twitter @stevengliebe) He is the founder of ChurchThemes.com and the designer of the Resurrect Theme. It is one of our personal favorite themes because it is loaded with some great features. Read more about this theme in our full review!
How long have you been involved in web design and what go you started?
It’s been about 17 years now. I made my first website about a computer game as a teenager. It started as a hobby and eventually became my profession. People saw my hobby sites and asked me to design their sites, so I did. I was told by an older friend that I should consider doing web design for a living. That really got me thinking that maybe that is what I could do. I have been blessed to be doing it full-time for 11 years now.
How did you get interested in church websites?
I first took an interest in the WordPress publishing platform about three years ago and decided to give a go at making a WordPress theme. My first theme was for artists and photographers to create portfolio websites. Not too many people used it, so I went looking for a more productive niche to tackle. My research found that there were many churches using WordPress but few themes made specifically for churches. As a Christian, this really appealed to me, so I made a church theme of my own.
I put that church theme up on a popular marketplace and the amount of attention it got from churches exceeded my expectation. With that response, I felt like the Lord was opening the door for me to do more. I was able to acquire the churchthemes.com domain name for a fair price (that’s not common) and use some of the resources my first theme was generating to set up churchthemes.com. Now I’m focusing on building and supporting church WordPress themes full-time.
What do you think are the must-haves of every church website?
Useful content and an easy way to find that content are absolute musts.
Visitors are looking for things like service times and location. That information should be able to be found in seconds. Place it prominently on the homepage or header and link to it from your menu. Pages telling the visitor what the church believes and what to expect are also useful for visitors (my wife and I have been new in town and I remember what we were checking church sites for). There should also be a simple and well-organized menu where people expect it to be — at the top of every page.
Events (when kept up-to-date!) are handy for regulars. An events section would more or less be like an online bulletin. Many times my wife or I ask the other what time or day such and such is. It’s very convenient to find that information on our church’s website, especially when I can’t locate a bulletin or remember what exactly it was that the announcement video said.
I also like to see a church website with news (blog), a sermon archive (missed church? curious potential visitor?) and staff profiles (with contact information). A mobile-friendly website is a plus as well (our themes are responsive so that’s automatic) since so many people now use phones and tablets to surf the web (especially if they’re new to town and not all hooked up at home yet).
Why do you think churches should use WordPress to create their website?
WordPress is a proven platform. More than 60,000,000 websites are powered by it and almost 20% of new websites use it. It is better than ever after 10 years of continuous development. The reason for its success is that people find it flexible enough for their needs and easy enough to use. You don’t need design or coding experience; just click your way around and type in content like using word processing software. A church theme will give the WordPress site a more church-like appearance.
Cost is another major reason churches should use WordPress for their website. WordPress is free while a church theme can be bought for $50 (with us, that includes support). You need hosting (where your site lives on the internet) for WordPress which runs about $10/month (free for nonprofits with DreamHost). So you can see the cost is next to nothing compared to most other solutions.
Why did you start up ChurchThemes.com? Where do you see things headed?
The purpose of churchthemes.com is to help churches build useful websites, even those with small budgets, for the purpose of reaching the lost in their community with the gospel.
We launched last month with our first theme, Resurrect, and have built a framework to streamline the production of more church WordPress themes. Our plan is to produce a variety of church themes with different looks so that there is something that appeals to every church.
What makes your Resurrect theme unique? Why is it a good investment for churches?
One great thing about Resurrect is that its appearance can be customized to match a church using a newer feature of WordPress: the Theme Customizer. Without having any web design expertise, a pastor, staff member or volunteer can upload their logo, choose between light and dark color schemes, switch the background image (or use a color), select different fonts, and so on.
Something else that makes it unique is its use of our Church Theme Content plugin. For the long story, read Justin Tadlock’s “Why Custom Post Types Belong in Plugins. In short (and in English for the non-developer), this means it’s easier for churches to switch themes in the future, whether the theme is from us or another theme provider whose themes are compatible with the plugin. We decided to invest some extra time in the beginning for the future benefit of churches who choose WordPress.
Lastly, it’s a good investment because we’re here to help. The $50 price tag includes a year of one-on-one support via email. Our support includes help using the theme’s features and addressing any problems that users run into. We also have step-by-step guides that walk users through setup and managing their church website. Also included are one-click theme updates for new features and bug fixes. Support and updates can be renewed at $25 per year.
We have a money-back guarantee as well, so churches are free to try our theme for several weeks without risk.
What do you like to do when you are not developing WordPress themes?
My favorite thing to do is spend time with my wife. I enjoy reading and gardening, especially growing food (blackberries, tomatoes, and peppers). Sometimes I have thoughts (whether rational or not) of being a farmer. Being outside and interacting with the Lord’s creation refreshes me. I also enjoy shuttling churchgoers around in a limousine golf cart on Sundays.
Thanks again Steven for taking the time to introduce yourself, your company, and your heart to ChurchWP.net! To learn more about Steven and why and how he created ChurchThemes.com, check out his introductory blog post here.