Building a WEB Ministry
-- the "Nuts n' Bolts"

By Total Love In Christ Ministries

This column will deal with creating
and maintaining an Online Ministry
.

Vol. One-3 --- "Substance from the Void"
* Click for Volume Index *     May 15, 2006

1:6 God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters and let it separate water from water. 1:7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. It was so. 1:8 God called the expanse “sky.” There was evening, and there was morning, a second day. 1:9 God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear.” It was so. 1:10 God called the dry ground “land” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” God saw that it was good. **** Genesis

Design:

Welcome back to Volume 3. Now that you have a name and a place to build, we are ready to actually "Build the House", to design the site.

Here are a couple of resources that you can take a look at: First, two WEB pages with many good links to many helpful sites [ www.totlogcon.com/bussop1.htm ] and [ www.totlogcon.com/hotlnk1.htm ]. Second, I have a Seminar CD that I put together for the setting up of an eBook eCommerce business. However, the general information, tools, tips, and software would be of immense value in ANY Internet venture.

So to begin !! There are basically four ways to design a WEB Site:

ONE - The first is to use the on-site design tools that many of the free sites offer. While these are easy to use, requiring no knowledge of HTML code, this is the LEAST DESIRABLE method. The reason is, as I cautioned you in the last column regarding the free Microsoft site, you will NOT be able to conveniently take the site with you if you should decide to change hosting companies. This is because you do not have FTP access to the files. More on this in a later column.

TWO - The second method (which many may find to be the MOST desirable method) is to use a WEB design program. This method virtually eliminates the need to know anything about HTML programming (is that a massive sigh of relief that I hear rushing across the NET ??) The drawbacks are that (1.) All of the site pages look virtually the same since they are generated from a common template. This may be good if your aim is uniformity, and bad if you want to express some iota of originality. (2.) It is rather difficult to impossible (depending upon the design software) to make internal changes and/or additions to the HTML code. (3.) You have no understanding of the actual design of the HTML code. It is akin to those who know nothing about their car other than how to put gas in it, turn the ignition key, and go. If there is any problem, they haven't a clue !! (4.) You do not have precise control over the look of the page since you are not able to directly manipulate the HTML code.

THREE - The third is to simply find and use a predefined WEB page template. There are many of these freely available from many WEB sites. This method is similar to item two, both as to strengths and weaknesses. It has, however, a further weakness, consisting of even LESS control over the look of your WEB page since here you are merely using a predefined template with NO design capability. In addition, you would really need some understanding of HTML in order to customize the template to YOUR site.

FOUR - This is, to me, the method of choice, and is how I design my sites. It is the basic HTML editor. There are many of these available for free on the NET, with varying degrees of functionality and complexity. To many, this will be the LEAST desirable method because it involves a knowledge of HTML coding, and is the most time consuming and tedious. It is for this reason, however, that it also allows the MOST control over the look and content of your WEB pages. For those with the time and interest, there are MANY free HTML tutorials available on the WEB, in varying degrees of complexity. However, the BASICS of HTML code are really not that complicated once you get into it !! This knowledge can also then be combined with item three above to customize the various templates to your liking, saving you a lot of work rather than starting the design from scratch.

We will look at this in more detail shortly, as well as sources for the various tools.

Whichever method you choose to design your site, one thing that you will need to do is to ACTUALLY look at the finished product, preferably with more that just one browser (Internet Explorer). The reason for this is that pages DO render differently on different browsers. As I view various sites on the WEB, I can only conclude that perhaps many of the designers never actually LOOKED at the finished product, so many of the following points have been violated. If you are going to build for God (even if it is "ONLY" a WEB site), you want to do the best that you possibly can !! C.S. Lewis commented in one of his essays that it was his observation that so often, "Good works were not really good work !!"

How is the visual appeal of the site ?? Unfortunately, a proper response to this question can not be delineated (at least, not by me) into a set of hard-and-fast rules. It requires an eye with some degree of artistic sensitivity. Often, when viewing a work of art or listening to a piece of music, you can discern whether it is good or bad, expresses talent or not, without necessarily being able put your reasons into words. Yes, a good WEB site IS an artistic as well as a technical achievement.

(1.) Is the content centered on the page, or is it all pushed off to one side (right or left)?
(2.) Is the content pleasingly distributed on the page, or is it crammed into one area with vast blank spaces in other areas? Does it trail off down the page, especially images, with large blank areas as you go?
(3.) Does the length of the page go on - and ON - and ON - AND ON ?? As a corollary to this, are there too many VERY short pages, requiring constant page changes with very little actual content per page?
(4.) Are the images either disproportionately large or small? Are there too many images? Do they artistically blend with the page?
(5.) Is the font size either so large that it looks ridiculous, or so small that you can't read it? Is it appropriate? --

Neither too LARGE nor too small !!

(6.) Are the background and font colors compatible? If you use a background image, is it so "busy" or so vivid that it distracts from or makes it difficult to read the text? A background image used beneath text should be semitransparent or "washed out". This can be achieved with an image editor. DO NOT use a dark text color on a dark background or a light text color on a light background. DO NOT use conflicting colors for text and background, even if the text is still visible. --- It makes for a VERY poor visual experience, and does not encourage one to remain at the site.
(7.) Are the colors used in your site in harmony with each other? Contrary to what MANY WEB designers seem to think, Christian sites DO NOT need to be limited to drab grays, browns, or dark greens and blues. God's creation is vibrant with bright, exploding color. The important point is that the colors harmonize, NOT clash. Experiment with color - Just use some artistic sensitivity !!

Follow are some examples of site design to AVOID. You might also view the 29 sites [ HERE ] for good and bad examples of design.

This is an example of a VERY poor background-font color combination. This is an example of a poor background-font color combination. This is an example of a poor background-font color combination. This is an example of a poor background (image)-font color combination.

I am going to go back on what I said above about using a site-hosted design program ONLY for the package I am going to tell you about here. For this package, however, you REALLY NEED to have high-speed Internet access (NOT a dialup line). There is an excellent FREE PHP design system called Joomla! CMS. It is small, fully self-contained, versatile, very easy to use, and comes with numerous site templates. You can change your ENTIRE site design, instantly, by merely selecting a different template !! You can STILL upload and download your files via FTP. As I said earlier, this is critical to being able to backup your site files and have access to them if you should wish to change hosts.

After you download the software, also go [ HERE ] and [ HERE ] for templates and general reference information.

The templates download as .zip files. You will need to use the "Admin" panel to install each desired template. One IMPORTANT point -- When you upload Limbo to your host server, DO NOT select "transfer files as lowercase" on the FTP program. Joomla! uses BOTH upper and lower case file names.

You may download four WEB Site Design Packages following:
Totally FREE package [ HERE ].
Two 30 day trial packages [ HERE ] and   [ HERE ].

You may find five, FREE, "WYSIWYG" WEB Page Designers (Editors)
[ HERE ],   [ HERE ],   [ HERE ],   [ HERE ],   and [ HERE ].

[ Here ] is an online "Color Lab" to help you visualize and match colors, as well as providing the various color codes.

[ HERE ] is a site devoted to various FREE WEB Master Tools.

There is an excellent collection of FREE site templates [ HERE ].

Access and Download various HTML tutorials and help files
[ HERE ],   [ HERE ] and   [ Here ].

Download a FREE HTML Code Validator [ HERE ]. This program checks the structure of your HTML code for errors.

I believe that should be enough material to digest for this session. You are now ready to decide upon your level of expertise, choose a WEB builder software package, and begin construction on your personal "piece of WEB Real-estate". Before you actually begin, I suggest that you spend some time exploring other Christian WEB sites, note their design strengths and weaknesses, and further solidify your OWN site design. Use Google (or some other search engine) to search on "Christian Ministries".

See you in the next column. We will continue with more specific tips and techniques relating to HTML coding, and the actual site design and construction.

Just a brief word about my background. I am and have been a Computer Consultant for over 30 years -- 15 of them with IBM mainframes and 15 of them with PC hardware, software, and WEB design. I am also an ordained minister and hold a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. I am the director of Total Love in Christ Ministries, located at:   [ www.tlchrist.info ].   My consulting site is at:   [ www.totlogcon.com ].

Yours in Christ till
our next meeting;

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