Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with Alan Smith of Coffee Cup Ministries to refresh his internet presence. In our strategy session, Alan and I discussed finding him the best web hosting solution for his website, making sure that it also looked good as a mobile website, and upgrading his email newsletter.
A little about Alan Smith
Alan is a Homeland Missionary, based just outside of hostinNashville, TN. He is the Assistant Missions pastor at Springhouse Worship and Arts Center. He works with Community Servants, a local organization that provides housing and education for low-income families.
Incidentally, Alan was kind enough to let me interview him for the first episode of the Engaging Missions Internet Radio Show. If you want to know when the show launches, sign up for the newsletter.
Before we started, we talked
Alan and I started talking about refreshing his web presence several months ago. His website and email newsletter had some opportunities for improvement in terms of speed and usability and I was happy to be able to help him.
Alan’s Old Website
His previous website was built on the Joomla! platform, which is very powerful but sometimes difficult to use. The theme that he was using looked dated and didn't display properly on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones. Since Alan is considerate of his website visitors but didn't want to build a separate mobile website, we decided to make his new website mobile friendly.
As it turns out, this was really important. In fact, if you look at the image below, you'll see that even on tablets, nearly a third of the page didn't render in “portrait” mode.
But we didn't start with the website
Alan's old email newsletter was integrated with his website but there were some functionality concerns, particularly in the way that it displayed previous newsletters. And it didn't offer best-in-class tracking and anlytics.
So, the first thing we did was set Alan up with a free email newsletter account through MailChimp. This was an easy win for us and was really inexpensive for him; his new email newsletter is free for up to 2,000 subscribers, offers great tracking and analytics, and has some great-looking email templates.
We were able to import his existing subscribers with no issues and got him off and running.
Choosing the best web hosting
Next, Alan moved to Bluehost for his website hosting. I believe that Bluehost offers the best web hosting for people like Alan. They have great prices and excellent customer service.
He’d been working with a small company that offered great prices but felt it was time to upgrade. As we talked, we agreed that going with Bluehost would offer what he was looking for in terms of price and performance.
Just like choosing a place to live, there are usually three main considerations – cost, infrastructure, and amenities. In a house, those are the balance that lead to “location, location, location.” in the case of the best web hosting, it's the same.
- What do you need?
- What do you want?
- What can (or will) you pay?
In all three of these, I believed that Bluehost was the best option for Alan and he agreed. For about $85 per year we were able to get him a shared hosting plan that included his domain registration and has performed very well on speed tests.
Of course, my recommendation mattered – I've been very happy with Bluehost for myself. I've found their software very easy to work with and have never had any issues. In fact, I like them so much that I became an Affiliate for them.
Building the frame
One of the things we wanted to do was make sure that Alan's website was really easy to work with. While Joomla! was powerful, Alan found it hard to work with. I can say that I've worked with Joomla! as well and I believe there are solutions that are easier to work with – like WordPress (my current recommendation).
After all, Alan is a minister, not a web developer. He wants to connect with people, not learn how to set up a web page. He wants to minister, not mess with troubleshooting or clicking any more buttons than he has to.
As we discussed the features of WordPress, Alan agreed that it would be a good solution for him. So as soon as we had his hosting set up, I went to work.
We installed WordPress and then I got to work. There was a lot to do. We had to migrate all of his old content, move all of his graphics and videos, make sure everything was clean and secure, and give his website a killer look.
The first thing I did was apply his new look. We were able to get Vintage Immersed, a premium template that normally costs $35 for free. It provided a great look that Alan wanted and is optimized for both mobile and desktop experiences. It worked very well off the shelf and I only had to fix one or two pieces of code.
In contrast to the previous installation, Alan's new website renders differently on computers, tablets, and smartphones – it's almost like having a separate mobile website without all the headache.
As a note, this is almost a requirement now. In fact, Google has announced that mobile-friendly websites are a priority – even in search results.
Then we installed some plugins to optimize his new website and make sure his visitors have the best experience possible.
- Bible Gateway VOTD to provide the “Verse of the Day”
- Chimp Express to create posts from his newsletters
- RefTagger to create hyperlinks from Scripture references
- WordPress SEO to optimize for search engines
- WP Super Cache to speed the whole thing up
Most of the plugins are pretty straightforward, with very little setup. We did spend a little time tuning WP Super Cache to get the best experience for his particular setup. And I also created a video to help with the Chimp Express newsletter import.
Finally, we migrated the content from his old website to the new WordPress framework. We were able to move all of the pages, newsletters, and pictures. And we also took that opportunity to rewrite his About page, creating a more engaging experience.
Overall, the new website is cleaner and loads as much as a full second faster than the old one. Alan now has a great email newsletter and some excellent integration with his website.
Why not stop by CoffeeCupMinistries.org and give the website a spin? And, while you're at it, check out what he has going on in his ministry and, if what he's doing resonates with you, sign up for his newsletter.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”