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Page-Specific Permissions

Church website administrators ought to expect to have the ability to grant permissions to users for any webpage. Finalweb's content management solutions offers just that functionality. Each website comes with unlimited user accounts and unlimited webpages, so the possibilities are endless for giving contributors access to managing content. This brief video gives a quick overview of how to easily set these permissions:

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Working with Custom Forms

Collecting pertinent data is a helpful functionality of well-designed church websites. Let's say there is an upcoming event that simply needs a "head-count", or a need to collect interest in a possible new ministry, or just a way for visitors to submit prayer requests to church leadership. Having the ability to dynamically create forms that will keep data stored online and email results is a powerful feature that should be leveraged.

Finalweb's Church & Ministry package includes access to the form and questionnaire builder without any extra cost. What's more, users are free to create an unlimited number of forms. This is a brief description of how to setup and deploy a new one:

  1. Log in and open the Site Manager.
  2. Under the "Pages and Content" select the "Form & Questionnaire Builder" option.
  3. If there is a currently-existing form, you will see it listed and will be able to modify the form's ordering, add or remove form elements and view responses.

  4. To create a new form, click the "Add New Questionnaire" button at the bottom.
  5. Fill in a title and an admin email address for the form, then select one of the layout options. We recommend the White Background option as well as keeping the anti-spam security enabled. When finished with configuration, just save the changes.

  6. You'll be directed back to the library of forms, and in order to add questions, just click the title of the form in the list.
  7. The next page displays existing questions, and provides an "Add Question" button at the bottom. Just click that button to begin adding form elements.
  8. The next step will provide area for the question title. This might be, for example, "Name:", or "Please describe how you feel about…", "Choose from the following:", etc.

  9. The next part prompts for a question type from the drop-down list. Select one of the following:
    • Single-line text - The most basic form element. Usually used for name, email address, etc.
    • Multi-line text - If there is a longer amount of text to be entered for the response, this is best.
    • Drop-down list - This type provides a list of options from which to choose, arranged in a drop-down manner.
    • Radio Button Options - A stacked list of options next to radio buttons; only one may be selected.
    • Single Checkbox - A single checkbox element, to be used for a question like "Check here to be included in our mailings." Checkbox List - This renders a stack of responses next to checkboxes; multiple options can be selected.
    • Comment - Simply is text that needs to be inserted as instructions or commentary; there is no response associated with.
  10. The required field option can be checked if necessary, and then the layout needs to be chosen. We like to recommend the "next to the question" option, since it usually makes better use of your page space. It's completely up to you, though.
  11. Save changes to the newly-created element, and then it will appear in the list of items for the form.
  12. Continue to create new questions until everything is set, and then the form is ready to be linked from one of the menus.

  13. Open up a menu editor (top, side, bottom, etc.) and then click the Forms tab at the bottom to select the one you'd like.

Hopefully this is helpful as you seek to add more functionality to your church's website.

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Friendly URLs

Long URLs can be annoying. If your church website has, say, a subsite for the youth group, the location might be something like: "www.mysamplechurch.org/sites/cpage.asp?sec_id=190012384&cpage_id=16093884". That's not the easiest string to remember, nor is it all that nice to look at. Enter friendly URLs, a way to easily clean up the paths to your pages for convenience and SEO optimization. Instead of a long URL, you could announce something much easier, like "www.mysamplechurch.org/youth".

Behind the scenes, a friendly URL is simply a virtual directory within Internet Information Services on the web server. The name of the friendly url is used as the name of the pretend folder that points to an actual file within the website. It's kinda like creating a shortcut to a file, so that you don't have to navigate through a bunch of folders to find what you want.

To create a friendly URL, just log in and navigate to the Site Manager. From the left menu, select Tools - Add/Modify Friendly URLs. (NOTE: If you are using a trial site, this feature will not be available, since there has to be a domain name and a site configured on the server in order for it to work) Just type in a name and the entire URL (inlcuding "http://") and click the "Add Friendly URL" button to save. The configuration will take up to 30 minutes to complete, but once it's done you'll be set to go with an easier way to get to your pages. Feel free to make as many of these as you like.

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Podcasting

iTunes PodcastingOne of the most compelling reasons to have a church website is to provide visitors recordings of weekly sermons. An easy-to-use library of audio files with sorting by date, text, speaker, etc. can make your sermons accessible for anyone who visits the site. This library, however, requires users to remember to come back each week to download or listen to the most recent addition. A convenient tool for making the files even more easily accessible is the podcast.

By far the most popular podcast reader is iTunes, a free download from apple.com. Adding a feed is simple, but it might not be the most intuitive part of the application. Under the "Advanced" menu, click "Subscribe to Podcast…", then paste the URL to the podcast feed and click OK. iTunes will automatically download new sermons once they have been added to the podcast feed file.

To retrieve a podcast feed from your church website, navigate to the sermon download library click the "Subscribe to Podcast" button. If there are categories created for the library, you'll have the opportunity to select a particular podcast, or to subscribe to everything. The next window will provide the podcast feed URL; copy and paste into iTunes (or the player of your choice).

Now, the easiest step of all. How do you create the podcast file? What do you have to do to get the file on your site for visitors to copy? The answer - nothing. Just add files to the download library as usual and the podcast feed is generated automatically. No need to know how to code or anything. This solution will add great benefit to your church website without any extra work.

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Menu Builder 101

A few months ago, all church website users were provided an upgraded menu builder for all menu layouts on any site Finalweb hosts. This new menu builder contains a few key features that provide specific control over menu elements and allow an easy (and fun) user interface for working with items. Here are just a few highlights to demonstrate capability and provide assistance in case you get stuck:

Drag and Drop

We have developed a state-of-the-art system that allows intuitive reordering/adding/deleting of menu items. All you need to do to be able to create or remove or rearrange your menu links is click on one and then move to the location it should be. To move one link to another position, just click and drag the element to another spot within the menu. To add another item, just select the page type from the huge list of available content at the bottom, and drag it to the correct position in the menu. To delete a menu element, just click and drag to the trash can. This is an amazingly simple way to create a powerful menu structure.

Submenus

In order to do the drag-and-drop operations with submenu items, you'll need to double-click the parent element. For instance, if you have a "Resources" link or header in the menu, double-click the link to see an expanded box for adding submenu links. Just drag items from the library below (or from another location in the menu) into the newly-opened area, and flyout links will be automatically generated.

Create New Pages

In past CMS versions, users had to click a link to create a new page, and then go add that page to a menu. While that can still be done, the menu builder can now actually facilitate the creation of new pages. At the bottom of the menu builder page, under the "Add More Content" tab, you'll find several options of page types, and also under "Dynamic Pages" tab, a "New Dynamic Page" option. After adding one of these new pages, saving, and clicking on the link in your site, you'll be prompted to add new content.

The menu structure is an important part of a good web design, and this tool aims to make your menu building experience easy and productive.

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Topbar Image Demonstration


As mentioned in the last post, a commonly-edited area of Finalweb church websites is the topbar image section. This brief video demonstrates how to upload and manipulate images for newer templates.


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Working with Topbar Images

Probably the best way to make your Finalweb church website unique is to add custom images to the scrolling topbar section. This chore might at first seem daunting, but we've made some tools to make the process as simple as possible. You can use photos that you've taken with your own camera, or download stock  images from Microsoft Office Clipart, or pay for professional graphics at an online store such as iStockPhoto. Also, if you have access to editing software you can add text and textures and gradients and opacity effects to add an extra flare. Here are a few tips:

  1. Note the image dimensions for the template you've selected. If you click the "Edit Topbar Images" button, the topbar image height and width in pixels will be displayed. When looking for images to use, and when editing them with software, be sure to keep in mind that you will need to crop to a ratio that will fit that specified area. Also, there is variation to these dimensions between templates, so be sure to take this into consideration when switching.
  2. Get permission, give credit. If you use a photo of, say, a church-wide activity, make sure you are certain that each person in a photo doesn't mind being up on the website. Your church website is publicly accessible from just about anywhere in the world, and some individuals might not want to have that potential visibility. Also, if you use a photo that was taken by a person or organization that requires acknowledgment, be sure to include that either on the photo or somewhere on the page.
  3. Use text, textures and opacity. If you have access to Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or other editors, you can add extra elements to pictures that really make them stand out. Simple changes and make a world of difference in taking a church website to the next level. Add simple text headers or quotations, in front of an opaque background, to one part of an image. Add a texture to the image to give it a certain look and feel. Add a gradient to fade out to white or black. Little things like these suggestions can go a long way to getting the site you want.

After your images are saved in JPG format, all you have to do is  upload them to the topbar section. Newer templates allow for 10 images, arranged in any order, and can ever contain links to external or internal pages. You can also use our image manipulation tool to resize and crop your images for any fine-tuning adjustments that need to be made.

Hopefully these thoughts are helpful, and we hope you have fun creating images to make your church's site look and function the way that it needs.


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Adding Custom HTML Content

Oftentimes a need arises to insert HTML content into a web page. You might want to add a Facebook or Twitter widget directly to a home page, or embed a Google map into an information page, or display the weather forecast from Accuweather in a prominent location. Even if you don't quite understand much about HMTL code, you'll find it easy to add it to your site.

Whether you want to compose script yourself, or just paste a snippet provided by a third-party, the first thing to do is to open the text editor for the area in which the HTML code should go. You will notice in the top row of the toolbar area, to the very left, a button titled "Source." Just click this and your editor area will transform into an HTML-editing textarea.

If you're working with an already-blank section, all you need to do is paste your copied HTML, or begin composing. If, however, you already have content in the section which should be preserved, you will need to locate the correct position for your custom code. (*NOTE: if you are inserting HTML into current content, you might want to copy/paste the existing text before inserting the new code) After pasting/typing code, click the "Save" button and you'll be able to see how your browser renders the code.

It is possible to have some serious rendering problems when performing this action. Usually these issues are due to not copying the entirety of the provided code, or not pasting correctly. If you see an error, and you can't pinpoint exactly where you went wrong, the Finalweb support team will be more than happy to assist you in any way they can.

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Finalweb Tips and Tricks

Building a church website can be a challenging exercise. At Finalweb, our goal is to provide a beautiful product that is affordable, functional and usable. We continue to add new templates and develop most sophisticated solutions for generating content, but we also want to be sure we are providing the best assistance we can for making Finalweb as easy to use as ever.

This is why we are launching the Finalweb Tips and Tricks Blog. We will frequently post solutions to common questions, suggestions for how to make a church website look professional, and ideas for how to make the most of our feature-rich system. Hopefully, this will be helpful for current customers to learn all that can easily be done with the product, and also for prospective customers who wish to see how our solution can meet the needs of their church websites.

Check back here for further postings, and subscribe to our RSS feed for automatic notifications. Also, follow our Twitter feed (@Finalweb) and like us on Facebook.

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