It was a tough decision. I needed to narrow it down to just one or two website providers. When I make recommendations to Rio Texas churches, I want to give them as many options as possible. But I also knew we couldn’t possibly offer training and support on every possible provider. While churches, of course, have the freedom to use any vendor they want, it was clear that I needed to recommend only one or two.
I picked Squarespace and Weebly. See my post, “Going All In on Squarespace and Weebly (Sort Of)” for the details of what went into that decision.
This week, I am finishing up my first Squarespace for Churches webinar series. I won’t make a call on how well it went until I see the evaluations and count how many new sites actually go live. However, I have watched a few of the sites really come together and the platform continues to seem well suited for churches, even those with very little technical ability.
What I am impressed with at this point is how Squarespace is stepping up. I have to admit, going with a young platform made me a little nervous. With a rapidly changing web landscape, I was hopeful that Squarespace would prove itself to be a company that would keep innovating. Squarespace has indeed stepped up.
It is my job to pay attention to the details of websites that most churches will never have time to think about. Every time some new kink comes over the horizon, I am left wondering if Squarespace is going to adapt. And, so far, they are stepping up.
One of those pesky details that recently became a concern is Google’s push to move websites from HTTP to HTTPS. HTTP and HTTPS refer to the protocols used to communicate between a website and a web browser. In oversimplified, plain English terms, HTTPS indicates a secure connection between the website and your browser.
This is accomplished using something called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). SSL ensures that all the information going back and for between you and the website is secure. This is especially important for commerce websites where that information might include credit card numbers and personal information.
But now, it is more than a privacy issue. Google is, by far, the dominant player in search engines. So, they have a lot of power to change the landscape. Their desire to see more secure connections is enforced through search engine rankings. Again, in plain English, if your website does not use the HTTPS, Google will not rank it as high in search results.
For me, search engine results are an evangelism issue. When people are searching the web, I want to see our churches at the top. This is especially true if people are searching for a church but I am also encouraging churches to feature content that will allow them to be found when people are searching for other things that the church should be talking about.
Google recently announced that they are moving forward in their effort to give priority in searches to secure sites. This made me a little nervous. Squarespace hadn’t said much in response to questions about moving to the HTTPS protocol with their sites. Some developers had found some workarounds, but they were much too complex for the average church. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Squarespace announced that they were offering to enable HTTPS on every website, at no extra charge.
This is great news. Most churches will never pay attention to this issue. Very few church websites, at this point, send or receive personal or financial information. However, they do want to be found in web searches. And this is about more than search results. It shows that Squarespace is a serious platform.
And that is not the only way Squarespace is stepping up. They recently rolled out their Circle program that allows designers and developers a little more flexibility while working on client websites. That is a huge help for me as I am helping churches get set up. They have also rolled out support for Google’s new AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) program which optimizes pages for even faster load times on mobile devices.
I will soon be reviewing the first offering of Squarespace for Churches and will keep you posted if and when we offer it again.
In the meantime, if your Rio Texas church is thinking about creating or updating a website, the Media Center will be glad to help. Just fill out this form and we will send you some information to get you started. Or, learn more at riotexas.org/websites.