WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems out there – so popular, in fact, that as of 2016, over 65% of the websites that use a content management system world-wide use WordPress, and over 25% of websites total run on WordPress. Despite that, many people from synagogues who I talk to about rebuilding their websites using WordPress still think that it’s just for creating a blog, when in fact it’s a full-fledged content management system and so much more.
Why do I build all of my synagogue websites using WordPress? Because it’s so easy to manage a website with, and because it’s such a flexible system to design and build a website with. For synagogues, the former is one of the most important selling points, especially since most synagogue websites are managed and updated by volunteers, and WordPress is a system that volunteers of a non-technical background can easily learn.
Here are some of the primary reasons why I believe WordPress is ideal to use for a synagogue’s website, and why I propose that synagogues use it.
- WordPress is free for synagogues (and everyone else, for that matter) – There are no additional costs that your synagogue has to pay to use WordPress, as all hosting companies offer it as an optional one-click add-on with the hosting package that you are already paying for.
- Create any site you want – Whether you want an eCommerce website, a blog, a membership site, a directory, a question/answer forum, or just a regular informational website, WordPress can be used to run them all.
- Lots of features that synagogues commonly need – If you want features such as photo galleries, site searches, contact forms, donation forms, event calendars, etc., there are numerous free plug-ins available to download and use.
- WordPress works entirely through a web interface – The administrative section of WordPress can be accessed from anywhere you have an Internet connection, meaning a synagogue’s volunteer webmaster (1) doesn’t have to be physically present at the synagogue in order to update it; (2) doesn’t need any special software other than a web browser; and (3) doesn’t have be tied to one person’s computer (thus allowing for more people to be able to update the website and eliminating bottlenecks in the administrative process).
- WordPress allows for unlimited user IDs – If more than one person at your synagogue needs to be able to update the website, WordPress allows for that. It lets you create an unlimited number of unique user IDs and passwords, so as many people who need to update it can do so. You can also assign various roles to a user ID so that you can, for example, only give someone permission to update content and not to update site settings and other things that site administrators will do.
- WordPress uses an easy-to-use WYSIWYG interface – Writing content for the website is done in an easy-to-use WYSIWYG interface, with simple buttons for text styles, bulleted lists, links, images, etc. Just like Microsoft Word, Outlook, Gmail, etc.
- Synagogue webmasters don’t need to know HTML – Whoever is charged with updating the synagogue website doesn’t need to know HTML or any other programming language. All someone must do is go to the dashboard in their URL, log in, type and click.
- There are minimal files to work with – With the content being updated through the web-based dashboard, there are no files to manually edit and upload, unless you wanted to make structural changes to the theme. Synagogue webmasters and others who have access to the WordPress dashboard can make any content changes that synagogues require in a quick and efficient manner, without having to contact a third-party (for example, on an outdated website, a synagogue volunteer webmaster who has a technical background and has special software) every time a change needs to be made.
- WordPress makes a synagogue’s website SEO friendly – With the installation of just a few plugins, you can make your synagogue’s WordPress website SEO-friendly, such as by optimizing with keywords elements such as page title tags, META description tags, etc. And WordPress already gives you the ability to add image ALT attributes and link TITLE attributes, which also help with keyword optimization.
- WordPress is secure, despite what people say – As long as you take basic precautions such as using strong passwords and installing upgrades to WordPress itself and to any plugins you have installed, this will help keep your synagogue’s website safe from hackers. I also recommend using a more robust security plugin that takes further precautions to secure the WordPress database.
- WordPress supports multimedia – The default visual editor that WordPress uses supports the easy insertion of images, videos (such as YouTube or Vimeo embeds), or audio files with a single click.
- WordPress is only getting better – WordPress is constantly evolving to improve its user-friendly interface and features, and plugin developers are always following suit.
WordPress Multisite Network
Another lesser known feature of WordPress is the ability to configure it to run as a WordPress Multisite Network. By default, WordPress is used to run just one website, but you can set up a network of websites by turning on the WordPress Multisite feature.
This feature is already a part of a WordPress website – it just isn’t turned on unless you do so. When you do this, all websites in the network are managed through a single installation of WordPress, eliminating the need for separate sites with separate dashboards for various parts of the synagogue’s overall programming. This is useful if, for example, your synagogue wants to manage their main website and additional websites for other main programming areas (such as a preschool or religious school) through one master dashboard.
WordPress Multisite works as follows:
- Each website in the network is created either as a sub-domain of the master domain, or at a unique URL.
- Each website in the network has its own separate dashboard, so that each website can be administered independently from the others, even though they are all tied together within the same network.
- A master network dashboard is used to control do things such as add sites, add users, install plugins, install themes, etc.
- The network is administered by specific users with super-administrator level access, who have access to all the websites in the network.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
Finally, there is often some confusion about WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, which synagogues often ask about. The easiest way to understand the difference between the two is that it all comes down to who is actually hosting the website.
With WordPress.org, your synagogue hosts its own website through a third-party hosting company. While WordPress.org is where you’ll find the free WordPress software that you can download, in reality, all hosting companies offer it as a one-click add-on, as described earlier.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, takes care of all of the hosting for you. You don’t have to download software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server. Any website built on WordPress.com will include “wordpress.com” in the site URL – i.e., “sitename.wordpress.com”.
In summary: synagogues should NOT be using WordPress.com for their websites, and should be using WordPress as an add-on through their hosting company.
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If your synagogue is interested in a new WordPress website, or your synagogue’s website already runs on WordPress and needs some fine-tuning, contact us today to get started!
About Hirsch Fishman
Hirsch has been working professionally with websites since 2001, working exclusively in, and focusing on, the Jewish community. Hirsch offers a wide range of website knowledge to his synagogue web design clients from his years of experience working in the Jewish community. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.