Our website development experience is indeed exponential, not in numbers of websites or diversity, but in sheer depth. No simple post here can describe the effort we have just gone through to build a brand new web site to replace the 14-year-old “Joomla” site for genevalutheran.ch
During the process (which became a team design effort inside the church), we firstly needed to decide if we update to a new version of Joomla, or use an outside web development service, or to try ourselves. We looked at Wix, SquareSpace and WordPress. We convinced everyone to at least allow ourselves to make a self-development attempt, given the amount of experience we already had with WordPress and the fact that our outside offer also used WordPress.
Then, the question of finding a suitable theme or template, somewhat close to our ideals of look and feel – but also fulfilling the functionalities that we would need to implement what we wanted our website to do for us.
Here are the themes within WordPress.com which we tried – many – and not all are documented by any means. We became frustrated because each them would have some great feature and then miss some really basic essential ones – as if there was a deliberate plot to avoid building a really good result.
Now, all of this was carried out using WordPress.com which of course is the safest way, but we will never know if a .com theme does exist to suit us – all we know is that we spent many hours and weeks (months?) trying to find it and failed.
Then we noticed that upgrading to the ‘business plan’ would allow us access to WordPress.org themes – access to a wider supply of themes – and that we could then also begin to download plug-ins. Eventually moving to this option means that we can do what we want – but the element of support and security appears less certain as we move away from the tight confines of the .com product. And for those of us who cannot afford the time to get into CSS and HTML script in any depth, we approach our limits.
So we have a .org theme (actually designed with churches in mind) which was offered “free” under the business plan, but not available under the normal .com list. And we have utilized several free plug-ins including a major page-builder (“elementor”) to allow building pages completely outside of the WordPress construct, yet so far working well as we switch back and forth between the two.
We have been successful (see the new site here) and our yearly costs are well within what we were paying for keeping the old Joomla site with hosting at Swisscom; and of course significantly less cost than having an outside web developer do it for us. (Beware – this is only possible when those doing the work are volunteers!)
Now, with our current experience and knowledge we wonder if we could shift to the free WordPress software, with separate hosting, using the same free plug-ins and build the same site for less cost. The answer is yes.
However, honestly, with the SEO tools we have from WordPress.com and the excellent on-line support from WordPress.com (would you believe they respond almost instantaneously to a chat request) – for those reasons we are pleased to be with WordPress.com.