Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
Recently, we added the ability for users to customize their template in AdvancedMinistry. It’s something that many of you have asked for on numerous occasions in the past and we added it because we are sure that some of you could really benefit from this kind of tool. However, since we added this new feature, we also added the following warning message when you attempt to build your own customized template:
“Those with very little or no design experience should proceed with caution. This is a powerful tool that can do damage to your brand if not used properly.”
I wanted to take the opportunity to use today’s post to both highlight and explain that message.
The biggest reason that we didn’t integrate the ability to customize templates a long time ago was because of the mission and vision of AdvancedMinistry (AM). AM was never just about giving churches and ministries a way to have a website, it’s about providing smaller-budget churches and ministries with a tool to improve their communications – to do better.
Historically, churches and ministries do an awful job of creating well-designed, functional websites that contain frequently updated content. But not every church can afford the investment of having a custom website developed for them with the proper design and content management constraints put in place to maintain a high-quality website. In fact, the vast majority can’t - so we created AM to fill the gap.
But by opening up the door to allow for customization of templates, we’ve done more than just give all AM users a great new tool to play with. We’ve also opened the door for users to do things to their sites that will look awful and completely undermine the whole purpose of the platform. This is the dark side of a tool like this that many don’t (or won’t) talk about – in some cases because they are more concerned with getting more clients than they are with caring about the quality of their customers websites.
Often we find the AdvancedMinistry name on sites that rank church or ministry-based website platforms and most often we rank around the middle of the pack largely on the basis that we haven’t offered template customization. And on one hand, this feature can sound like it should be a default part of a system like AdvancedMinistry nowadays, but if you stop and think about it, it actually has great potential to allow the users of the system to shoot themselves in the foot and sure enough, this is already happening on AM.
So, in highlighting this warning message my hope is that you will come to understand where our heart is at. We know from experience that good quality design and a well-maintained site will only serve to help your ministry.
So please take the time to consider that if you don’t know what you’re doing from a design perspective, you’ll be better off with a pre-designed template. Alternatively, spend the time and money to have a good designer look at your customizations and evaluate your site, making suggestions on how to improve it.