Domain Name & Voluntech Blues

Elsewhere in this “building a better church website” thread I’ve mentioned some good tips about domain names (web addresses) for your church. But now I want to address WHO should register the domain name, HOW it should be registered, and why it’s important for the church to GET CONTROL of the domain name account from the beginning.

Case in point:

I’ve been helping a local school rebuild their website. The school is connected to our church. Last year, “the boyfriend” of a board member registered the school’s domain name as a favor to them and signed them up for a web hosting account and posted some simple files.  That was “mistake #1.”  They needed somebody better connected to the school who knew what they were doing. Long term, as you will see, if can make a difference.

Mistake #2 was he registered it with a Start Logic -which wasn’t actually a domain registrar like Network Solutions. When he stopped working on the site (almost as soon as he started) we tried to MOVE the site to a better host with more features, and Start Logic became uncooperative.  The boyfriend was trying to do the school a favor by saving them few bucks and they got exactly what he paid for.

Mistake #3, the boyfriend lost the log-in information for the domain account. He DID have the log-in info to upload files to the webhost, but not to manage or transfer the domain. And for some reason, they seemed incapable or unwilling to release that info even to him. And he had never really done this before so he didn’t really know how to fix it by himself. All this could have been averted if he had copied the school on all this important information. But he didn’t. So we couldn’t get into the domain account to transfer it to a new techie.

I’d like to say that this never happens to churches and THEIR techies, but it does. And if YOU ARE that Tech, I’m sure you’re thinking “this won’t happen to me,  but it could. In the situation of the school, they needed a better plan of implementation, a better qualified person to help them get started, and more responsible decisions regarding important information. 

Mistake #4…. Lack of Communication. In the case of the school I was helping, “the boyfriend” registered the school’s domain with one spelling, and then 2 days later, the Director of the school registered it using a different spelling. Both were fine, but there was an obvious lack of coordination and duplication of expense. The site itself began to reflect this lack of communication, and within 2 or 3 months, the project was dead in the water.

Here are my tips to help you avoid problems….

1. Don’t let an amateur or someone you don’t know set up your domain name account or webhosting. This is how First Lutheran in Iowa City gets the domain name 1stLuth-Iowa.com instead of FirstLutheran.org, registered with Bob’s Discount Web Hosting that went out of business last month. This is how a “voluntechie” sets up your church website on a host server that’s slow and without features. This is how you discover a year later that the voluntechie lost the account info.

2. Register your domain through a bonafide domain registrar, such as Network Solutions, who’s customer service is excellent and can be reached BY PHONE.

Some web hosts will register your domain for you…but be careful. Make sure YOU can access the domain service account, and not just them. And some of these web hosts are difficult to deal with and have little or no phone support. They only want email, but won’t talk to you if your email address is not the same one as originally listed on the registered account. Use a good company that has live phone support to register the domain name (your church’s URL, ie, web address). Use Network Solutions.

Then when you register the domain, COPY all the registration info and log-in info to your pastor or another church leader. Create a paper trail.

4. Make sure the church’s contact info is part of the domain and host registrations. Always always always use the name of the church, the address of the church and the PHONE number of the church IN the domain registration. And do the same with the webhosting account.

Insist on this. That way, if you ever need to wrest control of the domain from a disgruntled volunteer, long-gone volunteer, or bad host, you can call up the registrar (Network Solutions who I recommend) and they will give you control over the domain if you have all this information with which to verify you with.  Do not let your techie register it to themselves.

5. Discuss your domain name needs before letting someone register it. Occasionally a church staffer complains to me about their church’s website address. They say things like “the pastor let the techie come up with the domain name and it’s too long.”  Or they complain that somehow the church got a “.com” when 99% of all churches use “.org”  Discuss your domain name options with others, and then come up with one or two good alternates, just in case the one you want is taken.

Neil’s Suggested Rules for coming up with a good domain name:

1. Easy to spell
2. Easy to remember
3. Easy to say
4. Easy to understand when heard
5. Rolls off the tongue
6. No hyphens, extra ‘dots’ or underscores
7. Relatively short
8. Reasonably descriptive of what the site is
9. .org, not .com (A surprising number of church list themselves as commercial sites)
10. Will wear well over the years.

For more church website ideas, read more posts in this topic here in my sundayresources.net/neil blog.
You can also find great info at http://www.sundaysoftware.com/webpage.htm

 

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