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Trinity Lutheran Church Website

The new website is a huge upgrade from what Trinity Lutheran had in the past, and it was a lot easier than trying to get it all done on Wix with the staff. In fact, there's no reason to assume a church staff should be able to create a website. The best bet is to get someone else, like Luthernet, take care of the heavy lifting. The church can concentrate on weekly articles or YouTube uploads. Even Facebook posts embedded in the website.

Emmanuel Adell: The Future is Now

Considering its relatively small size as a congregation, Emmanuel Adell had a vast website when we (Luthernet) were asked to perform a redesign. In fact, it was probably a bit too much to keep updated. Websites can really use a lot of your time, often for what seems to be very little reward, which is why your church may need to simplify a bit when it decides to upgrade.
Emmanuel had a couple of sections that had not been changed for several years, and even though those sections could bring visitors, it's also likely those visitors would note the age of the content. Moving forward, the pastor made the correct decision in pairing down the website to fewer sections so that more of them can have newer content.
When we design for a church, we often want to make at least the home page image-heavy. Not slow, but the main page is where visitors will decide if they'll bother clicking any links. I've read the articles that suggest image sliders don't do a lot to retain viewers, but at least some kind of story can be told on that main page.
If you have a church like Emmanuel, with beautiful art inside and a traditional look outside, those are the images to use. If your church is in a mini-mall, then use either people or visual metaphors.
These images don't have to be in each updated article as in an article slider, since that's going to be a lot of work. Choose three to ten images that are representative of your congregation and just have them on the home page as a way for seekers to understand something  about you without having to read.
Beyond that, our website for Emmanuel was pretty straightforward, with some news sections and some static content, a map, and a calendar.
Luthernet and Brave New Church can help with your website needs, whether you have a large church or small, and whether you want two menu items or fifty.

Grace Lutheran Jacksonville Gets New Website

Sometimes, a good website needs to be replaced. I've built websites that got old or were built around components that no longer worked properly. Or lacked security because it was no longer worth the effort to update the script. Grace Lutheran School in Jacksonville, FL, had a mix of a few of these problems. Now it does not, even though it still has many of the features from the original website.
From simplified teacher pages to continuously-archived news pages to calendars that work to images that don't slow the site down, it's all good now. More secure with https and more usable by being mobile-friendly.
If you're looking to redesign your school website, Grace might provide an example to help you decide how you'd like to handle your own upgrade. No, it's not perfect, but it's an excellent example of a good website for the price at under $2000. 
This can be done through the use of such tools as Google Suite, Gmail, and Google Calendar rather than a web developer having to host huge files and deal with emails. 
But it's also what's happening with website design. It can be done faster than ever for a reasonable price. 

Miami-Dade BYOD

The Miami-Dade BYOD program probably needs to be revised. If it focuses on Microsoft or Apple like many BYOD programs, then an acknowledgement must take place that Google-Android-Chromebooks are a legitimate alternative to wasteful spending.

Parents can buy their kids three Chromebooks for the price of a Mac. Two for the price of a Windows PC. Or, if these parents have three kids, all of the students can own a device.

If you want Chromebooks to last longer than the Mac or PC options, add Cranium Chromebook Protection. Look for it on Amazon.

Help Students Learn: Allow Real Debate

I was upset when I heard about parent complaints about a class debate. Any debatable topic should really be available for a teacher. But these parents were simply being ignorant, and from two different sides.

One group claimed the debate about civil rights and whether to use force or not was against God's teachings. Basically, the claim was that it's OK to protest against something if God has ordained it through elected officials, but not if it's something the people have mandated.

The other group claimed it must somehow be racist. Some people think everything must be racist.

Both groups are wrong, as can be seen in this article.

Allow your school and students to debate worthwhile topics. Parents, stop being like this. Your child does not benefit from your ignorance.

The Iowa West Walther League Summer Camp Assoc - DBA Camp Okoboji

Camp Okoboji
This is a website evaluation for The Iowa West Walther League Summer Camp Assoc - DBA Camp Okoboji at http://www.campokoboji.org/. This assessment has been completed by Luthernet Web Design in order to help Lutheran organizations further their online reach.

Framework
The website uses PHP. As the copyright seems to indicate, it's PHP code from 2012. That's not entirely a problem, but some standards have changed in the time since it was built.

Mobile-Friendly
The Camp Okoboji website is not mobile-friendly. That means Google is indexing it lower than competing websites. Here's a link to Google's test results. Those results indicate the website has the following problems on mobile devices:
  • Clickable elements too close together
  • Viewport not set
  • Text too small to read
  • Content wider than screen

Other Concerns
There's a lot of content. That makes a rebuild cumbersome. We could do it for around $1000, maybe a little more. I'd recommend contacting the original designer and seeing if they can make it mobile-friendly for less. There's a good reason this website is not included in the web developer's online portfolio. We host sites for $10 a month, too, and they are https, which is the current standard (and also affects searches).

A lot of time has been put into this website, and that content should not be lost if it's upgraded, so I'd be careful with a web designer who wants to start over. We build sites live and migrate all content over, and then we redirect old links. Most web builders just start over and make you work harder. It DOES need to be brought up to current standards, however.

Call Luthernet or a reputable freelance web designer. Or use the contact form on this page.

A Simplified Guide to Church Websites: Purpose, Planning, and Presentation

The Lutheran Care Network Assessment

This website assessment is for The Lutheran Care Network site at http://www.tlcn.org/. It was done by Luthernet Website Services in order to help those who run the program see what can be done to spread their message more efficiently.

Framework
The Lutheran Care Network website is built on asp.net. That means it's probably complicated. It also means there's a way for it to be more modern than it is.

Mobile-Friendly
This website is not mobile-friendly. See Google's test results here. According to Google's test, these are the problem's with tlcn.org:
  • Clickable elements too close together
  • Viewport not set
  • Text too small to read 
Fewer people are finding the website as Google ranks other sites higher because they are mobile-friendly.

Other Concerns
Many columns, font sizes, and text colors make the website a bit confusing, as do the separated and quite different menus (top and side). Text is not only too small on mobile, but it's too small on desktop, too.

The top menu actually disappears when the links are clicked. Odd. And some pages, like "Benefits to Being a Partner" are missing, and read, "Under Construction." With a website that is obviously older, a viewer wonders how long it's been empty. None of the links under "Support Us" go anywhere at all.

Basically, this is a website that was created with upgrades in mind that would have happened as time went on. But time went on and on, and now the website is no longer waiting for an upgrade but waiting to be retired.

Call Luthernet or a reputable freelance web designer. Or use the contact form on this page.

A Simplified Guide to Church Websites: Purpose, Planning, and Presentation

Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 Middle School Chromebook Fees

Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 students will be able to take home Chromebooks next year, and they get to pay to do so. Actually, it's a lower fee than we've seen elsewhere, but let's break it down:
$15 per year for insurance
$25 deductible on a broken device

Let's say that in three years, your child breaks the device's screen once. That's $45 + $25 = $70. A new screen repair is probably more than that, so it works. If nothing happens, it's just $45.

Insurance works. So do Cranium Chromebook Protectors. For about $15, the flexible screens are protected.  Find them on Amazon or contact us. $70 is a lot to pay on a $200 device.

Why not ask the district to order Craniums for everyone?

Is Coding With Kids on Chromebooks Worth the Cash in Sioux Falls?

Maybe a decade from now, people in Sioux Falls will be able to tell you how well the investment in code went at their elementary schools. If we could go back a decade, adding coding to elementary school lessons in kindergarten would be a no-brainer. The problem with adding it now is that maybe coding literally will require no human brainpower a decade from now. It's a gamble to spend $1.26 million on teaching code to K5, but the gamble makes more sense than getting them pee-wee tackle football uniforms and hoping they all go pro.

When I was studying at the School of Architecture at UW-Milwaukee, I was in the last class that learned how to draw by hand. The next year, every class would be on CAD. That's maybe the reverse of what we're talking about here, but it still makes sense as my general argument. Maybe ALMOST no one will be coding in a decade, but it can't really hurt to know it. Most of the students in my architecture classes, like me, never went on to be actual architects. But they all know how to draw. Even if all coding is automated in the future, it still might pay to know it.

As for right now, it would pay. I have been offered job opportunities that I could not take because my knowledge of coding is based on copying and pasting rather than studying. I know enough to get by with what I do, but I don't know enough to get hired. Instead, companies hire people with dubious degrees, often from overseas, because those people have the certificate that says they know more. Right now, coding is power in the workforce. In a decade, who knows, but it's still knowledge. While no one has ever asked me to draw a 3-D perspective since 1997, I can still do it.

If I was teaching a coding class or a CAD class, I'd want my students to use Chromebooks for their ease-of-use. That's assuming there's a web-based CAD program that would work on a Chromebook, but I know coding will work just fine. However, sometimes it pays to write or draw something. That's why I'd want each Chromebook to have a Cranium by Educabana . It's a cover, but it's also a whiteboard. A whiteboard is great for conceptual drawing or thinking. Jot it down and then work; revert back to it if you want. Start the class with images or equations or a code snippet. Write and learn--we still learn better with our hands and a writing utensil, so we should use those tools along with our Chromebooks and our coding programs.

Embedding a Flickr Album Gets Google Image Hits

This one surprised me, but it's a good surprise. I was searching for "Hope Lutheran Shawnee" in order to see where some of the photos I'd taken were ranked on Google. My goal is to have highly-ranked photos for various churches so that potential clients can see what they can do with one of my websites and a little effort. What I discovered, however, was more encouraging than I'd hoped: among the many photos I'd taken that come up in the search were photos I had not tagged on Flickr but embedded on a website with the description.

You might not think this is a big deal, but it means that you can add a Flickr album to your church or school page, write an article with the right keywords, and somehow Google can figure out that the photos, even without adding descriptive text to the meta tags of the image.

Granted, Google gives the option of viewing the image or navigating to the website. If people just view the image, your site does not benefit. However, it's there, and some people will click on the article rather than just the single image.

This can also be huge for bandwidth. I can store full-size images on Flickr and allow people to download and enlarge them, but the photos on my own website need to be optimized for speed. Plus, my hosting company eventually limits me if too many people are using the website resources, so storing full-size images and video is a bad idea. I've always done video with Youtube, but if Flickr can work for images, that's a big deal.

While Flickr isn't unlimited, its app offers automatic uploads, and the storage is at 1TB right now, so plenty for most groups looking to add some images to websites. When you embed rather than send to Flickr, people are encouraged to engage with your website, and that's where you want them. Not on Facebook or Flickr or Youtube. Imagine creating a single account that several employees and parents could share, and then having someone organize a few albums for your website.

Good luck. Let me know if you need some help with setting it up. By the way, the photos of Hope Lutheran Shawnee that are on Flickr are the ones that link out to Satisfamily and are of girls basketball.

Holy Smokes, Derby, It's Time For Chromebooks!

According to The Derby Informer, Derby Schools spent $221,000 repairing computers, AND another $90,000 replacing lost or stolen devices. Granted, these are overpriced Macs that will be replaced by Chromebooks, but OMG, anyhow. If you do the math, $221,000 divided by 6,800 students is $32.50 per student in repairs.

According to the article:
A screen replacement on an iPad can cost anywhere from $105 to $175. Derby Middle School had 311 damaged devices with an average repair cost of $300 totaling $93,233.98 in damage.
An AVERAGE REPAIR COST of $300. That's TWICE what I paid for my Chromebook that I use daily. Run away from IPads, quickly, Derby, Kansas.

The fine print about Chromebooks is that the screens DO break, too. They are cheap, plastic, and flexible. But at a 10% breakage rate and $200 cost, broken Chromebooks could be REPLACED each year for $136,000. Plus, those that are mysteriously lost and stolen can be replaced much cheaper, as well.

What if you wanted to decrease the breakage rate even more at Derby Middle School. (I've taught middle school, and I know what kids do, so that's where there are daily device olympics happening.) What if you could get that breakage rate down to 2%? Chromebooks break in the same way as other devices--mainly the screen. So a good screen protector, like the Cranium by Educabana, can stop most screen breakages. If the district's breakage rate was a mere 2% and repairs to the rest only cost about $100 (cheaper because they're Chromebooks and can be done in-house), then the district would only need to find $13,600 to repair the devices.

At $15 a piece, the Craniums, ordered in bulk, would cost the district $102,000 ONCE every five years (the lifespan of a Chromebook).

Let's put this into perspective: the current system would cost $1,105,000 over five years. Chromebooks with Craniums would cost around $170,000. Let's round up to $200,000 to be safe.

I know budgets are separate, but if we were to say a teacher costs $90,000 total compensation to employ, that's two teachers per year, plus change. If you get the budget teachers right out of college, that's three.

Wait, there's more. Craniums are also whiteboards. Math teachers, who will appreciate this post, understand that Chromebooks are not as good as paper at showing work, and paper is not as good as whiteboards for showing work to the teacher.

Moving from Mac to Chromebooks was a no-brainer. Using a Cranium with those Chromebooks is also a no-brainer. Use the contact form or order a test unit from Amazon today.

 In an added bonus, I live in Kansas, so I could bring my Chromebook over for a showing. The Chromebook was invented by an American from Wisconsin, and if you're interested in making America great again (or just saving your district money), then this is a wise investment. 

Green High School Students Need More Than Chromebook Insurance

If you are a parent of a student attending Green High School in Ohio, you might wonder why you have been asked to pay for insurance on Chromebooks. If it's like other districts, the cost is around $25 a year. Chromebook breakage rates are around 10%, making it a roulette game of sorts, especially if your kid has the device for four years.

Kids don't necessarily want to break Chromebooks. In fact, most students like them. But kids do grab them by the cover (so do I) and set things on top of them. They dislike bulky carrying cases, especially if the cool kids don't use them.

Apparently, staff members at Green High School have worked to fix some Chromebooks. That's a side job that overworked teachers probably appreciate a lot, but it's not their primary duty at the school. But you don't want to pay $100 over four years on a $203 device that will be obsolete by the time you pay your insurance on it.

How about Cranium by Educabana, which is a hard case cover that is permanent and protects against the leading cause of Chromebook failure--the flexible screen? For less than $20, you can turn that 10% chance of breakage into something more like 2%. Better yet, ask the school board to order them for all the Chromebooks and drop the insurance, only fixing the few that still break.

Wait, there's always more. Unlike all other Chromebook covers or cases, this one can be used as a whiteboard because of its white aluminum that surrounds the stiff PVC core. If you're interested in this innovative new Chromebook product, use the contact form on this page or check it out on Amazon.

BBCHS Should Equip All Chromebooks With Protection

Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School District 307 will be going to Chromebooks. More than likely, the district has considered protecting these devices. However, we have found that not all protection is the same.

Insurance plans work. Replacements take time, and the plan itself adds a cost to either parents or the district, which is basically the same thing. Companies that offer insurance do it to make money, so the rate is set based on normal breakage estimates.

Covers can stop many of the usual ways students will break the Chromebooks in Bradley, Illinois. However, soft cases are cumbersome, and students remove the devices every chance they get, especially at home.

Most hard cases are cheap plastic. They might protect the Chromebooks once or twice. But these are pretty, so students will only snap the plastic covers off once in a while. Again, some protection.

The Cranium by Educabana is the best solution as a cheap and simple screen flex protector. It also doubles as a whiteboard, which is great for teachers who don't want to use the computers every second of class.

Converting Websites From http to https

Whether you have built your own website or hired someone to do it for you, it's now time to upgrade to the https standard. While this should be simple, it's not always that easy to do, even for someone who builds websites.

Let's start with why you want https. Google says it's good and will help your rankings. That's usually reason enough. Web browsers are also joining in, making it apparent when you're on a website that is not "secure." Even if people don't have to login to your site, they might want the assurance that it's secure. 

Some of my websites will not get the https treatment because they are on an older server. These are mostly my own websites, so not a big deal. Now, it's probably possible for me to figure it all out for myself on those websites, but I don't have time to play around with them if it's not an easy fix right now, so some will just lose out.

Other websites are only sort of work. The ones I have on a CDN to help protect them from attacks don't work well once I add https. The menus disappear, and I can't find an easy way around it. These websites are only https for the non-www version, but the default version for the CDN is www, so those are a bit of a pain, and I'll probably have to drop the CDN and the hours I took setting it up if there's not a ready fix soon.

My last group of websites, generally my client sites, DO work on https, hosted by Siteground. It's a feature I didn't really have to turn on, but you don't know you have it working until you type in the https version of your website. This one works on www, too. The only issue you might have is on the website itself. I had to go into my Joomla sites and force https to all pages.

Webmaster tools also supposedly sees https differently from http. This means you're supposed to have all of the following version of your website listed there: http://, https://, http://www, and https://www. That stinks because I spent a long time creating just the http versions there. In addition, your web host might give you different numbers for visitors to the two versions of your website. This is a big deal if you are reporting to someone about monthly visits. I assume if you force the https, then the http visits should all but disappear, but I'm not sure if that's totally the case.

For now, it's worth converting my client websites. Since I want my own websites to rank well, I will also work on getting those done, too. If your organization is unclear how to do this or have a web designer telling you it can't be done for your site, then you can reach out to me.