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Tuesday, 10 August 2010 23:03

Why Joomla!?

In recent years, Nightflare Web Design (aka Russ and Corinne) has migrated our more complex sites to the power and performance of Joomla! At this point, we are big fans of this cool new web interface. 

Joomla! is best understood as a way of organizing your website using a technology that is highly fluid and versatile. It's a bit like running Windows XP or a Mac OS on your website and just as you run software on your home computer, likewise Joomla! runs programs (called Modules and Components) on your website. These programs comprise all that cool stuff that you see on this website. The fancy term for these kinds of products is CMS--"Content Management System".

So, what kinds of programs/modules can you run? Well, here are some examples: RSVP software, Calendar software, Comments software, polls, cool links to Facebook + Twitter etcetera, running ads, newsflash, audio management, download management, etc. Look to the left on this page, that cool date display, the ability to rate this page, the number of page views, all that is a Joomla! component running. Likewise, on the right hand side of this page--that little info about us, the tag cloud, those are also modules running. If you look at the bottom, there are various suggested links and a chance to make comments yourself. Those links are created automatically and dynamically. Assuming we keep publishing articles on this site, those suggestions will change. The comments feature allows you to make comments and us to moderate them. It's very cool. 

Okay, so perhaps you're saying that all of these features can be achieved using various other web programming technologies. Well, indeed they can. The difference is that Joomla! is something **you** can do! What's more most of these are free--they are designed by open source programmers around the world. Thus, it doesn't take a mountain of cash to create an impressive, powerful site. Just look at this site. It's a classic Joomla! site.

Now, as far as our site goes, it's essentially a template. That means that someone else has done the heavy lifting and we've configured it to reflect our tastes. Most of the time, we start with a basic template and then configure from there--this saves you time and money and get's us started off in a way that reflects your tastes from the start. And don't worry about them looking like lots of other sites, the reality is that by the time we're done configuring the site, it will probably be quite different than the original. Though I should say that using a template is not to say that it's as simple as point and click (in truth, Joomla! is still very complex) but none-the-less, these templates are available for free (or very low costs) and they get you up and running relatively painlessly.

I should also mention, that the power of Joomla! is speed and flexibility--but don't take this to mean that it's fast and easy to setup. Actually, I'd say that the initial roll out is much, much longer than our non-Joomla! roll outs. (To give you an idea of comparisons, this Joomla! site took about 20 hours to launch, Taylor Flooring took about 10 hours, Bartlet Baptist took about 25 hours and Grace Tabernacle took well over 100 hours to launch. Conversely, ShoreSingles was up and running in about 2 hours). The difference is that once the site is up and running, it can be configured and modified much, much easier than the HTML counterpart. Likewise, because Joomla! sites are based on templates and an ever-increasing pool of modules, they are constantly being upgraded and remain current and fresh. On the other hand, HTML sites get old the day they are launched. There are very few major sites still running straight HTML these days.

One last point: I've already mentioned that Joomla! is a CMS technology. It is true that there are other CMS technologies out there as well--Drupal, Osmos, etc. The difference is that Joomla! is free and very, very popular. Again, the power of Joomla! is it's software modules that you can download and install on your site. Currently there are thousands of free modules available, and dozens, nay hundreds are being created every week. It would seem that there is a race to produce the best, most popular CMS out there (kind of like VHS versus Betamax 25 years ago). While there are many worthy competitors, in our humble opinion, Joomla! is winning the race--not so much because it's better (Drupal, Osmos and the others have excellent features, and some are way cooler than Joomla!) but it seems that in the nearly two years we've been working with Joomla!, it continues to outpace it's competitors in overall market share and continuing adaptability.
Published in Resources
Thursday, 05 August 2010 20:44

Great Church Web Design

Looking for good ideas for designing church web sites?

We've been doing church web sites since 2000 and have learned a thing or two. Here's some of our conclusions for what kinds of features make for great church web design:

1) Content is better than a point. People are coming to your site to learn about your church. Great! They want to know who you are, what you're doing, what you believe, what they can expect when they walk in. Give them content, content, content. Give them enough material to spend a good hour or two bouncing around your site. Let them ask questions and then find the answers in your pages.

At the same time, don't lose complete touch with aesthetic sensibilities. There's no reason for an ugly church site (especially with Joomla!). Make use of Dreamstime and other graphic image sites that will allow you to provide high quality, professionally produced graphical images. Choose color schemes that reflect your church colors but don't annoy your visitors. For instance, these days sites tend to have muted colors. Bold splashes are great! But heavy, dark maroon backgrounds are a thing of the past.

2) Remember, content accuracy is key. People who are visiting your site need the content to be current and accurate. Because of the nature of the internet, the public has come to trust content on websites. Therefore, yours better be accurate and honest. If you say it online, be sure it bears out in reality. Have a person in your church regularly peruse your site culling out old, inaccurate, outdated info.

3) Give your readers reasons to keep coming back. Make your church site a regular part of their lives. Give them opportunities for feedback, input, interaction, etc. Use the power of Joomla to let them interact with your site. Use Facebook, use Twitter, use blogs, use comments to help your site become a real part of your congregation's spiritual growth.

4) Try Joomla! on your site. If you've never heard about Joomla!, here's the scoop: Joomla! (yes, that "!" is part of its name) is something like a computer operating system running on the web server that hosts your website. That may not make a whole lot of sense, and that's okay. What you need to understand is that Joomla! is a free product that people around the world continue to update. Consequently, there are thousands of add-ons for your site that you can download for FREE! For much more info on Joomla!, we've got a whole write-up on it here.

One more comment about Joomla!. There are several web products that are like Joomla! The fancy term for the Joomla!-like products is CMS or Content Management Systems. Other products are Drupal (Joomla!'s biggest direct competitor), WordPress and others. While each CMS has its benefits, we recommend Joomla! because so many people around the world are working on it. More than likely, it will survive the dog-eat-dog world of technological evolution. WordPress has grown much in popularity and power and might be a great option to those who are intimidated by the initial learning curve of Joomla!.

5) Be careful with following the trends of web design too closely. Right now, lots of church sites are going for a clean, somewhat utilitarian look. The sites are heavy in Adobe Flash components, heavy with large, beautiful, dramatic images, and (ugh) heavy with scrollbars that force the reader to constantly scroll down because of the small windows. To you as a techy person (you must be, you're reading this article), these may seem really cool. But to the average middle-aged potential church-goer, this cool "clean look" doesn't provide much in the way of true ministry. Think about it, you've got a visitor hanging out on your site--hopefully, the Lord is interacting with their soul! Why not have that moment be the point in time where they change their life and grow closer the Lord? While it may be tempting to be "cool", I truly believe that your site can serve Christ's kingdom and IMHO, little windows with pithy comments may not make the kind of impact for Christ that might otherwise have been produced by your church's website.

6) Avoid "Spinning Crosses". The cyber-world is filled with all kinds of little techy temptations. There are so many cool widgets that you can add to your site--everything from weather modules, to a verse of the day, to spinning crosses. Be careful. Don't do something just because you can. Keep good taste in order. Lots of churches have so cluttered their web sites that they look more like a flea market of online freebies rather than a website representing a local assembly of Christ's holy bride. Remember Who you serve and keep your site representing Him rightly.

7) Regularly Do House Cleaning. Along with point #6 above, I have found that as a web designer, we're constantly adding stuff and more stuff to our sites. Over time, like a sloppy home, we just get used to our mess and forget what it might look like to others. Eventually, even without spinning crosses, we wind up cluttering our site and effectively creating the very same problem as spinning crosses. Thus, we need to regularly clean up our sites. That means doing things like coordinating font styles and colors throughout the site. Check out old pages, they probably look different than your recent pages. Fix 'em up. Drop the RED CAPS IN BOLD comments that seemed soooo important three years ago, but now just distract the reader. Make the font sizes uniform throughout the pages. Get rid of the "Christmas 2008" graphic you worked so hard on. Decide if that spinning, blinking animated GIF is really necessary in this new era. Make sure the site is looking fresh and crisp.

8) Regularly Do Face Lifts. Along with point #7 above, good church web design will likely mean biting the financial bullet and regularly changing the look of your church site. We realize the practical and costly implications of this point. Yet, without regular face lifts, your site that looked so good four years ago now looks hopelessly out of style. Few sites can hold their current look for more than a couple of years. Be prepared to regularly change it. If you go to the larger church sites--the ones that employ a full web staff---you'll see that major elements change on their sites almost monthly. I'm not saying follow the leader, but at the same time, if you don't keep up with the times, your site will soon repel rather than attract people to your church.

Lastly, if you're still at Step 1 and don't know where to begin, here is a good worksheet developed by

Published in Web Design
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 06:57


Welcome to the home of NightFlare Web Development.

We specializes in custom web design and development for a wide range of businesses. We also provide logo and branding solutions, working with our clients to arrive at personalized answers to their unique needs.

NightFlare Web Development began in 1997. Corinne had been working for the Global Marketing Department in a large Healthcare Corporation and was developing an Intranet site for her group. Not long after, she was married and then 13 months later we had our first child.

We put together our first bid for a web contract and the wild ride began! Since then, we have developed numerous sites for various businesses.

Designing and developing web sites has been a passion, hobby, necessity and occupation. During Russ’ time attending The Master's Seminary, we had the privilege on working on many web projects together. Since moving to the Jersey Shore and being on staff full-time at Grace Tabernacle Church, he is less involved. For more on Russ Brewer, click here.

Other sites:

Former Clients:

Web Design is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. Having been involved in web design since 2000, we've seen many trends come and go. With each technological shift, client's needs and vision shift as well. While our business relationships with the following clients has ended, none-the-less we are proud to have been a part of their growth and development. -- This is a large modeling clay company based out of Chicago, nationally distributed. We designed and maintained this site for about 10 years. During our tenure, this site would often exceed 200,000-250,000 hits per week. -- This is an auctioneer company in Washington state that frequently posted hundreds of pictures of estate items. We maintained their site for several years. -- This is a recording company in Los Angeles. We maintained several sites for them for a couple of years. -- This was Russ' parent's retail store in Red Bank. We maintained this site for many years until the business closed. The link here points to an archived image from the WayBackMachine Internet Archive.

Interested in a quote or more information? E-mail us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Published in Nightflare