You need to create a family website.
Website design has made great strides in recent years.
Anyone can create their own website online with free templates, ready-made designs and website builders. Instead of creating a group on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you can now own your web space.
This shift is massive in the digital age.
However, a template family website template can help you start the process of creating a family site. This could lead to poor website choices.
A pre-made template or design can be used to start a house search.
Yes, it is great to have a paint job that is ready for you to move in. It doesn’t matter if the location, building or lease terms are not right for you.
The secret to professional web designers is that all web pages are HTML and CSS, with some scripts added. This means…
Any website template can be created on any web platform.
Also, you don’t have to limit yourself to “Squarespace templates”, “Wix templates”, or “BrandYourself templates.”
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a quick guide of 6 steps to choose the right template for your family website on the right platform. This will allow you to create the design and functionality you require for your site.
1. Define your needs, budget and assets
With a little editing any template can be transformed into a family website template. This makes them very easy to market and easy to mislead. It is important to assess what you really need, your budget, and the “assets” you have (ie content, photos, PDFs etc).
You have to be there
What functionality is your website required? Does your website need to contain information about family reunions? Are you looking to dissect genealogy? Are you looking to build a community that allows your family to interact?
Although there are no definitive answers, it is important to think about these things before you read the sales page for [brand name website builder].
Although price is powerful, it’s important not to only pay for the best but also to pay for what really matters. Consider your personal budget. How can you trim your spending?
A family website is something personal. This site is likely to be created for emotional reasons. To connect with family and to share memories. But it’s still important to think about how much you’re willing to spend to make the site what you want it before shopping for a design/designer/template. Although you might be enthusiastic about the project right now, price is usually a determinant of whether your site will remain online for a month or ten years.
Although pre-made templates for families can be helpful, the site must still be yours. That’s the whole point. It’s all about YOU and YOUR family!
What kind of photography do you own? Are you able to write your own content? Are you able to access documents, PDFs or videos online? Are you familiar with the typography and colors used to represent your family? (Maybe you even have a crest that you can trace back to your genealogy)
There are no right or wrong answers. However, it is important to think about these issues before being influenced by gorgeous mock-up templates.
2. Understanding Terminology and Options
It can be confusing and frustrating to learn website terminology. There are so many companies that mix, match, and misuse jargon in order to sell their products. These are the five essential elements you must have a website online today.
Your “address” online is a domain. It is available for lease from ICANN through accredited “domain registrars” for a set period. One can be purchased now and “pointed” to your website later. To make it easier, many website hosting companies will also sell domain names. This is your [yourname.com].
Your website is composed of computer files. These files must “live” somewhere. Hosting companies lease space on servers that store and serve website files every time someone visits your site.
Software for Websites
Modern websites often contain many files. Websites may not always require software (ie. a content management system) to manage all files and make it easy to edit and maintain.
There are many options for website software.
We’ll use WordPress for our purposes.
WordPress powers over 25% of the Internet. There are both its critics as well as its advocates. It’s still the best solution for most family websites (yes that includes non-stop Squarespace advertising).
WordPress is kinda like a 4 door sedan or light SUV in website software.
It is very popular. It’s also popular because it suits most people’s needs. It is versatile, easy to use and can do so many things. People will say WordPress can be hacked or WordPress is slow. This is similar to someone saying that sedans are more likely to be stolen than semi-trucks or that my Ferrari can beat your Honda Accord off the line.
These criticisms may be true, but they are not.
We’ll also see that WordPress can be modified to minimize or eliminate its disadvantages, while still retaining its benefits for building a family site (e.g, ownership, accessibility, expandable, etc).
As we have seen in the introduction, templates simply represent pre-made HTML and CSS (the computer languages used by browsers to generate a webpage). Although not essential, good design is almost impossible to create from scratch with mobile devices and other browsers. Every web designer needs a template/framework as a starting point.
There are many pre-made templates for family websites that can be used as free templates or paid templates. Some even come with custom design services. Templates should be focused on design, layout, and content presentation, not functionality or pre-made photos.
Plugins, extensions, or apps are software pieces that can be used to enhance the functionality and features of your website.
WordPress’ greatest advantage is its “extensibility”. WordPress offers a wide range of premium and free plugins. These plugins allow anyone to create family websites with very advanced functionality. They can be used to trace your family’s history back to generations or to host chat forums for family members to interact and stay connected.
3. Select & set up your family website platform
There are many great website platforms. There are many ways to combine, match and mix the five pieces that you need for a modern site.
This guide wouldn’t be useful if it didn’t help you to find a template and build a website that works.
We have already narrowed down the list of website software to WordPress**. We now need to decide where WordPress software will reside and how it will integrate with your templates and plugins.
Two main options are available: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.
**If you’re curious, I have written a detailed comparison between Squarespace & WordPress based upon my experiences.
Disclosure: I am paid customer referral fees by companies listed on this site. All data and opinions are based upon my professional experience as either a paying customer, or consultant to paying customers.
Option 1 Self-hosted WordPress
WordPress is free, open source, and community-supported software. It is free to download, install anywhere and use however you wish.
Self-hosting WordPress allows you to have total freedom and control, but you also take full responsibility. It’s almost like having your own home. You have the freedom to do what you like, but you also have the right to call the plumber.
However, it is worth investing in WordPress hosting services. Hosting companies can offer the security, support and services you need to minimize the risks associated with hosting your WordPress site.
Bluehost is a great choice for family websites. Here are a few reasons why I recommend it.
- Bluehost is very affordable to get started.
- Bluehost offers a simple, quick “onboarding” process that is ideal for family websites.
- Bluehost is the best brand for a starter WordPress website.
- Bluehost is looking to expand and they have servers on cPanel so it’s easy to transfer if/when ever you want to leave.
Check out the current Bluehost promotional discount.
The upside: You can download and use any theme or plugin you like if you host your WordPress software yourself. This setup is familiar to developers and consultants. It’s future-proof and saves money over other options.
The downside: Technical aspects are your responsibility. Bluehost can offer support, and experts can be available to help you, but ultimately you are responsible for everything. Self-hosting WordPress isn’t for everyone who isn’t interested in dealing with technical issues.
Option 2 WordPress.com
WordPress.com is a hosted service that is managed by the original developer of WordPress software. It is an all-in-one package that bundles WordPress software, hosting, support, and other services into one monthly plan.
WordPress.com can be compared to owning a house. While you can make all the customizations you wish “inside”, the maintenance and boring bits of your building are not your responsibility.
WordPress.com is a great choice for businesses. Here are a few reasons why I recommend it.
- WordPress.com is a WordPress-based website that takes care of all speed, security and technical issues while still allowing users to enjoy the benefits of WordPress software.
- WordPress.com Personal Plans are available and predictable.
- WordPress.com offers a complete directory of premium templates that can be installed quickly.
- WordPress.com offers a lot of functionality, and it is future-proof if ever you need to leave – which can be huge for a family website.
Check out the Plans at WordPress.com.
The upside: WordPress.com users get the most out of WordPress software, without having to deal with any technical issues.
The downside is that you will only be able to use a small version of WordPress. You will also lose some design options and functionality.
The Next Steps
There is no wrong choice. It all depends upon your goals and needs.
Bluehost’s Plan with WordPress Auto-Install – See my step-by-step setup guide.
Register for WordPress.com’s business plan.
4. Select & set up your family website template
Once you are clear about what you have, and what you need to do with it, you can start looking for the perfect pre-made template for your family website.
Keep these things in mind when you shop.
- Don’t pay attention to the logo designs and mock-up photography. A template may only look one way because of the mock-up photography. You’ll replace it with your own.
- Concentrate on the layout of the template.
- Take a look at more than the homepage. Take a look at the layout of subpages or unique pages.
- Any template can be used as a WordPress Theme. It is better to convert a Squarespace, Weebly or Wix template to WordPress than to just keep the design. This would be similar to choosing a house based upon a pre-painted paint job. It is better to pick your house and location than spend money on repainting.
Templates for WordPress that you can self-host
A self-hosted WordPress installation gives you a virtually unlimited number of templates. These are some places you can look for high-quality options.
- My roundup of WordPress Theme Frameworks: These are amazing templates that can create great websites with beautiful photos and colors.
- ThemeForest is a large marketplace that sells premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and install.
- MOJO Themes is another marketplace that offers premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and then install.
- TemplateMonster is another marketplace that offers premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and then install.
- WordPress.org Repository – The official marketplace for WordPress templates and themes. All templates can be downloaded and installed directly to your WordPress website.
A WordPress.com Personal Plan allows you to upload templates from the sites mentioned above. You also have unlimited access WordPress.com’s premium template collection. All templates have advanced customization options that allow you to edit them.
These can be viewed here.
5. Select & Configure Your Family Website Functionality
Many theme and template makers combine functionality with design. This can be great, but it can also come with its own set of problems.
You can’t edit a theme that has too many functions. You can edit both design and functionality if you separate them.
WordPress plugins allow you to add functionality.
WordPress is ready to use right out of the box. It only requires very few plugins. The rule of thumb is to have fewer plugins than you need.
Installing the JetPack plugin on a self-hosted website is a good idea. It provides security and backups, as well as other fun features like contact forms and sharing buttons.
Here’s a list of must-have WordPress plugins. This includes Google Analytics & Redirects.
Gallery options include Envira Gallery or JetPack.
You’ve been waiting all this time for unique functionality.
It is crucial to clearly define your needs. It is easy to add WordPress features that you don’t need or your visitors want.
There are many great sources.
- WordPress.org Repository – The official repository for plugins. You can search for specific functionality. Note the rating and number of installations.
- ThemeForest is a great source for premium plugins across all industries.
WordPress.com Personal Plans offer a lot of useful functionality – check out this example.
6. You can refine your design and content
Once you’ve got your design and functionality set up, it’s time to have some fun.
It doesn’t matter if your website is a family blog, place to post information about the reunion or an interactive site that will be updated for many years. The key point is that you must constantly revise and edit it.
Although it doesn’t have to take too much time, a website that is well maintained and updated regularly will be a great one.
Editing your Design
WordPress.com’s Customizer tool makes it easy to customize your WordPress.com template.
This guide will explain how WordPress themes work, and also show you the WordPress Dashboard.
Keep your visitors’ needs in mind when designing and editing your website. Visitors might find it frustrating if they don’t like the look you choose.
Take a look at your budget and needs.
If you are looking for self-hosted WordPress, I recommend purchasing a hosting plan that includes WordPress auto-install. See my step-by-step setup guide.
You can purchase a WordPress.com plan here if you are looking for bundled WordPress services.