Season 1 Episode 17: Create a beautiful, responsive church website for free


The problem with web pages

Here’s the problem, in a nutshell:

  • Web pages need to work well on mobile devices
  • A great web page is attractively laid out and full of relevant information
  • So we need more information, on a smaller screen, that looks wonderful on any device

WordPress has many great benefits, but it doesn’t have features to lay out a page well. Page builders have filled that gap, and I am a fan of a plugin that sounds like a superhero: Elementor.

The free Elementor Page Builder

You can find more information about Elementor on the WordPress plugin repository, and on this website. If you install and activate the Elementor plugin in its free version, you get lots of clever tools: tools to help lay out a web page and visual elements that have become familiar across the web, as talented designers have created websites and web pages that solve this problem well. As importantly, you get a “drag and drop” interface, so it’s easy to create and edit pages.

Examples of useful tools (they’re called widgets) include:

  • Sections, dividers and spacers to lay out your web page
  • Text areas, image boxes, buttons and ready-made icons to make a page useful and engaging
  • “Menu anchors,” creating internal links within a page, essential for information-rich pages
  • Accordions, tabs and toggles that allow users to see just the information they need

In my view, Elementor makes WordPress a friendlier place altogether. If you want to give it a try, then go to your dashboard, and from the Plugins menu select Add New and search for Elementor.

As homework, I suggested why not try and create a single page using Elementor that has lots of information that would be useful for a couple looking to get married at your church.

Bonus Content

There’s one thing I didn’t mention on this episode of the podcast. It’s significant for my recommendations.

The WordPress team has been working for some time now on this same problem. There’s a plugin called Gutenberg that was probably installed automatically for you, and even if it wasn’t, at some point it will be. And Gutenberg does essentially the same job as Elementor and other page builder plugins. In fact, the team is planning to retire the present editor and make Gutenberg the standard WordPress editor. Which is huge.

So why didn’t I mention this? Indirectly, I did. I said that if, one day, you want to take pages made with Elementor and recreate them another way, there may be some work to do, just like changing themes often involves work.

Right now, nobody knows how this will play out, but similar changes to the WordPress core have usually taken a year or even several years to pan out fully. So for most of us, we should make the best decision for today and then respond.

Right now, Gutenberg is heading for the start post. It had a rough start, but it’s getting better and better, and every theme and plugin maker who is committed to WordPress is looking at how to adapt. As of today, Gutenberg covers the basics for laying out a responsive web page, but it’s limited in terms of tools to make that page attractive and functional. Elementor offers much more, and makes your life much easier.

So we know there’s some work ahead. But that’s true anyway. When the day comes, I’ll hope to be able to help you respond. And I’ll make two predictions. First, Elementor will find a way to keep its users happy, even if that means that the Elementor page editor disappears and Elementor’s stock of clever widgets become extensions to Gutenberg. Second, because there are so many WordPress users who will be affected, one of the amazing, public-spirited WordPress developers out there will create plugins to migrate pages automatically.

But even if I’m wrong, WordPress has committed to providing today’s editing experience as a plugin after Gutenberg becomes the standard, so it should always be possible to keep the pages you create today alive, and when you decide, to recreate each page in the new editor.

If you want to take a look at Gutenberg, here’s a preview.