Temple Beth El will have a new website sometime soon later this year! After more than 10 years of being hosted locally by Real Life Web Design, the TBE website will have an entirely new look on the same domain (bethelsp.org). See the new Union for Reform Judaism WordPress enterprise platform as described in their January 2018 newsletter. The URJ is moving all their hosted websites from their existing service to WordPress. For those of you who do not know, WordPress is an open source website ‘program’ (really called CMS = ‘content management system’) that is used by perhaps 30% of all websites in the entire world. One reason is that, as an open source movement, it is free in its basic format. And there are literally tens of thousands of add-ons that increase its functionality. It is used by everyone from one-person blogs to giant multinational corporations.
So, the URJ decided that it was time to upgrade their offering. And the timing turned out perfect for Temple Beth El. It was a no-brainer decision for us; the URJ provides us with their platform for free as a service to their member Congregations. We get enterprise-level hosting with no added expense. That means we do not have to worry about the many difficult, hidden aspects of running a website, such as security, backup, privacy, anti-spam, etc. We can focus on the important things, like content and design.
There are s few constraints that come along with this move however. For one thing, it is WordPress, which was not a problem, since we had already decided to go that route with the new URJ platform. A somewhat bigger limitation, however, is the choice of templates and other software pieces that will be made available to website administrators. Because it is an enterprise platform, the software that they run is carefully curated for reasons of security and interoperability. They have a limited number of templates (the basic software design features for a blank website) that they make available and we had to choose one, even before getting started. So, that is something that our website committee did right off the bat. The name of our chosen template is called Naomi (see https://naomi.urjweb-1.org/ for what it looks like).
Your Temple Beth El website committee has met twice, and we will be meeting as needed going forward. There is a new staging site up and undergoing development. Design and content are being created and planned. A variety of issues are being talked about and explored. In time, this will involve the greater Beth El community, but for the moment, most everything is being done behind closed doors. One reason is that the new website needs to be operational and functional when it is open for business. The process of updating content, events, and the calendar needs to be in place and working, so that people will be able to use it from the get-go. Most importantly, much has changed with regards to how we use the Internet in the past decade, so the new website must keep up with the times. It needs to integrate well with our existing social media, it needs to make its presence known to search engines in an effective way, and especially it needs to be eminently responsive. This last term refers to how well a website scales in usability on smaller devices. I would imagine, given the ubiquitous place of cellphones in our purses and pockets, that much of the traffic the new website will experience from our Congregation will ultimately come from phones and tablets. And the good news is this is working well.
Even though you will not be able to read this on the new website for a while, I will post it there for future reference. There are a few exciting things in the works as well. The one that I am most happy with is that we have permission from the Office of Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to re-publish his wonderful and insightful Covenant and Conversation Parshas (see http://rabbisacks.org/category/covenant-conversation/ for the source) going all the way back to 5772 (earliest post is from 2006). This was many hours of work, but there are now over 500 of his Parshas that will be online on the new website, and they are easily searchable by year, month, and name.
Until next update posting ….