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Frequently Asked Questions about Monastic Sites

Thanks for your interest in Monastic Sites! This page answers many questions you may have about our Monastic Sites offering. It’s a bit lengthy, so you can also feel free to call Bill Powell (that’s me) right now at (888) 815-7789 or email at monastic (at) wineskinwebsites (dot) com.

If you’re interested in custom website work, great! You can reach me with that same contact info, or you can also use the special contact form on the home page.

Most of this page is info about my “Monastic Sites” offering, but there’s also some general information here about Wineskin Websites. For instance…

What is Wineskin Websites? Who is Bill Powell?

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Bill Powell

Wineskin Websites is a project of Wineskin Media, which is a small company that is owned and operated by Bill Powell. (That’s me over there.) I am an active Catholic and a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and I’ve been making websites professionally for over ten years.

You can peruse my portfolio and testimonials on the home page – past clients include Ignatius Press and Christendom College, as well as the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, the Carmel of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and the Carmelite Monastery of the Infant of Prague.

Though I occasionally slip into the editorial “we”, Wineskin Websites and I are currently a one-man show. Technically.

In practice, my wife Beth provides invaluable feedback, particularly in suggestions for beautiful designs. Plus, I work closely with your hosting and support companies to ensure that you have a team, not just one person (however dedicated), supporting your website in the long term.

Beth and I have been blessed with several awesome children, and I am very, very grateful that running my own business allows me to spend so much more time with my family than I would otherwise with a lengthy commute. Thank you for helping to make this possible!

What is a “Monastic Site”?

A Monastic Site is a special website solution designed exclusively for religious communities. Religious communities have a unique set of needs for their website:

  • They usually already have a website, but it suffers from some combination of the following problems: it’s old, out-of-date, insecure, ugly, hard and/or impossible to update.
  • They do not have a large budget to spend on improving their website.
  • They may also have some discomfort about their technical skills.
  • But they also need their website to convey the beauty and strength of their chosen life, not only in its language and content but also in the theme.
  • They may prefer to work with a company that is sensitive to and respectful of Catholic beliefs and sensibilities.

When you choose a Monastic Site, you get a solution to all of these problems. Your old site is replaced with a new site that is easy to use, looks beautiful, and has an affordable setup fee and low ongoing monthly maintenance fee. Plus, you’re working with people who honor your unique vocation.

What are my options with a Monastic Site?

Your basic options at this time are the Essential and Advanced packages.

The Essential package will be the perfect solution for most communities. It includes these features:

  • A beautiful theme, customized with your logos and color scheme.
  • Up to 10 pages migrated from your old site. We’ll also make a copy of your old site, so you can continue to migrate further pages yourself.
  • You will be able to add unlimited pages yourself in the future, at no extra charge.
  • If you work with us in a timely fashion, we’ll get your new site ready to launch within 5 business days.
  • We’ll also provide you with resources for learning how to use your new site.
  • And we’ll offer free support for 30 days after the launch, in case you have any further questions.

The Advanced package offers optional features which are not available in the Essential plan. These include:

  • Migration of more pages.
  • An online shopping cart.
  • An email newsletter.

Details and pricing on Advanced Plan options are coming soon. Please email or call if you might need these or other advanced features on your site.

How much work will I have to do to get this new site?

Great question! My goal is to spare you as much work as possible! 🙂

If you already have a small site with a logo and several pages, then the minimum you might have to do is simply to approve my work. I’ll make a new site with your existing content, and you can look it over and decide if you want any changes. So, in theory, you don’t have to do much work at all.

If you want to get more involved, you might decide you want a different theme, and review your options to make a choice. You might give all the pages a closer look and ask for some changes. You might want to talk about the “call to action” on your home page — what’s the one most important thing you want a visitor to do on your home page? What words and images will help them do this?

You might also spend some time and energy learning this new software (WordPress), so that you can make future changes yourself. Since you’ll get 30 days of free support after the launch, this is a great time to invest the energy in trying the software, so you can ask for my help if you get stuck.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. You can spend as much or as little time and energy on this project as makes sense for your current situation. Even if you’re busy now, you can get the new site launched, and come back to learn the software and make improvements at your leisure. Don’t feel like this project needs to wait until you can give it oodles and oodles of time — it really doesn’t.

What if I need more than 10 pages on my site? Do I need to pay extra?

Not necessarily. If you only need a few more pages, and they’re not very complex, I’m open to doing this extra service as a free gift. I definitely don’t want a few pages to hold you back! But if you need twenty or fifty or hundred more pages, we may need to chat. 🙂 I can show you how to migrate them, or we can work out a price quote for this addon.

What are my options for the theme?

We have a beautiful, custom, flagship theme designed in-house exclusively for Monastic Sites, and you have a huge number of possible color combinations. We’ll use your logo and whatever colors you like. We’ll also use a unique decorative background to make your site one-of-a-kind.

If you prefer a more modern look, you also have access to hundreds of contemporary themes, many of them for free. You can view the entire Theme Collection at WordPress.com.

If you choose one of these themes, we will customize it with your logo and chosen color scheme.

We strongly encourage you to choose a theme that is “responsive”, which means it will work well on mobile devices, especially phones. Your next applicant will probably first see your site on a mobile phone.

Can I upgrade from an Essential to an Advanced site in the future?

Yes. Both sites run on the same underlying software (WordPress – see below), so a future upgrade will be straightforward. This is a big deal – you’re not locked into a solution that you may outgrow someday. WordPress will absolutely grow with you. If you have complex needs in the future, you’ll be able to add them to your existing site, rather than having to start all over with new software.

What can I expect when I order a Monastic Site? How does it work?

Initial phase

  • If you’re not ready to apply yet, you can always reach out for a free consultation. Email at monastic (at) wineskinwebsites (dot) com or call (888) 815-7789 . Seriously, go ahead and call. There’s no commitment to buy, and I’m happy to answer as many questions as you like in person.
  • When you’re ready to start, you fill out this short application form, in which you explain your key choices for your new website. Then you’re transferred to a secure payment site, where you make an initial payment. This payment is 100% guaranteed refundable up until you give your final approval of the new site. I want you to love your new site!
  • Within one business day, I review your application and your current website (if you have one) to make sure that your chosen plan is a good fit for your needs. I may contact you with a question or two. Don’t worry about getting upsold here – the Essential Plan will almost always be a perfect fit for your community’s needs. I just want to make sure that your current site doesn’t have, say, a gigantic online store that you forgot you’ll want to keep. 🙂
  • If it doesn’t seem like your chosen plan is a good fit for your needs, and we don’t work out another solution together, your initial payment will be 100% entirely refunded to you. No questions asked, and no charge.

You’re approved! Your first steps.

If your application is approved, you’ll receive your introductory packet that explains the whole process in greater detail. Basically:

  • You’ll set up a free account at LastPass.com so that we can share passwords securely. (Email is totally insecure, it’s like sending a postcard).
  • You’ll set up your new hosting package and pay the first month or year of hosting, depending on your plan. It’s important that you do this yourself, so that you maintain full control of your site. Also, your yearly hosting will be a recurring charge on your credit or debit card. This signup process is very simple, and I can talk you through it by phone if you like.
  • Then you’ll add Wineskin Websites as an administrator for your new site, so that we can get to work! Again, this is a simple process and we can talk you through it.
  • You’ll need to find the login information for the registrar for your domain name. Your domain name is your URL or web address, like “wineskinwebsites.com”. The domain registrar is the company to which you pay a yearly fee to own your domain name. I’ll need the login information so that we can point this domain name to the new site when the time comes. Don’t worry if you don’t know where this is offhand — the introductory packet will have suggestions on getting this.
  • You’ll also receive resources to help you learn how to use your new website.

We work together on the details.

  • Next, we’ll communicate by phone, email, or chat (your choice) to work out any further details for your new site. Questions like:
    • Which 10 pages you’d like migrated.
    • What logo and colors you’d like for your chosen theme.
    • And any questions you have about using your new site.
  • As long as we make all those decisions together within one or two business days of your initial application and payment, your new site will be ready for your review within five business days.

Final Review, Final Payment, and Launch!

  • Your new site will now be at a special, private URL (web address). Before it goes live, you’ll review the site and see if it needs any changes.
  • Once you’ve approved the site, you’ll pay the rest of the setup cost in your second and final payment.
  • Once your payment is received, I’ll switch your web address to point to your new site. Your new site will be live!
  • For the next 30 days, at no extra charge, you’ll be free to reach out with any questions you have about using your new site.
  • After those 30 days, you can still feel free to ask the occasional question as a friend, but the official support period will be over, and you will be solely responsible for your site going forward. I won’t be able to offer significant support or maintenance without an additional agreement. However, I highly doubt you’ll need my help – you’ll be using software that is easy, powerful, and has an enormous community of helpful resources online.

Will I be able to make changes to my site after the launch?

Yes! That’s what’s so exciting about this package — you’ll have total freedom to update and add unlimited pages for years to come. Although you may have had frustrating experiences with software in the past (we all have), you’ll find that this software is exceptionally easy to learn and use. Literally millions of people around the world have learned to use it to edit their own websites!

Can I designate a lay friend to work with Wineskin Websites?

Absolutely! If you have a trusted lay friend who handles your Internet needs, I’ll be happy to work with this person as we launch your site. After the launch, this friend can continue to have full access to your site and make updates on your behalf for as long as you like.

What software powers Monastic Sites?

Monastic Sites run on WordPress, which is easily the most popular software on the planet for running websites. With literally millions of “non-technical” people using WordPress to power their sites, I’m confident that you can join the ranks of satisfied WordPress users.

WordPress? Isn’t WordPress just for blogs?

No, WordPress can be used for almost any kind of website. You may have heard of WordPress as geared towards blogs, but that’s just how it got started. These days, people use WordPress for almost any site you can think of. It’s incredibly flexible and powerful.

I read a news story where WordPress got hacked!

When you see a story like that, it never means that all sites running WordPress got hacked, only particular sites. And it’s extremely likely that those sites weren’t running the most current version of WordPress, but rather an older version that had become insecure.

Software needs continuous updates to stay secure.

When these site owners get upset for getting hacked, it’s kind of like a car owner getting upset when their engine locks up after going two hundred thousand miles without an oil change.

If you keep WordPress up-to-date and use quality plugins and themes, the chances are extremely, extremely small that your site will ever get hacked. That’s why all the plans from Wineskin Websites include ongoing security maintenance to prevent hacking.

Another common vector for attack is when the site owner adds extra code (“plugins”) that are insecure. On the Essential plan, it’s not even possible to add plugins, so that’s not a problem. On the Advanced plan, I am careful to add only secure plugins, and your security maintenance will keep these plugins up-to-date as well.

How does the post-launch support work?

At Wineskin Websites, I firmly believe that everyone can learn how to use their WordPress site. But I also understand that there’s a learning curve. That’s why we have the post-launch support period – feel free to contact me with any questions about using your new site, at no extra charge.

But what if I get stuck or need help after the support period ends?

By then, you’ll have a new sense of confidence from the huge list of resources we’ve sent you. You probably won’t be asking this question. WordPress is huge – there is so much information out there about how to use WordPress. And again, if you get really really stuck, you can drop me a line.

Will I be using WordPress.com or a “self-hosted” WordPress?

So glad you asked! That’s a bit of an advanced question. (And if you don’t know what this question even means, that’s okay, you can skip it.)

Short version: an “Essential” Monastic Site runs on WordPress.com, while the “Advanced” Monastic Site runs on a “self-hosted” WordPress host.

(“Self-hosted” is a really confusing term, by the way, unless you fancy setting up your own web server in the basement. It just means “hosted somewhere besides the affordable but limited hosting of WordPress.com.”)

An Essential Monastic site runs on WordPress.com, because WordPress.com offers the essentials. A site on WordPress.com is a pretty amazing deal, because it includes not only hosting but also security maintenance. Also, it’s not just core WordPress they offer, but all the advanced “Jetpack” functionality, not to mention hundreds of excellent themes – all maintained.

However, WordPress.com can only stay affordable by limiting functionality. If you need more features on your WordPress site, you can get them – there are thousands of plugins that add features – but you’ll need to transfer your site to a more flexible (and more expensive) host.

So if you need a feature (such as a shopping cart) that isn’t available on WordPress.com, you will need an “Advanced” Monastic Site, and that will be a “self-hosted” WordPress site. That will mean extra hosting costs, as well as extra maintenance costs to keep these plugins secure. (See next question.)

Why is the hosting and security maintenance for the “Advanced” plan so much more expensive than the “Essential” plan?

Note: Pricing on the “Advanced” plan is coming soon. The monthly hosting and security costs will likely be $78 per month, plus a yearly cost of $49 for a secure SSL connection. These fees are paid directly to the hosting and maintenance companies, not to Wineskin Websites.

A fair question, but actually, the Advanced hosting price is more of the norm. A website normally has two main ongoing expenses: hosting, which covers the actual computers and systems that are serving your website to the world, and security maintenance, which covers the work of keeping all the software up-to-date.

The Advanced plan allows you to add custom features, and these features mean extra code that has to be kept up-to-date, month in and month out, to keep your site secure. Every extra feature introduces a possible security hole that can bring down your whole site. This doesn’t mean you should never add features, only that they always have an ongoing cost.

The Essential plan leverages the unique offering from WordPress.com. On WordPress.com, they power millions of sites, but all those sites have the exact same code base. So they can scale the operation and only charge (as of this writing) $99/year. They keep costs down by restricting you from adding potentially dangerous code.

With an Advanced plan, your site has more unique needs, so it costs more to keep it updated.

In theory, you can save money by getting a cheap $5/month hosting and updating all the themes and plugins yourself. However, this puts your website investment at serious risk of downtime, both from the cheap hosting and from the somewhat inevitable security issues.

I strongly recommend that you use my suggested companies to keep your site running strong. There are other good hosts out there, but I’ve worked hard to find the best possible WordPress hosting at the lowest possible price. Some hosts are much cheaper, but you risk downtime when these “affordable” hosts prove to be overextended and slow.

What might break on my new site in the future?

Keep your username and password safe

The first point of breakage is your username and password. Keep these confidential, and keep them hard to crack. I recommend a string of four or five random English words (the random part is important). Although using words might seem less secure than the usual password gobbledygook, a long “passphrase” is actually more secure because it creates many more characters that an attacker would have to guess.

The Essential Plan – almost unbreakable (except maybe the theme)

On an Essential site, you’re hosted on WordPress.com, so it’s fairly hard to break things. WordPress.com manages all the breakable parts for you. And you’re not allowed to add any plugins.

The one potential breaking point is the theme. Depending on the theme you choose, it’s possible that the theme developers may make some change in the future that breaks your customizations. I will do my best to make your customizations future-proof, but unfortunately I can’t plan for all possible future changes. If your theme seems to break in the future, you may need to hire a developer to fix it, and/or switch to a different theme.

I also can’t guarantee that your chosen theme will remain available forever. WordPress.com generally does a great job of maintaining the themes they choose, but there is no guarantee.

All this said, your theme will likely last you for years without event. In a few years, you’ll probably want to update the theme anyway.

The Advanced Plan – Treat it like a car

On an Advanced site, you have these same theme issues, but you also have much more potential for breakage, because you have total control over the site. It’s kind of like asking, what could go wrong with your car? That depends on whether you take it in for oil changes – and whether you open the hood and start tinkering.

You are responsible for security updates – which is why it’s recommended that you enter an agreement with a maintenance company to take care of them for you.

It’s also strongly recommended that you don’t add any further plugins unless you really know what you’re doing, or have hired someone who does.

Normally, you’ll log into your Advanced site with a less powerful user account, which will minimize the damage you might accidentally do to the site.

So as long as you keep the site maintained, don’t add insecure plugins, and don’t mess with any settings you don’t understand, your site should run well for years to come.

Why WordPress? There are so many other options for making sites online!

Here’s the thing about WordPress. It’s really unique because, unlike pretty much every other option I’ve ever looked at:

  • You can start now, with a simple, easy-to-use version and great hosting and security maintenance for a low cost.
  • But later, if your site grows and you need (and can pay) more features, you can upgrade to an advanced version and add features with literally thousands of plugins.
  • Did I mention it’s easy to use? That’s actually a big deal. You’d think that every website software would get that right, but … they don’t.
  • Also, you’re not locked into any one company. You can always take your WordPress site to another host, another developer. That’s the power of “open source” code. It might seem against my own interests to tell you this, but actually, I sleep well at night knowing that I’m not a single point of failure for all the websites I’ve built. Never settle for a website solution that locks you into a single vendor if you can possibly avoid it!
  • With millions of users, you have a gigantic community you can turn to for help, both for free and affordable paid help. There’s a critical mass of support out there for WordPress sites.

I really don’t know of any other solution that combines all of these qualities. Most other software tries to compete either on the simple “now” side or the advanced “later” side.

Sure, you can find sites promising an easy-to-use web site builder. But chances are, it’s only supported by that one company. If you ever need a feature they don’t offer, or if their company goes bust, you have to start all over. That’s a big risk. For really specialized use cases, the risk might be worth it, but not for a site you can build with WordPress. I’m committed to using open source tools whenever possible, because this freedom is crucial for the long-term health of your site.

The solutions most similar to WordPress are probably Drupal and Joomla. Both are quite popular, with large communities and many plugins.

For advanced sites, Drupal is an amazing toolset, and many clients have been happy with the Drupal sites we built them. But right now, Drupal is geared toward the enterprise level, and it’s hard to find ongoing, low-cost security maintenance for Drupal. Drupal doesn’t really seem as friendly to the consumer market anymore (if it ever was).

As for Joomla … well … no offense to any Joomla fans, but I’ve never heard of anything Joomla can do that WordPress can’t do as well or better. Sorry. 🙂

I have more questions! Can I email or call you right now?

Please do! Email at monastic (at) wineskinwebsites (dot) com or call (888) 815-7789 .