What is RJ Web Builder 3.0?
RJ Web Builder 3.0 is an enterprise level website platform using the WordPress-based Content Management System (CMS) on which congregations can build and host their websites. The platform makes it easy for users with little to no technical knowledge to manage a sophisticated and professional website. The system will allow your congregation to have its own website as a benefit of URJ membership.
The URJ has been assisting congregations with their websites for the past 20 years. Before website and domain hosting were widely commoditized and user-friendly, many congregations hosted simple sites with the URJ. As websites became more complex, the URJ offered more robust sites complete with a content management system (CMS), allowing congregations to do more with their sites. The RJ Web Builder program grew to more than 200 congregations as many found the consistency of the offering -- the URJ wasn't a web designer who might someday retire, or a congregation volunteer who moved away -- a great way to take advantage of their URJ membership.
With the popularity of open source software (which have no licensing fees, and updates are supported by volunteer developer communites), the URJ upgraded the RJ Web Builder platform (now 2.0) to the most widely used open source CMS in 2011, Joomla! Again, the program grew to nearly 300 congregations of all sizes who took advantage of the DIY system that the URJ maintained, hosted, and updated.
As the open source community has evolved, a new offering has been made that is hard for the URJ to turn down: WordPress. This user-friendly CMS has grown to become the most widely adapted website software, and its multisite option makes it even easier to manage, update, and modernize congregational websites. As always, RJ Web Builder 3.0 will offer the stability of service that is hard to find locally for many congregations, and is included as a benefit of membership.
What is WordPress?
In non-geek speak, WordPress is web publishing software you can use to create your own website or blog. Since it was released in 2003, WordPress has become one of the most popular web publishing platforms. Today it powers more than 60 million websites! It’s a highly flexible content management system (CMS) that enables you to build and manage your own full-featured website using just your web browser. WordPress is an ”open source” project. That means that hundreds of volunteers from all around the world are constantly creating and improving the code for the WordPress software, allowing for thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes that enable you to build just about any type of website you can imagine.
What are the advantages of WordPress?
WordPress was originally designed as a blogger tool but over the years has become one of the most popular open source CMSs. With a large developer community and thousands of different plugins you can create a professional-looking website with little technical knowledge. In addition, WordPress is designed for non-technical users and has an easy to use and intuitive interface for managing and creating website content.
How many design choices will we have?
We currently offer 16 different custom themes (what WordPress calls a template). More themes will be added as the program grows. If you choose to customize your own theme this will be an additional cost and using your own custom theme would be subject to approval of the URJ support staff.
What if my congregation is already using or currently developing a WordPress site?
We developed and conceived the new RJ Web Builder 3.0 with a vision of using something that was easy enough to maintain for the URJ, easy to use for congregational webmasters, and on software that would have a long shelf life. In choosing WordPress, we accomplished these goals and understood that the question about bringing existing WordPress sites onto the system would be raised.
For congregations already on a WordPress site, the advantages to coming into the RJ Web system would be:
1) URJ covers hosting, security, and software updates. We will be building a few instances of WordPress multisite and we will host at Pantheon, a leading WordPress host which will provide flexible bandwidth, SSL certificates, and security as well. Domain (DNS) records will still be maintained by congregations.
2) URJ provides support, tutorials, and a network of other congregational webmasters with lots of similarities between site needs.
3) URJ will provide content (updates, Jewish learning, etc.) from the Movement.
4) URJ is a consistent in a world in which professional web developers and volunteer webmasters come and go.
These strengths should be taken into consideration when deciding the future of your congregation's site.
In addition, with most things dealing with technology, the devil is in the details and there are compromises that are entailed. In order to keep the system easy to manage, we must limit the number of themes and plugins we support so that the system remains stable for everyone. To that end, note the following:
1) The Web Builder 3.0 platform has built out 16 custom themes within the same family of theme frameworks. There is a lot of flexibility in these themes and they are well known and well supported. We will revisit the theme and plugin offerings as the needs of the sites change and grow.
2) The list of plugins include the following (see list in below question). At this time we will support these well known and well supported plugins.
3) We will not be able to offer FTP access to sites or handle SMTP services which allow mass mailing to subscribers due to concerns with security and blacklisting.
My congregation's website is currently on WordPress, but we have extensive customizations. Can we come on the system and take advantage of the hosting and maintenance?
In order for URJ to keep the system viable, secure, and to keep costs down, we need to keep the multisite system mostly the same configurations. (Not the same design! The sites will all look different but the selection of plug-ins greatly impacts how well each site can live in harmony with the other sites.) We will be happy to review your site and let you know if there would be any problems in bringing your site into the system. In some cases, additional charges may apply.
Once I register, how long will it take until we have a new site?
The actual time it takes our developer to set up a development site will range from 1-2 weeks.
Will my site be down at all during this process?
No, your current site will not need to have interruptions in service. Once you approve of the new site, you merely point your domain name to the new site (like changing a phone number when you move).
What are some of the features?
1. Gravity forms: Easy to use form builders for accepting donations, making payments and accepting registrations
2. Event Calendar: An Event and Calendar management system that integrates with your Google Calendar
3. Themify: Powerful page builder that will let you add functionality like slideshows, accordions and forms and different mobile responsive layouts
4. WP RSS Aggregator: Syndication management for displaying URJ and ReformJudaism.org feeds and other feeds of your choice
5. Seriously Simple Podcast: Easy to use podcasting solution
6. Google Analytics integration
7. WP Members: Members-only section (password protected)
8. Powerful blogging capabilities
9. SEO optimization built in
10. Wordfence: A complete security option which offers application firewall, malware scanner and many other tools
11. Updraft Plus: A simple way to back up and restore your site
What features will change?
The new software will necessitate changing which forms, photo albums, blogs, audio and document handling component/plug-ins are used. Additionally, syndication from the URJ and ReformJudaism.org will be built in to all sites and have a widget position on the homepage.
How much will this cost?
As always, the cost of RJ Web Builder is a benefit of membership to URJ congregations. (Some customizations may incur additional charges.)
How much time do you estimate I will need to devote to learning WordPress?
WordPress is easy to use so you won't need much time to get started creating and updating your content, but like anything you can go as deep as you like. A number of tutorials, articles, and training videos will be on the RJ Web Builder help site. Also, many support articles and user forums exist in the larger WordPress community. The URJ support staff will be here to help you along the way and will provide training on WordPress.
Will I need to know HTML?
You do not need to know any coding, including HTML. The theme builder and editor are advanced and will let you create almost any layout without requiring code. If you want to work in the HTML you can too, the choice is up to you.
Can we add our own code/widgets/features to the existing templates?
While you have full control over your site, installing plugins and custom code will need to be approved on a case-by-case basis by the URJ support staff. To ensure that the system remains secure and is manageable we reserve the right to refuse any changes to the system. That said, your site should come preconfigured with all the functionality you need already, as well as a large selection of custom themes to choose from, so there should not be much need for adding additional modifications.
While additional plugins do provide more functionality, adding too many might cause your site to slow down (the extra code could slow down the site's loading time) and potentially compromise its security. We've installed plugins we feel our congregations truly require and will assist your users and your website.
What is included/not included?
While the URJ provides everything you need to manage your own professional WordPress website, customization to your site beyond the themes and plugins you were provided with will be the responsibility of the congregation.
What parts of the template will we be able to control or customize?
You will be able to change the theme colors, fonts and other basic styles for the site as well as most positions on home page. In addition your theme builder will allow you to create different layouts.
Can we customize the site design?
The theme builder will allow you to customize the site. However we recommend that you keep close to your original theme choice since the URJ approved themes have already been developed and designed for optimal SEO and user experience.
As the webmaster, will I be able to create other user accounts on my site?
Only network admins can create other administrators. It's a default WordPress behavior for security reasons so there's no way around this. As an admin in a multisite network, you won't be able to create or manage other admin accounts. You can create all other levels of accounts such as editors and authors.
After picking a theme and setting up my site, will I be able to change to a different theme?
We will offer you the ability to switch themes but we cannot guarantee that everything will switch over seamlessly. Any issues or modifications with the new theme will not be covered by the URJ and will be subject to a $80 per hour rate billed from our developer. This would fall under custom work.
We have our development site with content loaded but we decided we want to start from scratch. Can we get a new 'blank' site?
Included in the RJ Web Builder program for URJ congregations is the issuing of one development site. Due to the time/expense involved, if you want a second development site, an additional charge of $150, payable to our developer, will be incurred.
Are there any additional charges with this platform?
Personalized support requests for changes to site theme, domain name, integration with other software/systems and/or additional plugins will incur charges based on the URJ discounted rate with our developer. You will be advised of estimated costs before work commences.
What are the system requirements for using RJ Web Builder 3.0?
All you need is your mobile device/computer and a web browser.
Can my temple keep their domain name and email addresses if moving to RJ Web Builder 3.0?
Yes. Your domain name and email addresses will remain under your control. This is managed by your domain host registrar, not the URJ.
Does the URJ handle software updates?
The URJ will handle all updates and maintenance tasks associated with the system. You will not be required/able to make these on your own.
Will I be able to process financial transactions/can we get SSL?
All sites will have 256 bit encryption and SSL certificates. You will be able to process financial transactions on your site through selected payment gateways.
Why does the URJ keep changing platforms?
The URJ strives to make sure that congregations have access to the best and latest technology. As websites and technology improves and evolves so does the RJ Web Builder program. Changing platforms allows us to improve our services and your congregation's website.
Can I integrate the site with my CRM?
Integration with your CRM might be possible depending on the CRM you are using. In other cases, proprietary software may not have integration options. You should contact the URJ to find out if your CRM will allow integration with WordPress. Additional charges for customization may apply.
Will there be password protected pages/sections for my membership?
The site will come with a membership management system. You will be able to create membership levels and restrict content on the site for only members.
Who is the developer?
We are pleased that Jared Shih, and his team of developers at NYC Help Desk, will continue on in their role as lead developers for RJ Web Builder. Jared has been working on this system since 2011 and is well acquainted with the specifics of congregational websites.
Where will our site be hosted?
All RJ Web Builder 3.0 sites will be hosted at Pantheon, a leading WordPress host which will provide flexible bandwidth, SSL certificates and security. Domain (DNS) records will still be maintained by congregations.