Another cool image tool: Pic Collage
We’ve recently looked at a way of easily presenting streams of single images to your website, but what if you want to display a collage of images – either as a way of commemorating an event which has taken place, or publicising one coming up?
Images are so important on the web – people read less on screen than they do in print – so having a compelling presentation of information in picture form is really crucial. Pic Collage could be just the thing you’re looking for.
It’s an app for iPhone and Android, as well as having an iPad specific version. After holding out since the release of the first iPad as they weren’t quite right, I finally got one recently. I was moving offices and flying abroad on the day of the launch of the new iPad and I didn’t think I’d get away with queuing with so much going on, so was surprised to find a Dixons with new iPad stock, post-security, pre-boarding at the airport ; )
Back in the day, to create a photo collage, you would have needed to source and download the photos from various sources (the laborious bit) and then put the collage together in a graphic program like Photoshop, the resizing and adjusting of images on the page being rather fiddly. Well, galloping down the road comes Pic Collage to our rescue. As opposed to Photoshop's £667, Pic Collage is my favourite price: Free : )
There are a number of features in Pic Collage which make it really easy to use. Firstly, sourcing images – you can pull them in directly from your device camera, photo album, from the web (though you need to be careful of copyright, so that’s probably best avoided) – or directly from Facebook.
In addition, once you’ve connected up the app with your Facebook account, you not only have access to your own images there, but any album and photos belonging to your friends and can add 9 images at a time to your collage from any of these sources. This makes getting the requisite pics together like falling off a log – though it would be polite to get your friends’ OK to use them.
Once the images have been added to your collage canvas you can move them around, change orientation and size via simple drag or pinch & twist finger manoeuvres – text titles can be also created and manipulated in the same way.
The ordering of pictures on the page (to control overlap effects) is a simple tap away and cutouts can be made by dragging an outline around your image.
Graphic backgrounds can be inserted. Image border colours can be amended plus drop shadows added. Don’t think you need an image after all? No problem, just flick it off the top right of the screen and it disappears, to sit in an Undo tray – you can get it back later if you need to.
In the featured example (click on it to see it full size), some friends of mine are involved in an excellent production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, set in the Western isles of Scotland. I thought I could help promote this further – so, I accessed the photos from a friend’s Facebook album and got to work. Just over 5 mins of enjoyable fiddling later I had this result. Not bad, if I say so myself – obviously, having good pictures to work with helps.
However, once the creative work is done, there’s further groovy cleverness – you can send the finished result to yourself via email, or even get a printed postcard sent to an address of your choosing via Sincerely.com (although the one I received was over-cropped and cut off too much left and right of the image). It’s not clear what the price of this is, but the first one seems to be free. NB As these were originally screen images, they don’t have enough information to print large, so this isn’t really a workable solution if you want to create posters.
In addition – and probably most importantly in these days in which social media is so central to communications – you can post your artistry for the world to see via Twitter or Facebook along with a caption. I’ll be doing that at the right time with this creation.
For more inspiration and to see how others have used this app, see the Pic Collage gallery at http://pic-collage.com
Alistair Birch, 24/07/2012
Turbocharge your images with Tumblr
© C Sedin - Fotolia.com
Getting photos into your ChurchInsight website is pretty straightforward, but sometimes you want a way of showing the latest goings-on as they’re happening – or pretty soon afterwards. For the odd photo here and there, resizing, uploading and inserting the image into a webpage is fine, but if you want to show more than a few images or speed is of the essence (or you just want an easier life) there's a better way to do it – and work smarter...
Basically, you set up a Tumblr.com blog, insert the RSS feed from the blog into an RSS Reader Component on your website – then you simply take and upload photos directly to your ‘Tumblelog’ with your smartphone and they automatically appear on your website.
Tumblr is what’s known as a microblogging platform. Unlike Wordpress, Blogger or even ChurchInsight’s own blog functionality, this is geared to short posts and in Tumblr’s case, particularly designed to be rich media friendly: Tumblr makes it really easy to post images, audio clips, videos and more (short text items, quotes, links, conversations) directly from your smartphone – that may be just what you need. And there are currently nearly 59 million Tumbleblogs, so you’re in good company.
On a trip to visit one of our daughters and son-in-law South Africa last year, I used a Tumblelog to publish a running photo and caption commentary of our visit so family and friends could enjoy it too – see this example page. It didn’t quite go to plan as I discovered that publicly-accessible wireless Internet access is extremely rare in Cape Town* and I didn’t want to pay extortionate international data charges, so the record sadly stopped well short of the full trip, but you can get the idea.
This kind of thing is ideal for ongoing church news, projects you’re working on, mission trips, young people's group pages, church away weekends – or maybe you just want to see/hear/view the thoughts and adventures of your pastor while he’s on the move – you name it. It's just the job anywhere where the media is the main element of the content rather than a lot of words – and you can even set your Tumblr blog to automatically post to your Facebook profile as well.
I've only worked with images in a Tumblelog, but here’s how to do that – you can experiment with other media types.
The address will be http://yourblogname.tumblr.com e.g. mine is http://deepersouth.tumblr.com. Note there's no 'www'.
2) Download the Tumblr app for your phone
Apps are available for iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. Configure the app with your Tumblr account details.
3) Start posting!
If posting images, the first part of the picture description will show up as the title and the rest show up underneath the image on your ChurchInsight page. Post a couple of pictures and captions as a test – you can always delete them later from your Tumblelog.
NB When posting via the iPhone app, it always defaults to the first Tumblelog you set up, so if you have more than one, be careful to set it each time you post so the images go to the correct blog.
4) Connect the Tumblelog with your ChurchInsight website
Grab the RSS feed of your Tumblelog – it’s in a link at the foot of the blog page, or simply take the address of your Tumblelog and add “/rss” to the end e.g. http://deepersouth.tumblr.com/rss
Insert an RSS Reader Component in an Article or the Layout where you want your Tumblr content to appear and add your Tumblelog’s RSS feed to the component. See how it all turned out on this test page (this might take a few seconds to load the first time). NB. If adding the component to a layout, make sure you echo the same External Margin settings as other components in that part of the page, otherwise your page may start to look a mess.
If you'd also like know how to auto-post content from your Tumblelog to your Facebook page, there's help here – I found this worked well during my trip.
Using Tumblr or something similar for a cool effect on your ChurchInsight site? Let us know on our Facebook page.
* Publicly accessible wireless Internet access seems rare in South Africa, unless you happen to find one of the excellent Mugg & Bean restaurant/cafes, where the first 15 mins is free and access after that is very competitively priced. Should you happen to travel to this wonderful country, make a note of this map page of Mugg & Bean restaurant locations and you'll be able to stay connected : )
Alistair Birch, 26/06/2012
How to get all the help you need with ChurchInsight
ChurchInsight is a powerful website system designed for churches big and small. You can use it as a simple online brochure for your church, or go to town and make the most of the multiple features, such as rotas, multimedia, mailing, publishing and much, much more.
Even a simple site can seem daunting when new. And when you want to explore the extensive features that make up ChurchInsight – we know it can be helpful to have some friendly support at hand.
That’s why we made ShareInsight. It’s a website full of resources and answers to help you make the most of your Insight website, and answer any little niggles that you might have.
Here are 6 ways to get help through ShareInsight.
Search by keyword
Type the topic you need assistance with in the search box at the top of the page. It will show you everything on the site that might be useful for that topic. The more specific your search term, the more accurate the results will be.
Find help by application
If you need help within a certain application, such as the Calendar, the Attendance Tracking or Multimedia, click on the application’s icon in the middle of the page.
You’ll be taken to a page with articles and guides for that website area, and should be able to find what you are looking for. You can also use this method to find out more of what you can do with each application on your ChurchInsight site.
Read release notes
ChurchInsight is being continually improved and extended by a team of dedicated developers. By reading their release notes you can find out what the latest changes are and what is new in the system.
It might answer your question, and it will certainly open your eyes to more of the possibilities of Insight.
Search the knowledge base
If you prefer to filter rather than search, make your starting point the ShareInsight knowledge base. You’ll find Insight news, system status updates and official Insight help articles and videos. There are quick start guides and implementation guides for those who are setting up their new website.
Be warned though: there are quite a lot!
Use the community forums
Another thing you’ll find in the knowledge base is the community forums. Browsing through these you’ll discover questions and answers from other ChurchInsight users, as well as tips and tricks that they have shared.
If you can’t find what you are looking for, you can always start a new thread on the topic yourself.
Submit a support request
And one final way to get help on ShareInsight if you are still stuck – use the support request form to send us details of the problem. Simply log in using your username and password from your own website and describe the problem. You’ll be notified when one of your staff answers your request.
That’s a whistle-stop tour of ShareInsight. We’ve tried to make it as helpful as possible. Let us know if you have any suggestions for how it could be even more useful to ChurchInsight customers. We’re on Facebook and Twitter and we’re all ears.
Adam Johannes, 13/01/2012
The 'Notting Hill' movie guide to web design
One of the most memorable scenes in the film Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, is when Hugh’s housemate opens their front door to collect some milk, only to find a hoard of the world’s media camped outside.
Clad only in his underpants, Spike makes the most of the opportunity and strikes sultry poses against the blue doorway as the paparazzi flash away.
The iconic entrance used in the scene became so famous that the real-life owners of the house sold off the actual door in aid of charity – no doubt also to try and reduce the number of tourists using the front of their fashionable residence as a photo location. The famous doorway is now painted white with a new – probably intentionally inconspicuous – black door in place.
Your front door can say so much about you, but the same is true of your website – your online front door.
To buy or not to buy, that is the question...
Think what you do if you’re considering buying from a business or using a service for the first time – you go and check out their website.
What you see there gives you a sense of whether the organisation is credible, reliable, trustworthy, competent – or the opposite. This can give you confidence to decide to buy or engage with the organisation – or undermines that.
But that’s what people are doing all the time when they consider coming to your church.
Here’s the thing. Right now, people are deciding whether to come along to your church based upon seeing your front door – your website.
Scary? What’s their decision likely to be?
The world has changed
At the Church of Christ the King in Brighton, UK, where I’m involved as an area congregation pastor and on the Communications & Technology Team, we’re finding this to be more and more important. I talk to a lot of churches as part of my work with Endis and others are telling me the same thing.
There was a time when it would be extremely rare for someone to come in off the street on a Sunday without knowing anyone in the church. Most visitors would come because a friend brought them.
We’re finding that this has changed. While many people come along because they’ve met other church members, an increasing number arrive through our doors for the first time simply because of our church website – they don’t know anyone.
They’ve been able to pick up enough about our values and ethos from the website to feel confident about making the bold step of turning up on a Sunday.
Consequently, I’m constantly surprised by the number of churches who make good web design a low priority. Paradoxically, they communicate that good communication isn’t important to them.
What they need to know
If your website looks amateurish, appears as if the spotty nephew of the church treasurer designed it (“he’s only 14 and he’s so good with computers”) and doesn’t present key visitor information in non-churchy language, then potential visitors will be walking away.
As well as seeing a professional-looking design which gives confidence, what do people want to know?
This last point is very important for families. Is there are Sunday School? For what ages? Do children stay in for the whole service? If not, do they go out to Sunday School and when? What age groups are there?
- Where do you meet? (map please)
- When do you meet – and how long does it last?
- What will happen while I’m there?
- Do I need to dress up?
- Are you a load of wackos?
- What happens to my kids?
If I have children, this is crucial. If I know the above, I can tell my kids in advance what’s going to happen. This will put them at ease in a new and unfamiliar situation. If they’re happy, I will be – and I can concentrate on what I’m experiencing.
Presenting this kind of information on your home page (or at least linking very obviously to it) is really important in making your website, and your church, visitor-friendly.
So, change your front door for a nice shiny one which will give people confidence to come – or at the very least, give it a new lick of paint and make sure key information is easy for potential visitors to find.
To give you a bit of design inspiration, here are some examples of what other churches & charities have done.
Alistair Birch, 12/07/2011
5 Things you'll love about texting through Insight
Did you know you can text your church through your website in a matter of seconds?
The Endis development team, support staff and I were ecstatic when we released text messaging into the software and I'm afraid we have done a bad job of getting the word out about it. It’s one of those features that has come out of our ongoing quest to help churches save time and money.
Here are some helpful things about texting through ChurchInsight that you might not have realised:
1) Faster than email – Text messaging (also know as SMS) is an instant way of getting a message to someone, as long as they have their mobile phone with them (and who doesn't?). Don't wait for people to check their email – get the message heard straight away.
2) Cheaper than a mobile phone – SMS from a mobile phone provider is about 10p+VAT although some contracts have a free allowance of a certain number of messages. When you send one from your ChurchInsight site it is only around 8p+VAT per text.
3) Easy to contact everyone – As your ChurchInsight site is your church database, you should have everyone’s mobile phone information to hand. You don’t need to keep a separate database with another supplier either so the admin involved is very low. Select who you want to send it to, write the text once, hit send – that's it.
4) No commitment, pay for what you use – There is no monthly fee for using the text message feature in Insight, nor do you have to buy your credits in advance. Simply pay for what you use and the fee is added to your monthly bill.
5) Customisable to give you control – Using the permissions feature in the web office you can specify the people to whom you would like to send SMS. You don’t have to send blanket messages. You are always in control of the usage and cost of the service.
Why not give texting through Insight a go and let us know how you get on, over at Twitter or Facebook?
Adam Johannes, 10/05/2011