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Clover Sites CMS

Users

Clover Sites provides flash template templates for churches and ministries. They currently have a dozen to chose from. The web-based CMS is entirely managed through flash and lets users create and use many of their features, such as online calendar, sermon module, the ability to create Up to 8 Main Pages and sub pages under these.

Web Standards: NO (Learn why all flash sites are bad.)
SEO Friendly URLS: NO (Because the sites are entirely flash, links are not used.)
Syndication: NO
Unique Design: NO
Web Based: YES

(Learn about these at Church CMS Ranking)

53 Comments

  1. I’m really bothered by the rediculous statement, “…all Flash sites are bad”. When I click your link, it brings up a site that hasn’t been updated since 2002. Website design and technology (by your site’s title, it seems you consider yourself an expert on) has grown by leaps and bounds since then. If a Flash site is designed properly, the client will enjoy all the benifits of a static HTML site and more, including search engine indexing.

    I am a Flash developer, so statements like that drive me crazy. Using very common techniques, I can design a site so that all the content from the site can be accessed by regular web browsers, search engines and even mobile devices (ex. http://www.creativechurchconference.com). So, almost all visitors will get the information they need (users who disable javascript lose out on Flash sites AND “Web 2.0” sites).

    Making irresponsible statements like yours just makes it harder on a lot of designers, and scares uninformed clents away from some of the wonderful things only Flash can provide. Please join the 21st century and get over your fear of Flash.

    • wanna volunteer to make a new church plant a web site? we have a great logo so far :o)

  2. Boots – Although there are great improvements coming from Adobe on Flash, we still adamantly stand by our position that all Flash sites are a terrible decision for churches. We love flash and when used properly believe it is a wonderful and powerful way to make sites beautiful and rich in their presentation.

    On this post we used Clover sites which use this type of poor all-Flash presentation which does not allow people to dig deep into their site and share this with others, people cannot save links, these sites will be very difficult to be discovered by search engines and so (as they are marketed to many church plants on a budget) will cost people visitors who will never see these sites.

    Certainly the investment you make to overcome the challenges help, but there are still too many limitations in an all flash site for a church for us to recommend.

  3. Whether or not Flash is inaccessible should not be the only concern. While many users are blessed with high speed internet, just as many are not, which is the case with my church. Since going to Clover Sites and their Flash based CMS, the page takes several minutes to load on dial-up, compared to the 20 seconds or so with our old, static HTML design. Granted, the Flash looks pretty, but it’s ridiculous how long you have to wait.

  4. @ admin
    Disclaimer… I work at Clover and ran across this post. I agree that Flash inherently creates issues that the average web guy cannot work around when it comes to creating content that a search engine sees, but then again, we’re not average web guys here at Clover. Our system uses Flash as the interface, but you’ll see that any page someone creates is actually viewable by search engines. For example, Google “link:www.cloversites.com”. You’ll get a list of churches that link back to our site. Next, grab an address and Google “site:www.NameOfACloverSiteHere.com”. You’ll instantly see all the pages of the site… basically everything that Google sees including the text that a user enters. Search engines don’t even see a Flash site. Cool huh?

    Flash gets a hard time when it comes to SEO, but Clover just breaks the rules… actually, we’ve rewritten the rules.

    @ Cody
    If you’re complaining that Flash is terrible on dial-up… um, you shouldn’t be online. If you’re driving a Pinto you should stay off the Autobahn.

  5. Clover’s got a neat little basic cms, but here’s what you need to keep in mind:

    1. You need to be savvy to use it. This isn’t for the church receptionist. It’s easy enough for an interested teen.
    2. Unfortunately, this is the definition of “cookie cutter”. Very few templates with very rigid customization limitations. This is why one can change between a few colors and layouts easily. And, given the few designs, the odds are you might have the same Clover site as the guy down the street or in the next town.
    3. The clover site itself looks like the image here if you don’t have flash 9, which my ff didn’t have. So, worst case, you have to install software, if you hang around.
    4. Very limited features, though I’m sure they’ll be working on it over the next few years.
    5. No mobile version.
    6. Not translatable to other languages.
    7. Not accessible.
    8. Limited pages, again due to the cookie cutter nature of the product.
    9. The initial impression is good as far as the flash interface, but users coming back want content, and the flash is a bit cumbersome with all of its transitions. It’s actually annoyingly slow to go from page to page, and hopefully you don’t need to search for anything. Sitemap?
    10. No stats.
    11. No ecommerce or online giving.
    12. No blogs.
    13. Only 13 cookie cutter designs right now.
    14. For cookie cutter, $1000 is very expensive.

  6. Good point, iPhone and other mobile phones do Not Support Adobe Flash. I believe Mobile browsing will only grow in importance.

  7. Hey there-

    Normally I don’t really post on blogs, but we had a customer call today asking if some of the points made on this post were true… I’m one of the creators of Clover, so I thought it would be good for you to hear the truth about Clover straight from the horses mouth (not that I’m calling myself a horse). So I’ll address each of the concerns/issues:

    1. All Flash Sites Suck- This might have been true 8 years ago, but times have changed: http://www.speakingofclover.com/2008/07/the-lowdown-on-flash/ (not to mention there are some pretty horrendous HTML sites out there too… Especially in the church world).

    2. Need to Be Savvy to Use It- We have never had someone call asking how to use our interface, and we don’t have an instruction manual. If that’s not easy to use, I’m not sure what is.

    3. Sucks for SEO- Not anymore. We changed the game: http://www.speakingofclover.com/2008/06/search-engine-optimization-in-flash-really/ (by the way, iPhones and mobile devices see this version, too!)

    4. No Stats: Normally flash sites don’t handle stats well, but again, we’ve changed everything: http://www.speakingofclover.com/2008/12/get-statistics-on-your-site/

    5. No Blogs or e-commerce: People like Word Press and Blogger have spent millions of dollars and man hours creating a great blogging platform, and we really believe in using each tool for what it was created for. Just link your blog to your church site (not to mention it’s better for search engines). We might eventually create a “tithing module” and shopping cart, but there are great tools out there. On http://www.cloversites.com we have a huge list of resources to help you out with these kind of features.

    6. Different external links (www.yourchurch.com/page1)- You’re right. That feature will be coming in the next round of updates to the greenhouse (along with a TON of other features).

    7. Slow/Cumbersome- Our average site size is about 100K (which loads in under a second on a typical internet connection). If you notice, we actually don’t even have loading bars on our sites! On a normal modem connection, it should take between 10-15 seconds, which is faster than Yahoo.com. Cody unfortunately has an extreme issue, and we’ve tried our best to help him.

    8. $1000 is expensive- The reason we got into this business was to equip churches. It would be stupid to create something that meets their needs that they couldn’t afford. We ran a custom website company before Clover, and had some pretty big clients. If we were to create any of our pre-designed sites for them from scratch, we would have easily charged somewhere around $20-$25K. Allowing churches to share the same framework drops the cost to 1/25th the price. So whether that’s expensive to you, I’m not going to be the judge… But the question is value.

    Bottom line: You should use the right tools for the right things. If you are a blogging church, get a Word Press blog. If you want social networking, create a group for your church on Facebook. But if you are looking for a great looking website, that anyone in your church can manage, Clover is for you.

  8. @Jim

    That was really imformative, I personally thing that the Clover sites are the most amazing thing since slice bread, and if i had the money I would be using it to create a website for my design and creative work.

    I have told my church, and i’m hoping they’ll get involve, only it more expensive in AUD$

    is there anything else the same??

    Thanks Mel

  9. As a pastor in a church of about 500, we do not have all the resources available. Staff is one that we need more of. I do student ministries, video, audio, graphics, programming and web design for our church. Clover has allowed me to hand off the website to a volunteer to update at home. Instead of needing to be fluent in HTML, or own additional software, my volunteers are able to update what they need and in all actuality not screw anything up (too bad). Clover is an amazing resource for the church and it is only going to get better and easier. $1,000 is a small price to pay to get a lot off my plate and allow a non tech savy stay at home mom serve her church.

    Sorry admin but you’re wrong about clover.

  10. TechPastor – I agree that Clover has a product that is great for many churches. We’ll take a look at it again but the previous understanding was that a lot of it was ‘hard coded’ with top level navigation limits, page limits, etc. Certainly non-technical people will easily use this product but I imagine many churches will have needs that go beyond the capabilities and limitations of Clover. Again, Clover is a product with pros & cons just like every other product on the market. So people need to evaluate what they are getting, their current needs and their future needs when they decide to commit to a CMS.

    Thanks, I hope people read all these posts and upon review select Clover if it’s the right fit for them. We are all on the same team so may God get the glory and the Kingdom expand!!!

  11. Hey Guys,

    I bought a site form Clover in December for my investment company. I suck at web interfaces and had little time to devote to the site, and wow! Praise God and Christ above! I have had nothing but a great experince with it, for me and my clients. I am extremely impressed with the quality and dedication of this company. Thanks CLOVER!

  12. I think they charge $1000 to tie you in for a couple years, because you, most likely, will outgrow what they offer sooner than 2 years. Clover sites, being so limited in what they offer might serve as a limited brochure-type site, or might serve as a short-term event site, if you have the bucks. Given their limited functionality, they advise creating a mashed-up offering as the best way to go, which it’s not if you’re concerned about branding. Also, their sites don’t translate to mobile. You might be presented with text that you have to zoom in on and scroll horizontally back and forth to read it all. And, if it’s SEO friendly, I’m not sure why they don’t show up higher in search results. While flash-based front-ends are not new, their flash CMS is slick…but your website visitors aren’t using the cms; they’re viewing your content. When you’re trying to view content, all the flash-based transitions and such just get in the way. That my 2 cents. Have a good one.

  13. I wanted to add that I posted the above on a couple blog’s clover discussions to add what I consider a very valid critique to the hype about flash-based website products.

    Someone said I’m grinding an axe, but no. Really. I posted that blurb as a very valid critique of some aspects of their solution, and certainaly the claim that $1000 is priced for ministries. None of what I said is invalid? You can test the product and load it onto a mobile browser yourself to see this and really think about owning the same flash site a year down the road. Besides, for your church, there are plenty of solutions starting at a cost of free that offer more long-term benefit that are non-flash. I used to build business sites, and I know how site owners can be initially googly-eyed for animation…before realizing more serious needs. So, while I agree that this solution may work for some, my experience says it’s not a long-term solution. That’s a brotherly perspective as something to consider. That’s all. I’d really like to see them beef the product up and offer a non-flash site option (maybe toggleable) and lower the price. That’d be cool…and appropriate for the mobile web. In Brotherly Love.

  14. I am currently looking for a solution to our website

    A concern for me is that most of the critique on clover is based on non current information, Ie long loading times and non seo compliant issues. which If you read jims response has been addressed.

    No one gives any examples of solutions starting with a cost of free that offer more or the same as clover.

    Many arguments about owning a clover flash site are the same for any HTML site that isnt managed or updated regularly.

    Im looking for a solution but I cant see that anyone can offer anything better than clover in ease of setup, maitenance and ongoing upgrading and increasing their features and at the same or less cost for someone who would have to get someone else to build it whereas I could easily manage a clover site without buying new software or buying updates or the like.

    Kind regards

    David

  15. Let me whole-heartedly vouch for Clover as a great solution for your church. The techy ignorance espoused by some in this discussion is frustrating. Clover actually understands ministry. If a church can afford to spend $10k on a website and has the staff to maintain it, then obviously they won’t be looking for a solution like this. But for EVERYONE else, there are two key factors in a church website. It needs to look good, and it needs to be easy to update often and quickly. Everything else is secondary for ministry. Clover solves both of these problems beautifully. Their design ensures it will look good if you have any graphic art skills at all (a requirement for any site). And it’s easy for anyone to be trained to update the text and calendar. Yes there are some limitations right now, most notably that you can’t link to pages within your site. This will be solved soon, but for most churches this limitations is a small price to pay for what they’re getting. It’s not worth it for a church to spend $100 on a template somewhere that doesn’t really look that great and is hard for them to maintain, just so they can link to pages and customize other aspects (which they don’t have the technical know-how to do). No, get Clover now and have a very good website while you are small. You can always pay and get more later. Clover is rescuing a lot of churches from mediocrity.

    A few comments to things said above: 1) It’s a big world, and HIGHLY unlikely any church near you will have a site that looks like yours. 2) Our site comes up #1 on a search for our name. Just saying. 3) $1,000 is so cheap for something that looks good. 4) It’s a web 2.0 world, and those who care about the website have computers and connections that can handle it. Our website isn’t for old people, and they don’t expect it to be. 5) Finally, upcoming updates will make everything even better, solving the issue of linking within pages.

    Jump into Clover feet first, churches! You won’t regret it – we sure haven’t.

  16. Does it strike anyone else that clover sites work similarly to a powerpoint presentation? Just hit me after looking at two of their sites that had the same template. Click on a link, the background photo changed, maybe some scrolling text. It seriously could’ve been a powerpoint presentation. There wasn’t much I could do except scroll through text on each page or look at a different photo. Just my 2 cents.

  17. I guess this is the place to be to discuss clover.

    Some of the zealous comments here strike me as either being by Clover staff or Clover “friends” or faces of Clover or Clover flip phone winners. It’s no biggie guys. Let people air their thoughts, bro’s. :) Interestingly, the angriest (and/or youngest) of you seem to be the clover fan-people.

    Nate, what church are you from, so we can test a search?

    – Many providers out there can and do build sites that look good and DO NOT require “graphic arts skills”. The reason Clover sites DO require art skills is because the photos (or “slides”, Dan, I agree) are the only graphic elements in most of their templates and need to skill to be sized, cropped and positioned properly to look good and had better be GREAT photos since the “look” depends on them. That’s fine if you have the skill. Set aside a few hundred $$$ budget for good stock photos.

    – Nate, While branding is important, and “looking good” is ONE PART of that, you may be missing the time-tested point that CONTENT IS KING. Not even you, Nate, if you’re a casual user, have any great reason to return to a clover site, unless you’re the one making the updates. If anyone goes to a Clover site for a visit, is there a compelling reason to return to it? I haven’t found an example of that. I truly think such a site would be short-lived. If you go to http://www.fueleveryday.com/, tell me why I’d ever revisit it after that. Probably not for the calendar. MAYBE for a sermon. So then, the point becomes, is this basically an online brochure for visitors? Sorry if anyone else said that already.

    – It may be a web 2.0 world, but clover sites are NOT web 2.0 sites by a long shot. I don’t know of any web 2.0 aspect that is included in the clover product. In fact, their long sheet of recommended partners that offer the more critical web functions you’re going to need (email, blogs, social networking, store, giving, etc) speaks to that fact. It’s fine if they don’t want to include those things in their product for sake of simplicity, but it sure isn’t web 2.0.

    – Not for “old people”? I take it you’re young. That’s fine. What should we provide to the “old people”? :)

    – Try e-zekiel or churchmedia.cc or discoversky.com if you want to save some money and get good design.

    Regard,
    Lewies

    Unrelated Signature Quote:
    Let’s get people in the church and TEACH them about Christ, not make them entertained zombies.

  18. I just purchased a clover site and I love it. They do have a mobile which is cool and for our church this was a great investment. I don’t work for clover or anything like that but I will say. I stand by their sites and am very impressed by the fact that they are developing new features that they offer you freely, which the last company did not. Flash or not I fully endorse clover.

  19. Hi,

    I stumbled across this blog on google. I personally, having read the comments checked out a site that some friends of mine bought from Clover, its a Christian Summer Camp in South Carolina. I typed in what most people would search for in google i.e. Summer Camps South Carolina. And it was on the first page and in the top 10! I’m sorry but i think your idea of knocking Flash is ridiculous. I think your forgetting that a lot of churches got have a huge budget for a flashy looking website. Flash can and is searchable if your clever with it, in the programming. I am not a website designer so i know i’m out of my depth here. But i am the viewer and i look at church sites. A website says a GREAT DEAL about at church and people who are moving to a new church almost always look around on the internet for perspective churches. You cant deny that if you stumbled across a church using Cloversites you would be impressed and at $1000 its brilliant. I think you are being too hard on Clover. Also you got to remember its about GOD and Clover are doing just that. I say there should be more sites like Clover, mots people cant use dreamweaver or doing HTML or JAVA scripting so Clover is perfect for them.

    I hope i haven’t upset anyone with me opinion that wasn’t my intention. I i feel quite strongly about this. Don’t put people down (inc there work), encourage more professionalism in the creative media with Churches!

  20. It just struck me as I was doing research, that some trends do not bode well for Flash at all. I wish a good Christian company the best, but as for my church, I now have some new concerns.

    One thing to be concerned about with all-Flash sites and the Clover product, now obvious after the introduction of the iPad, is that Apple does not like Flash or Adobe for reasons of business model and will be seriously pushing HTML 5 over Flash. Apple believes Flash will die within years. So, I’m not sure where that will leave the Clover product. It may well have to revert to the same html-based solution other, more mature CMS products offer. Or, they may have to stick with the much-lesser mobile version for iphone’s, ipads, and any other future Apple products, possibly soon including Mac desktops…and PC’s if Microsoft goes the same way.

    Here’s what Steve Jobs says about Flash:
    “Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.”

    http://brainstormtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2010/01/29/behind-the-adobe-apple-cold-war/

    http://webtrends.about.com/b/2010/01/29/why-does-apple-hate-flash.htm

    http://bx.businessweek.com/adobe-systems/why-does-apple-hate-adobe/15595089364765778010-20c867a820a4b1cefa01d8945f896586/

    Google and Microsoft pushing HTML 5 too:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-10355860-265.html

    Youtube and Vimeo experimenting with HTML 5 to replace Flash player:

    http://www.funkyspacemonkey.com/youtube-beta-html5-replace-current-flash-player

    http://www.trulyfe.com/forum/technology/79166-web-html5-replace-flash-future.html

    Just something to think about.

  21. I meant to ask, any expert thoughts on the Apple/Adobe war?

  22. I was just checking out cloversites.com at my brother-in-law’s request on behalf of his church. I have no love for Flash, and I do think HTML5 is the future, but cloversites.com does actually handle the iPhone pretty well, serving up attractive and usable non-Flash content. I tried it on the iPad simulator (I’m a developer, the iPad doesn’t ship for another week or so), and it also loaded up the non-Flash content. Definitely not as pretty as in a browser that supports Flash — it’s basically the same content as the iPhone page, but scaled up — but still usable at least.

    Given that cloversites.com has done a reasonable job of separating presentation from content, I believe they could retool to support HTML5, if needed. Their support for the iPhone/iPad shows they’re making some effort to be friendly to non-Flash platforms, and if HTML5 can give those platforms a better user experience they might end up embracing it.

    My thought on the Apple/Adobe war (though I won’t pretend to be an expert): closed standards shouldn’t have a life on the internet. As much content as possible should be accessible to as many devices as possible. That makes Flash undesirable, when it’s practical to avoid it.

  23. A year ago the church where I am a pastor was redesigning our website. An option that we considered was a clover site. Here is what I discovered

    – Clover sites look good and are relatively cheap at $1000. I have seen many church sites that are free or $100 templates that are html based. These sites are designed with dreamweaver and updated with contribute and they are cheap and they look cheap.

    -It is not true that Clover sites don’t require additional software, it would be difficult to edit a clover site (or any site) without photoshop. However their greenhouse seems to be intuitive and is web based, a lot easier than Dream Weaver.

    – I was concerned about mobile browsing, but recently I got an HTC phone with the android operating system, superior to the iphone simply because of the network, and I can know browse flash sites with my phone.

    – I understand asking the question what brings someone back to your site? I checked out the fuel site and it looks good. What would bring me back to a church site? Video and/or Audio Sermons or Services. What else would bring someone back to a churches site? I social network through the popular social network sites.

    – It is a fact that flash sites load slightly slower, all Clover sites do. However the connection speeds in my area is getting faster not slower.

    I chose not to go with Clover, not because it was not a viable option but because I had a little more budget money to spend and was able to get a fully custom site through a company called Bridge Element. I spent 3 times what a clover site would have cost and don’t regret it but if I only had $1000 budget for a website I would have used clover. If I didn’t have the budget I wouldn’t put out website, it would be better not to have a site than to have a poorly designed site.

  24. My church has been using Clover Sites for four months now, and here are my thoughts:

    Pros:

    – Web-based editing
    – Easy method of placing photos…
    (though you can only place photos in predetermined locations (image containers) and there are issues with photo size and placement when first placed; does not automatically fill/constrain image to the size of the image container)
    – Easy method of rearranging site organization and navigation
    – Provides a mobile version of site (for iphone, etc.) without any further coding on part of church staff
    – Sermon player makes it easy to put sermons on the web (does not create RSS feed for podcasts however, for that Clover Site recommends linking to other online services)
    – Works with Google Stats, and Clover Sites will work with you so that you can use Google Webmaster Tools

    Cons:

    – Unable to undo more than one edit. Can’t control-z anything. To undo the last edit you press the “undo text” button. To undo more than the recent edit you have to cancel ALL of your edits by pressing cancel instead of save.
    – Unable to add inline images. Can only add images to image containers within template.
    – Unable to see if text is highlighted or not (according to Luke at Clover, this is a “glitch in some of the templates”).
    – Only text is allowed in text boxes, and formatting is very limited (can only bold, italicize and underline).
    o Cannot specify headers.
    o Cannot change font size.
    o Cannot change font color locally (can only do so for the entire site).
    – Not a CMS. Don’t even think Clover Site is a CMS, because it isn’t (there is a limit to the number of pages you can have, see below). If you want to blog, Clover Site actually tells you to link to WordPress or some other blogging service. Which to me is lame, as there is no way the navigation and look of the site would carry over.
    – There is a limit to the number of sections you can have, and a limit to the number of pages each section can have
    o In addition to the home/front page, you can have only 7 sections.
    o Each section can have only 10 pages/sub-sections.
    – Not handicap friendly, as one cannot change font size, font color, nor display alt tags.
    – No method of searching the site for specific content.
    – Unable to bookmark or link a sub-domain to a section within the site.
    – End users cannot select text within website and copy it (for example, end user cannot select event information and copy it into their calendar)
    – No RSS feeds are created, not even for sermons to create podcasts
    – Calendar is not subscribable
    – Unable to create tables. You have to use multiple hits on the space bar to create space between tabulated information. In turn, columns do not line up.
    – PNG files do not retain transparency. When PNG files are placed into the site, they are rasterized to match the color of the template, and the transparency is removed. Changing the color of the template will require re-importing all PNG files so that they match the new color, as the areas that are suppose to be transparent will not match the new color of the template.
    – Flash: yes Clover Sites does address some issues regarding the drawbacks to Flash (supposedly SEO isn’t an issue with Clover Sites), and their upcoming new version at the end of April 2010 is suppose to address even more issues (such as indexing/bookmarking internal sections of the site). But I still find the heavy reliance on Flash to be a drawback.

    Opinion:

    For the price tag of $1000 for the template, and then $20/month for server space, you’d think you’d get more for your money. You are basically paying a premium for a very easy to use web-design interface. But with that easy-of-use comes some pretty amazing limitations.

    Do not expect this to act like a content managed system, where you can post articles like you can with a blog. (For blogging Clover Site recommends you use other services like WordPress, and then link to the site from your Clover Site). Instead Clover Site is good for easily creating an in depth “business card” site; a site that has, for the most part, static content and isn’t updated often. If you are looking to post updates/articles on a daily or weekly basis, you would probably be better off with a content managed system like Joomla or Drupal. But obviously those have steep learning curves, so Clover Site beats those options when it comes to ease of use.

    To summarize, Clover Sites is both the Microsoft FrontPage and the iLife version of web-based site editing: it is easy to use (like FrontPage, appealling to church secretaries) and it is pretty (like iLife, appealing to pastors). But like both FrontPage and iLife, the end result will only look as good as the talent/skill-level of the end-user. I’d bet good money that at least 90% of the “green thumbs” sites that Clover uses as examples of how good their sites can look were not created by the church secretary. Which I find ironic. Because one of their main selling points Clover Sites brags about is how easy it is to edit a site. Which is true. But a lot of those “green thumb” sites that Clover shows off had someone behind them using Photoshop and other powerful editing tools: and suddenly creating such a site isn’t quite as easy is it? Most church secretaries don’t know how to use Photoshop and other such software, let alone have the skills to make a web graphic look good. Nope, most church secretaries will do with Clover Site what they’ve always done with FrontPage and Publisher: they’ll plop in the clip art that they found/stole on Google for free and won’t think at all about how it looks. And the end product certainly won’t be a site Clover will find worth bragging about to new customers (though they will continue to be glad to take your money for hosting your site at a premium cost).

  25. Just received this from Clover tech support today; another limitation:

    you do have to keep in mind Clover is a template based platform and there are some innate limitations that come along with that. We have designed this CMS to be extremely simple for our users and we believe that FTP protocol can be confusing to many users that are not familiar with web development, therefore we stripped away this methodology and made it very simple for the end user to add content to their site.

    In answer to your questions, adding a favicon to your Clover site is not currently an option, however this is a feature that we are thinking of adding some time in the future, however there are no defined dates as of yet.

  26. I’m a worship pastor of a church plant that has grow to around 800. 2 years ago starting up our team had no one with any significant website experience. Clover has served us tremendously well.

    I’ve recommended it to everyone mainly because. 1) it’s inexpensive. For the cookie cutter argument a couple thoughts. First how many people viewing your site would ever know. And Second with a little design sense and creativity you can have a site that is unique to you. The second reason i HIGHLY recommend clover is the content interface is intuitive and simple to use. Most of us have seen church sites that are outdated because they have to depend on some website creator somewhere to update their info. This interface is amazing and it allows a church to keep info current without having a big tech budget or background. Third reason I like clover is I think their sites are good looking. There are tons of bad looking church sites out there and churches have paid 5x more.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts, I’m not some “clover insider” as has been alleged on this discussion just a real life customer and a happy one at that.

  27. I am about to buy CloverSites today, I currently use BridgeElement and I must say it is ok but really put limits on what you can change and what you need them to change. If you want to add a page you need them to do it and in Clover you can do it yourself. I think Bridge Element charges after so many changes.

  28. @Jay
    “@ admin
    Disclaimer… I work at Clover and ran across this post.”

    “If you’re complaining that Flash is terrible on dial-up… um, you shouldn’t be online. If you’re driving a Pinto you should stay off the Autobahn.”
    I am very sorry but that last comment made my jaw drop. It is simply ignorant to say that, for there are many Americans on dial-up simply because they do not have access to high speed internet in their area (except for Satellite, which is VERY expensive and has an unreliable connection). I hope that attitude is not how all Clover thinks, because it is inconsiderate of a good point and many people.
    FYI, I am not a fan of Steve Jobs, but he has some good points about flash.

  29. Thanks for the great info everybody! We are thinking of switching over to flash with cloversites.

  30. @Lewies: I think you missed the point. Clover has a particular niche market they are trying to reach and its the small churches with a very small budget. The church I am at cannot even afford the $1,000 so why would you expect some churches to spend upwards of $6,000 for a website? Clover is not designed to meet the needs of churches that have a large budget and having done web design work for over 5 years I have seen the frustrations with maintaining various custom sites when you have non-technical people doing it for your church. You need something that is dead simple to update. Most custom websites out there say they are easy but the learning curve is very steep for the average person. I view it as HIGHLY VALUABLE that I would not be tied to always updating the website regardless of my availability and think it is very perceptive to create a web design that caters to non-technical people who can make the updates for me.

    I am in no way affiliated with Clover by the way and just wanted to voice that there is a key point with Clover. They are making appropriate updates as needs demand. They made their flash searchable for search engines for example. They are not only addressing concerns but releasing updates. That is a huge benefit as custom web design companies tend to have a “create it then leave it” mentality and won’t update your site for you without costing you more.

    Again, Clover is targeting a certain niche market just like Walmart targets low to mid range income households. No says that Walmart is ridiculous because it lacks things the wealthy class would want. Like several people have said, if a church has the money to spend more then go ahead, but many people are missing the point that there are a TON of small churches that don’t have that kind of money to drop. The average church size in my area is about 70 people not several hundreds.

  31. I’m glad I thought to visit this post before pulling the plug. A lot of the reasons people give here are the same reasons we’re deciding to leave clover websites (won’t mention our name since we are still customers). It is limited. The tiny scrolling areas annoyed our people in testing. We also looked at too many clover sites and saw too much that was the same and it lost its luster. We had to use outside services for so many things, it was just a big mash of a site. CLover system is for small churches (or more likely for youth groups) mainly because it is limited in what it can do, not because [someone merely claims] small churches can afford $1000 to start (which we bought into reluctantly). Besides, there are better church options for actual small churches that cost free to $100 to start (which we need now, because we cannot get our money back). The services that cost “$6000” are custom graphic design services. Clover is a template system for $1000, so it is like comparing apples and expensive clovers. For a template, $1000 is too expensive, as we have learned.

    They are nice enough young people working there. No problems with the people.

    Seems like there are some clover “evangelists” here who might be on the “friends” affiliate payroll? :)

    I did not know if that would help some of you or not.

  32. As I research, if you need to have Flash, here’s a free site you might check out with slightly more exciting templates. http://www.wix.com. Free is always good for small churches, right. :)

  33. I have personal experience with how expensive quality sites can be. These sites may appear simple but that is the beauty of them. Their clean simplicity makes it easy to maintain a professional and quality presence on the web. No waiting for a webmaster. No glitches with programing. I am conversant with programing and frankly, the glitches get tiresome and the time it takes to get the templates to do what I want them to do is too demanding. They have a mobile phone version generated for your site (our current site does not, and as a result flash shows up as a blank portion in viewers). I for one am truly grateful to have found them. The templates are brilliant and I can’t find anything to duplicate them in all the web. I’ve been trying for weeks: for years. And, we’ve decided to move ahead and benefit from their great sites. No, I’m not in any way affiliated with them.

  34. Clover is a complete waste of money and any church that uses them should ask for a refund. Their site is full of blatant hyperbole about how great the deal is, it makes me angry to see them taking advantage of ignorant churches. If you want a better alternative do some research and compare them with other services like Virb and read the full comparison on my blog. Almost any company out there is a better deal when you consider what you’re paying for what you get. If it wasn’t for their outrageous claims I could care less what they do or charge but it’s a shame people are getting sucked into their rhetoric.

  35. Beyond Clover… Does anyone have a recommendation for an affordable web design/CMS besides Clover?

    Inquiring minds…

  36. Deb, Check out Virb.com it just launched and I have been extremely impressed.

  37. I agree that the “CMS” term is misleading when Clover lacks simple features like multi-user support, revisions, publishing controls, etc. These type of features are essential for churches with many departments, staff, ministries etc. Check out @endUser’s list above. That’s a great list of pros/cons to review.

    Also, Clover is apparently branching out into other industries so I would be a little leery of their long-term support for churches

    Go to Google.com and search for “church websites”. You’ll find some great options in the first page of results. Be prepared to pay more for something like SiteOrganic or E-zekiel if you want to have more features and a more future-proof site.

  38. Go ahead and bash Clover all you want. But I highly recommend it. We us it for our church website and all your negative comments have not effect the look or feel of my website at all. When you have a church full of 65+ with no web experience or building experience it is best to have a site that is easy to use and build. I have been working with websites for years now, and by far when it comes to a web based builder, Clover has beat my expectations. So for all you Nay sayers, you are only writing negative reviews base on the outside looking in, I am writing from the inside looking out and say it is great! are there draw backs? sure there is, not as customizable as I wish it was as far as having freedom to move things where you want them, but that was expected as it is a template site, but I am pretty sure in the near future they will make it a lot more customizable. So take it from someone who bought a site and uses it EVERY DAY. It is worth the price and it is a sharp looking clean web site.

  39. As the owner of a professional website development company and a volunteer at my local church I can relate to concerns of many of your posts.
    Here is what I told my church leaders…

    It comes down to SHORT TERM versus LONG TERM. Most of the specialty template platforms like Clover are good options for the short term because you can get your website up in a short time with a professional look.
    However, the trade-offs include less functionality and usually the platforms become outdated. Just like FLASH is becoming outdated.

    The alternative is to use a CMS system that may require a little more customization on the front end BUT has tons more functionality and is supported by a huge community of developers.

    The BEST is these is a FREE system called Joomla: http://www.joomla.org/
    They are the LARGEST Community website platform in the world!
    Best of all no one owns them but millions support them.

    Good luck and God Bless!

  40. The problem with Clover is not their lack of features it’s the price. They charge almost the same cost of having a company develop and mange the site but with Clover you don’t get the site when you’re done paying. If clover’s cost was like $20-$50/month, I would recommend them. But with the initial $1000 fee just for the right to give them your business is insane.

  41. Just took a look at the source code of one of these clover sites and I must say that they a very limited when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. While you can optimize the Meta Tags you can not optimize the content, images, and links. These sites are OK for those that need a site for the sake of having one. But offer no real value to those that need a website that will be useful and contain useful content.

    Oh and by the way their mobile device detection is shotty at best.

  42. Ha ha, yeah, Joomla is free to download, but you need a developer’s expertise to implement.

    Clover’s value is high-end templates and a very easy to use CMS.

    I’m not a customer, I’m just in this game and so I pay attention. Clover’s solution is the best I’ve seen so far for their market, which is small businesses/organizations willing to sacrifice customization (there is some customization, but in the end, you are working with pre-designed templates) to stay within meager budgets. It gets you online, looking good, and for a very small price.

    For those of you who think $1000 is too much for a website, well, that’s just ignorance. When you consider the impact a well-functioning and well-designed website can have on a business/org, it’s just ridiculous that there are people out there who think it should be even cheaper. Truthfully, if you think $1000 is too much, then you clearly don’t even have a budget set up for your web services, which means you don’t take any of this seriously, which means you’ll never see the benefits of a well executed online marketing plan.

  43. Clover is a scam and I’ll never use their products again! Clover is easy to use but it is really limited and our people hated using the site.

  44. Hmm. Elijah and Zach Wingo’s posts are strangely too anti-Clover. The other former Clover customers points are good. We might be leaning another direction too…moreso after reading this.

    It’s strange reading this discussion, because every time someone posts something with even the slightest air against Clover or flash, someone else claiming to be a Clover customer (why would a Clover customer be searching for information about Clover, I don’t know) chimes in praising the system. It feels like Clover is a bit too over-concerned about what is said in this discussion and trying to manage it. That doesn’t come off well with me. Not too sure about that.

    Good luck with your decisions!

  45. I pray each of you and those who post future comments take Ephesians 4:28-32 to heart before posting further.

    We have a @100-120gig of info downloaded every month from our site, from all over the world – mobil and web based. Yet we don’t have a large web budget (under $50/mth). The Lord provides though, in His own way. Our site is html from the ground up, very functional, yet looks 1980’s.

    Clover has excellent designs! Nice work guys/gals.

    I appreciate that which is objective feedback given on this site. It was helpful. Still praying the Lord provides a robust solution for us. And you know…He will.

    FYI – A smaller church plant of ours, used clover and loves it.

    May we honor God in all we do and say, for that is most important!

  46. I’m currently investigating hosting options for my small (250 member) church. Clover Sites is being pushed by one member of the website committee because of how insanely easy it is for site managers to update (and its super slick look). However, there are a lot of drawbacks, IMO, with the Clover Sites:

    1) No RSS support for articles (only for podcasts).
    2) Outside providers must be used for email accounts, donations, and other features like online event sign-ups.
    3) The site is not portable – if you want to move the site, you will not be able to move easily any of the content plugged into the site.
    4) Holy cow the site loads slowly when you first get on it! And I’m on Comcast broadband. It takes 2 or 3 seconds for *anything* to come up on the screen after you first visit the site. And I’ve visited at least 20 different Clover Sites client sites.
    5) You cannot search for specific text within a Clover Sites page.
    6) There is only one level of admin access. We will have probably 6 people cleared to update our church website, and all of them would have access to editing any part of the site on Clover Sites — we don’t want everyone to have that kind of universal access.
    7) You can highlight text on the site but not copy and paste it. Believe it or not, this functionality matters.

    I’m currently looking at Elexio, E-zekiel, Faith Websites, and WordPress for our hosting choices. I’d prefer to go with WordPress because it has so much flexibility and it’s easy for people to edit if they’re comfortable with using something like Facebook. (And our current host allows one-click installation of WordPress.) But my church may feel like it wants to go with a church-specific host, so in that case I’m leaning toward E-zekiel because it’s so affordable and feature-rich

    We have many more non-tech-savvy people in our church than tech-savvy, but here’s our plan: Along with one other person, I’ll get the initial site established and train the site managers to make updates. I shouldn’t need to get involved in anything else after that, other than answering questions or helping them add new functionality.

    Check out E-zekiel — it looks like a very affordable, great, easy-to-use site management tool.

  47. I love every part of Clover! After using 4 or 5 other website providers and being left angry. I turned to Clover, hands down the best. I got to demo everything before using it too! Can’t go wrong with a Clover Site (period).

  48. We have been using Sharefaith.com and they are releasing their own church websites, free of charge, for every Sharefaith customer. This is all happening at the end of April, 2011.

    I have been looking forward to this as Sharefaith not only offers me 38,000 worshop media templates, but now I can also get my website with them. I don’t know what their current pricing is, but I became a member this year (2011) and paid $129 for an entire year. That is insane. No one else can offer me the value they give.

    My church cannot afford to spend more than $500 in budget for creative needs per year. Paying $1000 for a flash-based site is overpriced. I would rather pay one company a set ammount and get all my worship media needs fulfilled in the sample place.

    Sharefaith now will offer their 17,500 customers (I think that is what they advertise) a professional church website. I am so there !!

    Plus they have been around for 8 years, so they are really a trusted name in worship media.

    We will be keeping our eyes open for the release date of there websites.

  49. We decided to cancel our clover website in the first month and they gave us a hassle getting our $1000 back. We didn’t think to ask, we assumed we could. I beg you to ask them what their return policy is. Once you pay, they do not want to give your money back. They will basically tell you that too…except with a runaround about how you “won’t want to leave us when you try us”. Except that you might when you find out how limted their sites are compared to others. They kind of lure you in with the $20/month line, so you ignore the $1000. This is not a regular website development company. They are really behind the times on what is included. The website manager is nice and pretty, but the website gets bland quickly. Save your $1000.

  50. I have used both Cloversites and Sitekreator.com. Sitekreator.com wins by a mile – better templates, much more design flexibility, a little easier to use, more add-ons and widgets, and MUCH LOWER price – Cloversites charges a $1000 initial fee, Sitekreator.com charges $0

  51. I have now used Clover to build websites for two churches – one church had under 60 members and the other under 30 members. For both churches I did online looking at various options but none seemed as user friendly as Clover.

    I am not a techie but am pretty savvy when it comes to computer stuff. Clover is so intuitive and easy to use. I am never frustrated. The process doesn’t make me feel like an idiot.

    Over the past three years I have been using Clover, the time or two I have needed answers to questions Clover has been right there – easy to contact, very friendly, helpful and knowledeable.

    I feel that the $1000 price is VERY reasonable – I am a business owner and spent FAR more money on the website for my business. I believe Clover offers a lot of value for the vast majority of churches.

    Clover has continued to add features and develop their product offerings but the $20/month hosting fee has remained the same.

    The options for templates are really only limited by one’s own imagination and abilities.

  52. Great Discussion. I’m an Elder at a 200-220 church in San Diego and also the webmaster. I have build websites with FrontPage and can read some common html. So I’m not real talented in this area. If you can afford a professionally built website do it but be prepared to keep a professional on retainer which I would assume you would do.

    If not then you will have to make tradeoffs in whatever you do this discussion is about being smart on those tradeoffs you make.

    Our website is dated but at the time it was build it was state of the art and was built by a web designer who was a church member. It was built on a FrontPage framework with lots of customization. So it is not easily to add things or pages. The next person to managing it was ok with HTML and further modified it. Now it is me. I can update content that is it. Many church sites have a similiar story. They look at the initial product without thinking about the maintenance and upkeep costs. Churches used to not have a choice but now they do and need to make they make the correct one. Look at the long run not the short term costs or you are designing a system that will fail therefore whatever you have built is not worth the cost.

    We currently have a top graduate in web designer going to our church (more than one firm sought him upon graduation) he said he would help us so getting a website would be easy. But would it be the best thing to do. He is young and what happens when his job takes him away from us? How would we maintain our site? We want a site that can be easily maintained with little training? Therefore we will not use him.

    The real questions are, What do you want your site to do and how much money do you have to maintain your site?

    Notice I did not talk about how much it cost initially because initial costs are onetime thing and you can afford them or you cannot. Remember there is a difference between impressive and effective. What is the purpose of your website? Ours is to reach non-believers therefore our current site is not a good one. It is great for imparting information to members but we are not a church just to serve ourselves. We are not a rich church as we were left with considerable building debt. We must honor God by reaching out to the seekers.

    The value of this discussion as I see it is the list of sites that offer reasonable answers. By the way if you really want to look at some impressive site try this. http://vandelaydesign.com/blog/wordpress/best-church-websites/ The 50 sites are all first rate and professionally done some I would say are even effective but most are beyond the scope of anyone reading this blog.

    Summary of sites discussed in this blog.
    http://e-zekiel.com/
    http://www.joomla.org/
    http://sitekreator.com/sitekreator/index.html
    http://virb.com/
    http://www.faithclipart.com/fca/whatsnew.do
    http://www.wix.com/
    http://www.cloversites.com/church/
    One that was not but should have been:
    http://www.Wordpress.com
    If you have the talent http://www.rockettheme.com allows you to use their theme free if you are a non-profit. To get at them you have to join the club. They have joomla and WordPress theme and a product called Gantry which is a webpage framework. That is intriguing but I’m not talented enough to figure it out yet but being based on WordPress it is flexible.

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