Archive for November, 2009

Being professional

November 6th, 2009

People like websites that are professional looking. You can get away with a little of an amateur look but people will judge your church/organisation/ministry but the way the website looks. If you want new members then they are unlikely to be attracted by something that looks like the cat scratched it together in it’s litter tray. Of course they are also not going to be attracted by something that looks like its been done by a marketing company but that’s a post for another day.

When I say that it needs to look professional I don’t mean it has to look like you paid for it but that it needs to look like you know a little of what you are doing.

Professional sites should:

  • Be neat and attractive
  • Not have too much going on
  • Not use centred text save in extreme circumstances
  • Should have colour that match
  • Have easy to find contact details
  • Should be on point and not off point

However there is also professional behaviour required in running the website. For instance, you should not complain about the amount of spam you get on your website and you should always seek to answer emails within 24 to 48 hours.

I’ve had cause to email nearly all of the main denominations in the UK from time to time and they seldom answer emails at all. I think in this modern age this is REALLY bad. It’s almost as bad as when you email someone and they respond saying that you should telephone them sometime. I emailed because that is the form of contact I want to make, if I wanted to telephone I would have done that instead. Email is the preferred form of communication for many professionals these days (you get a record of the communication and you can give considered responses) so to ask someone who emails to call you is to my mind just bad manners. Of course sometimes it is appropriate but in most cases answer by email.

web building

Your site should be more visual

November 5th, 2009

One of the comments I often hear from all kinds of people is: “Your site should be more visual”. Apart from the obvious response that it is entirely visual because you use your eyes to see it not your fingers to feel it or your nose to smell it, people are saying that you need more graphic elements (usually bigger pictures and more of them).

Whilst it is true that pictures are an important part of a website it is too easy to get carried away.

If you use the Internet often you will soon see that many web designers are starting to use large images on the front page of a website. The idea is that people will find the images attractive and be drawn into the website. I’m sure that this is true to an extent. The images are great but you will need some words so that the images make sense. Unless you are an artist you will probably struggle with seeing the message of an image in the kind of time you are giving to look at a website.

The point is this:

It’s not the image, its the message that draws people in

We all like pretty images and often they do catch our attention but on a website you want more than catching attention. People come to websites to find information, not to be entertained (unless you are a video or music site of course). Big images on front pages only work when they also help people answer questions.

I’m also often surprised by the length of time some systems for displaying images take to load. Given that most people come to a site and decide within one second if they want to explore the site if your image system takes longer than half a second to load then you will lose all but the most persistent.

Also I’ve come across many sites that use rotating image systems (images load one after the other). This is great if people are wanting to see your big images but most people are looking for answers which means they will not bother to wait for your banners to rotate.

If you do use images as links etc on your site then make sure you have the same links in text form for those who either can’t be bothered to wait or who have images or plugins turned off.

I’ve also found that many of the requests for more visual stuff often come from designers who mainly work outside the web or marketing people. It is always wise to listen to such people but always remember that the site works best when it is delivering its content easily and not as entertainment.

Also the impact of these images is diminishing as more and more sites have them. When just a few sites had large images on the front page it was kind of exciting but now its common place it’s ability to draw people in is diminished.

I’ve worked in architecture and graphic design so I know that design of a site can help people navigate and enjoy a site (design is not all about text) but I also know that some people are just not practical in their approach to these things. I once knew an architect who thought signs in a building were not needed because a good design should guide people to where they need to go. This was fine but when you are a stranger to a large building looking for a toilet (or any other room for that matter) this approach can be very frustrating.

By all means use a more visual approach but don’t let it get in the way of practical matters.

web building

Things people never complain about

November 4th, 2009

14493687When you start designing websites you will discover that everyone is an expert. You will even find your in-laws have read an article on web design in the local newspaper and they will be happy to tell you about their findings over dinner. Even the bloke who walks his dog past your house everyday will have some snippet of wisdom on web design to pass on to you if you ask him. Don’t ask me how everyone got to be an expert.

Of course what you will also discover is that they know squat about web design and what really happened was that they managed to put a picture up on facebook and so now consider themselves an expert.

All these experts will be complaining about your websites (of course no one ever complains about any of mine, ahem!).

However there are some things that people will never complain about and here are a few of them:

  • Your site is too easy to navigate
  • Your site is too quick to load
  • It’s too easy to find information on your site
  • Your design doesn’t get in the way of the content enough
  • You don’t have enough flashing images on your site
  • I was hoping I would have to download the latest plugin to view your site.
  • Your contact details were too easy to find
  • I really miss that revolving globe/flying dove/3d cross/etc you used to have on your site

So to avoid complaints take note from these compliments that you will never receive.

What other complaints do you think no one is ever going to make?

web building ,

iphone apps for Christian evangelists

November 3rd, 2009

Came across this blog post the other day. It’s a little off subject but with many people using phones to browse the web these days I thought it might be interesting for some of my readers. I don’t own an iphone myself, preferring a hand held computer, but I have used a few of these apps on my handheld and can confirm that they are quite useful. I think the best tool to have on any hand held computer/phone/etc is a bible. It’s really useful when you find yourself waiting somewhere.

Anyway here is the link:


More guidelines than rules

November 2nd, 2009

When it comes to webdesign – Christian or otherwise – there are no rules. Everything you read on this website will be for guidance only and you should remember that about anything you read.

Of course some guidelines are very strong guidlines but you will always be free to break them.

One of the great joys of the Internet is that it is a place you can experiment. There are no web police making sure you follow the rules of good design and if you have a good reason for doing something then you can just go ahead and do it.

The only thing I would say though is that if you decide to follow your own rules you have to be prepared for others not to like it – and to quite possibly comment on it. If people don’t like it then they will be very tempted to just click and go somewhere else. Most people’s temptation threshold on the Internet is very low indeed.

So follow your own rules but don’t neglect to understand the guidelines.

Thoughts ,