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Archive for the ‘Don’t do this’ Category

Keep adding more features to your church website

October 29th, 2009

There is always a temptation to add more features to a website. After all, if you like the Internet and the many features you find on other peoples sites then you will probably feel that you should have them on yours. The other problem is that when you work on a website for a while you start to think that your site is getting old fashioned and needs spicing up a little.

Please try to avoid this disease because it can be fatal to a church website.

Only add features that are necessary to meet your website aims and only if they are not distracting from those aims.

You have thought about the main aims of your website haven’t you? If you haven’t then you need to because without aims your site will become bloated and unusable.

If you need some help thinking this through then I’ve attempted to make a list of all the different kinds of Christian websites are and what some of their aims might be here.

I think most church websites fall into the kingdom supporting category and this means that they primarily help other Christians and church members find out what is happening at the church. The sad truth is that very few people who are seeking faith will come directly to a church website – unless they are trying to find out about your church and how to attend it. Of course there is opportunity to encourage people who come to your website to explore the Christian faith through the many good websites that exist. You can easily give links to that information from your website.

So focus on your aims and only add the absolute minimum features that you need to meet that aim. I say absolute minimum because the more features you add the more choices people have and when people have too many choices they simply choose not to.

In the last local elections in my area I have to vote for 3 people and I had a choice of about 40 names (or at least it felt like 40). I did vote but only because my convictions made me – given a choice like this without a good reason to choose I would simply have walked away.

This is exactly what people will do if they are given too many choices. Only the dedicated will bother to try and find the choice that suits them.

Also too many features are a distraction from the main content of a website. Did you know that peripheral vision is as important as where your vision focuses when you navigate a website? If you have things flashing or moving or more exciting on the edges of your content then people will want to look at them and not the content. Of course this makes the content pointless and content is what a website is all about.

So keep the features down to what you need.

Don't do this ,

Mystery meat navigation

October 27th, 2009

Mystery meat navigation is so called because you have to hover over it or click it to find out what it does. You see this kind of navigation a great deal in many “cutting edge” websites. Presumably “cutting edge” means sites that you can’t use.

15614272It’s called “mystery meat” as a tribute to old school meals where there was a meat dish that you have to eat to try and work out what the meat was (often unsuccessfully).

Navigation in a web site should be obvious. The last thing anyone wants is to have to learn how to use a website whilse they are trying to get information. It should be as obvious as possible as to where to find what people are looking for.

On a similar note – and I’m just forgetful enough to say this kind of thing again some time – don’t try and reinvent the names for buttons.

I’ve seen buttons with names like: “connect with us” and “talk to us” or even “network” when what they really meant was “Contact us”. Don’t make people search for things – make it obvious. It may be boring for you but web users will love your site if its easy to use.

Don't do this

Design by committee

October 22nd, 2009

It’s not unusual for the a church to want to design a web site using a committee. Now I’m all for involving as many people as possible in the ministry of a church but sometimes this committee thing can go too far. Have you ever tried to pick a carpet by committee? I have and it doesn’t work. It isn’t long before you end up having to deal with church politics and peoples sensitives if you try design by committee.

When it comes to websites its better to let the committee pick the overall philosophies and then hand the project over to one or two people who know what they are talking about. You can always run the final design past a committee just to be sure but the smaller the committee the better.

One of the problems is that most people like shiny flashy things to look at and so they pick a design based on how many big pictures it has and not on whether it will work. It is a bit like designing a building to have a beautiful facade with nothing to actually live in. Marketing people are the worst in the world by reputation for this approach so be wary of anyone in marketing who volunteers for the committee.

Anyway we could spend a long time on this issue (committees have a terrible habit of using up your time on pointless things) so I’m not going to say much more. You know this is a problem so try to avoid it.

Don't do this

Scare your visitors

October 16th, 2009

Once again I came across a well meaning Christian on the Internet who wanted to give both gospel barrels on a web site. This time it was a forum about a celebrity and they wanted that celebrity to get the gospel. Please don’t do this – the double barrel bit and not the gospel bit.

I want to see the gospel everywhere but there are ways of doing it that don’t make Christians sound like a bunch of wierdos who hate everyone. I’m sure the well meaning person didn’t intend to sound like they were a raving lunatic but that is how it came across (with the shouting capitals as well) and reading the comments that followed the outburst on the forum was downright painful.

When you put something up on the Internet you represent Christ himself. Would Jesus really talk like this to someone who was searching for answers? I don’t think so.

So sensitivity and love are key when posting anything on the Internet to do with Jesus Christ. I’m not suggesting watering anything down but remember it’s not what you think you say its what the person believes you wrote that counts. You may have meant the capitals to be a plea to a loved one but they come across as a shout at everyone.

Don't do this