When this site opened, I promised everyone that I would critique sites both good and bad, using the former as examples to follow, the later as examples to avoid – and perhaps to gently instruct the errant web servant of that site back into the fold of good web design.
Obviously, I’ve been putting this off, in small part due to the crash, in greater part because I had not listed my criteria. Judging without a standard is about as bad as designing a site without a plan. And we all know what God says about judging others …
So here are the standards by which I myself am willing to live up to (on my church websites) … I hope you are too:
Getting there – is half the battle … are you winning yours?
- Searchable: given nothing more than your city, state/province and denomination, can a person find your site using any one of many popular search engines?
- Memorable: is your domain name so simple that people can memorize it without writing it down?
- Accessible: can a user get to your compelling content without having to endure a advertisement-style splash-page?
5 Hezekiah Rule – things your site must do/convey by the time you’re done counting
“1 Hez·e·ki·ah … 2 Hez·e·ki·ah … 3 Hez·e·ki·ah … 4 Hez·e·ki·ah … 5 Hez·e·ki·ah.”
- Does your page load in under 6 seconds?
- Is the geographic location of your church clearly stated?
- Is the purpose of your church simply stated in a single sentence?
- Does your purpose sentence clearly express the personality of your site?
- Is your the target audience obvious?
- Is the speaker/voice of the site inviting and engaging?
- Is the navigation so obvious that a blue-haired, 75-year-old could not only find it, but also figure it out?
- Is the contact information conspicuous or hidden under a bowl?
- Is the opening page short, sweet and too the point (brevity IS the soul of wit).
- Is the opening page free of clutter and white noise that obfuscates and or colludes the purpose, personality and/or target audience of your site?
- Does it look like the web servant spent more than 5 minutes and 5 dollars putting it all together?
- Is the opening page devoid of Jesus Junk?
Target Audience – aim for nothing and you will surely hit it.
- Are the needs of church members addressed? This could include sermon notes, dates and places and/or contact information that are conspicuous and easy to find.
- Can a visitor find whatever he or she is looking for on your site in under 10 seconds? If not, is there a place they can pose a question?
Say it, don’t spray it – shotguns are for hunting and impromptu weddings … not dispensing information.
- If your target audience is well defined, it is also being well addressed with the content of their heart’s desire?
- Has the information been organized in an outline/tree like fashion – so that each page limited a specific topic, or group of short topics?
- Is the objective and purpose of each page so obvious that a grade-schooler could find it?
- Is the objective and purpose of each stated concisely that a grade-schooler could repeat to mommy later that night?
- Three-page scroll rule – unless it’s a sermon, the user should not have to scroll down more than thrice, though twice is preferred. Otherwise, your page is likely to be too long.
Quality first … then you can worry about quantity.
- Are the pages well focused according to their title?
- Is the objective/purpose of each page obvious?
- Is the objective/purpose of each stated concisely (brevity is the soul of wit)?
- Is the target audience obvious … and addressed?
- Is the information up-to-date?
- Is the information marked with a time-stamp?
- Is it fun, informative, intriguing … is it well written?
- Is the information accurate?
- Is the information authoritative?
- Is the information unique?
- Is the content buttressed with annotations and acknowledgements?
- Is the content supported with hyperlinks?
- Are the hyperlinks relevant and living (not broken)?
Navigation – 75-year old lady rule.
- Is it so obvious that a blue-haired 75 year old lady could find it
- Once she finds it, can she effectively use it without a master’s degree in computer science
- Does the site navigation follow the site outline (see “Say it, Don’t Spray it”)?
- Are underlined fonts only used for hyperlinks, and hyperlinks only?
- Are graphical and/or dhtml navigation elements augmented with simple text links at the bottom or top of the page (read Vincent Flanders, Book 1, chapter 2)?
- Are orphan and/or dead-end pages avoided – does each page have an obvious means of getting back to the last page and/or the home page?
- Is the organization of content no more than 3 layers deep (though two is recommended)?
- Unless you’re writing your page in Hebrew, does your page content and navigation read left to right, top to bottom?
- Is a color scheme of no more than 4 (preferably 3) colors consistently employed?
- Is there a single, consistent font scheme employed?
- Is the page cluttered?
- Is white space your friend?
- Is white noise your enemy?
- Are the fonts too small, too large, or just right?
- Does the information overuse of bold fonts?
- Are words in ALL CAPS reserved for top-level titles only?
- Are underlines only used for hyperlinks?
- Does the information avoid the use of fire engine red, unless it is announcing an absolute, cataclysmic emergency?
- Does it fit on an 800×600 screen without horizontal scrolling – or worse, disappearing?
- Does the site avoid using patterned backgrounds that make the text hard to read?
- Textual data is rendered as text, not graphics?
- Is centering of text restricted to titles?
- Are quotes made to look like quotes?
- Are the graphics used relevant and/or necessary?
- Do image tags include height, width and alt arguments?
- Are images well optimized, well cropped and well lit?
Jesus Junk – does your page include any of the following forms of Internet evil?
- Animated gifs, such as spinning crosses, fluttering flags or a graphic of our Saviour hanging 10 on a cross flashing the phrase “surfing the internet with Jesus?”
- Cheap clip-art?
- Any and all text rendered as a graphic, usually in gold, red or bright yellow?
- MIDI, Real Audio &/or MP3 Files that automatically load?
- Scrolling Text/Marquees?
- Java Applets?
- Flashing Text?
- Mandatory ActiveX Plug-ins?
- Cursor Trailers and stupid dhtml tricks?
- Popups, advertisements and banner-ads?
- Bloated images … usually of bloated family members?
Minor Details – Major Impact
Obvious Stuff – All things for all pages.
- Appropriate Page Titles
- Name of church/organization
- Text navigation along the bottom
- Address, phone numbers along bottom
- Contacts and driving directions conspicuous
- Images described using the “ALT” argument
- HTML or XMTHML encoding that is valid
Helpful Stuff – for you and your users.
- 404 page
- Site Map
- Search Engine
- Calendar of Events
- Good use of META and Title tags
- Easy-to-understand directions
- Names & e-mail addresses of the people in charge (faces don’t hurt, but keep it small)
Please note, this criteria is an organic thing. That is, it is likely to be changed, tweaked and modified as time progresses. In part because of the ever changing face of Internet technologies … in part because sometimes I’m just flat-out-wrong about stuff … your mileage may vary.
Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. – Proverbs 8:33