Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Redland Baptist Church

Now that I’ve posted my criteria, it’s time to
get down to the ugly work of critiquing other sites in hope of loving them back
into the fold. That said, I thought it only fair to first judge myself by the
same standard I would judge others. So I present to you my critique
of my beloved RedlandBaptist.org (RBC).

Being my own site, I’m going to review this site in much greater detail – meaning I’m going to be more long-winded in this review than in the others that will follow. I’m also going to try and sum up each review in a single word or sentence. In the case of RBC, the word of the day is “ENTROPY,” or further proof that the 2nd Law of Thermo Dynamics applies even to web sites.

The design you see before you now was implemented back in the year 2000, not out of any fear of Y2K compliance, but because
the C|Net award winning version was getting stale. And therein lies the majority of problems
with the site. As a result, some of the links are broken, some of the names and faces of our staff has changed, and some of our other cntent is just plain-old pooped-out dated.

Part of the problem occurs because I developed the site using DreamWeaver 3.0, relying
heavily on templates and SSI. The server side includes are about the only thing that has
remained, which now causes a serious maintenance issue. I am in the process of obtaining
DreamWeaver MX … but again, what I would prefer is a web-based content management system (CMS)
so I’m not the only guy fixing things when they break. This wait for the perfect system
is the other reason I’ve let things go for a bit, that is, I didn’t want to do too much
new work if I was just going to re-do it for a CMS. Since none-such tools I can afford
seem to be appropriate for the task, it looks like I’ll just await for MX and my new computer to arrive.

So much for excuses, let’s do the review …

First Impressions

Getting There – 2 out of 3

Here it looks like things are in order. I can travel to a variety of search engines
and enter a variety of searches (e.g. Google & AltaVista), such as “Rockville Maryland Baptist Church” and we get
very good results. I also enter “Redland Baptist Church” and get good results.
I also doesn’t hurt that our URL is “RedlandBaptist.Org,” or that we’ve implemented re-directs for
.COM and .NET. We also have a Domain Name based upon our slogan, “GraceDriven.org.”
And while we use a splash page, we make it functional with both a hierarchical menu
as well as text menu buttons along the bottom. We include our address, contacts, and
access to all points. I’d like to see a dhtml-box with “recent news” in it
but all in all, pretty good.

First Impressions – 11 out of 12

It’s very good if you’ve got DSL, Cable Modem or a T1, but I’m concerned that
the image of the kids is taking far to long to load. I hate to do it, but I’m going
to have to optimize it even more. Still, you know where you are, you know who we are,
you know what we do, unless you’re using a very old or lame browser, you should be able
to figure out how to find what you’re looking for. I also think you get a quick
taste as to the personality of our church.

Compelling Content

Target Audience – 2 out of 2

Provided that drop-down menu works, you can find what you need whether you are a visitor
checking us out, or a member checking up on me.

Say it, don’t spray it – 5 out of 5

As I said back up under target audience, we have plenty content for visitors and members alike.
We have an entire section of driving directions from various points in the county, the sermons are
online, which gives potential members a clue to or theology, and members a resource. I have plans
improving our “useful urls” into a portal-like mechanism, but it suffices for now.

As for organization and layout, yes, I don’t think there is any problem there. And provided
you can get to the target page (more on that issue in a moment), you are given a photo, a title,
a paragraph and a scripture reference that portent our purpose right at the top. And
most pages are mercifully short, sweet and to the point.

Quality … then quantity – 7 out of 13

Here is where we are going to lose some points. While all of the content is indeed
focused and to the point, some of it is in serious need of grammatical healing – our missions
page being the biggest offender of the bunch. The information is not time-stamped, and while
all scripture references lead to BibleGateway.com, not all links to all places work. I also think there
is some more work we can do with acknowledgments. Finally, our salvation page is in dire
need of a total make over. It has too much of that cheap-clip art feel to it.

Navigation – 6 out of 8

Here you get 3 types of navigational menus, as well as hyperlinks everywhere. Unfortunately,
some of the links are broken, and worse, some of the target pages are non-existent.

Look-n-Feel – 18 out of 18

The color scheme is 3 colors, with the exception of the youth page, where we
intentionally took liberties. Images are employed to convey a personal touch, and
white space is used liberally. When things work, this is a really nice-looking and
easy to follow design. You’ll also notice some attention to details, such as
taking advantage of the ALT arg in the <IMG> tag. Though we are showing
some age by supporting 600×480.

Jesus Junk – 10 out of 11

I’ll take yet another hit for our Salvation page. The graphics may not be junky, but
they are certainly cheap and twinky.

Minor Details

Obvious Stuff – 7 out of 7

All present and accounted for.

Helpful stuff – 7 out of 9

I’m going to ding myself a point for trying to be slick. I figured I could combine the
search page with the 404 page and no one would mind … that was a mistake. Also
our current search engine is too broad. I have a better one, I just need to get busy with it.
We don’t have a site map, though I think the hierarchical menus obviate that a bit. Still
it would be useful to have.

Conclusion

Score – 76 out of 88 or about 86%

I only could fix three things, they would be this in the following order.

  1. Fix the broken links
  2. Speed-up the home page for dial-ups
  3. Update the content – frequently

To solve the first one, I’m going to begin testing some link testing tools. Expect an article on that soon. Similarly, though I haven’t found a CMS I like, there are a couple of online editor tools I could use to edit and/or farm-out editing of said content. It would also be a means to fix the grammar – though I’m going to have to go in there myself to re-code the hierarchical menu script. As for the ascetics, color scheme,
layout and navigational approach, I think it works, so let’s not break it.

All this said, if you do find something gone awry here, please, please, please let me know about it.
While I strive to make this a great site, like all human endeavor, it is bound to have some flaws.
If you think I’ve been to kind to myself, then leave a comment, but do so with
something tangible. Now go discuss … RedlandBaptist.org

2 Comments

  1. Dean, did you hear “This American Life” on NPR over the weekend? They used scientific laws to describe life situations.

    Also, have you ever seen http://www.crossspot.com? They have a cool web template and hosting service for $250 a year. It is PHP driven and has different levels of admin.

  2. I don’t know if you realise, but when using IE5 on Mac, your drop menus hide themselves right down the bottom of the page…