Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Littleton Christian Church

I found the subject, the Littleton Christian Church, Littleton, CO.,
for this critique via Rachel Cunliffe’s Church Critique Boutique and
then e-mailed both Rachel and the web-servant of the site, asking them if they
wouldn’t mind posting my critique here my site. Both said “go for it” – the web servant
even rebuffed me when I said I’d be kind. Can’t ask for more than that!

And since the web servant also e-mailed me with a second request to please critique, I’m going
to address the corrections to him, as opposed to speaking of him in the third person (you remind me in case I forget, okay?-).

So here goes, based again upon , which will get some serious tweaking over the next week or two,
let us find the good and the bad, and see if we can’t lay hands on the web site for
“Littleton Christian Church.”

First Impressions

Getting there – 3/3

Domain name is obvious, memorable and it looks like everyone but Google knows about this site, and you know my feelings about them
at this point in time. I would extend the <title> tag to say Littleton Christian Church – Littleton, Co.
as this makes search engine hits and seeks easier on you and the persons looking for you.

5 Hezekiah Rule – 3/12

The location is more than obvious, in fact a bit over the top as maps might be better served
in a separate page, in part because of the bandwidth they consume, in part because
it gobbles up too much precious front-page real estate and in part because not
all the target audience needs that information.

However, what truly concerns me is the HUGE
BLOATED image of the church itself. This graphic alone consumes the entire 5 count
and like most photos of churches, unless it is the National Cathedral in DC or St.Patrick’s
in NY, doesn’t really convey what’s going on inside. If you must keep it, optimize and reduce it.

Okay branding with the entire “caring” thing, but it needs some tweaking. Something like
“Caring People, Caring for People, in the name of Christ” … or something like that. It’s good
you have the sermons online, but again, have a separate page listing the links to them.
Similarly, it’s good to reach out to the youth, but the graphic again is bloated, big and
unnecessary.

Which brings me to an important point and command … do not use graphics to represent
text. Not only does it bloat the bandwidth, but it often looks out of place and
doesn’t perform well on search engines. Along that same vein, loose the cheap clip art
and the wavy blue background … very noisy.

In other words, it’s clear you know who your target audience is, you just
need to package this a bit more concisely and in a more organized fashion. Or as I say
in my next section … “Say it, don’t spray it.”

Compelling Content

Target Audience – 2/2

Yes – it could be done more concisely, but definitely yes.

Say it, don’t spray it – 2/5

Your opening page, more than any other, needs to be mindful of the 3 scroll rule, though I would
look at tweaking your “truth” page a well.

Navigation on your home page is good, but it needs text links along the bottom to accompany the graphic links on the left.
In fact, ALL your pages could do with a footer that includes text links to the rest of the site. See my article on Global replace using find & xarg if you’re a perl coder.
That said, I like the drop-down menu in the upper right.

Quality First – 10/13

This site has good content that is unfortunately obfuscated by its look-n-feel. More on that in a moment.

I do notice some 2001 date stamps on the pages, and some of the data can be retired in favor of something else.
I’d like to see a few more hyperlinks within the textual information, and attribution of any is required. That said
the quality of information is definitely the strong point of this site.

Navigation – 4/8

Obvious on the front page, not obvious or findable elsewhere. Most of your
sub pages have no bread-crumbs to get the user back to the home page or page above it.

Look-n-Feel – 0/18

This site truly suffers from a lack of consistency. So once the web servant gets a bit more concise
about his content, he then needs to determine a navigation scheme, a color scheme and then and
a limited number of fonts and paragraph formattings. The wide variety of fonts, the centering
of data, the over use of large bold fonts, all diminish the message in your data. The differences
between your newsletter, calendar and contacts page corroborate this point.

I realize I stated earlier not to use graphics for text, but if you insist, anti-alias them
so they don’t have rough edges and use an editor that allows you to create transparent backgrounds.
Conversely, and these come straight off of Rachel’s page
DO use graphics where a picture is worth 1000 words … for example, using
the icons Microsoft Word Adobe Acrobat to indicate which sermon format the user is going to download. Keep
in mind, I’m not endorsing Mystery Meat Navigation, however, you already have an html/text link for your
sermons, placing these icons next to the title should be obvious to anyone possessing and using tools.

Jesus Junk – 6/11

Your missions page says it all. DON’T DO THAT. If you don’t have content, don’t post it.
And certainly don’t use one of those “men at work” type signs that were in fashion back in 1997.
Similarly on your home page. There are several good photographs and or graphic images
of familys, crosses and hearts. The one you have may have worked on your hard-copy newsletter
for years, but ugh … Same with your newsletter page. Which includes one of my 7 deadly sins … a scrolling marquee. DON’T DO THAT. If the text is important enough to type, then make it readable up-front. Don’t hide your lampstand under a bowl.

Minor Details – Major Impact

Obvious Stuff 1/7

You need to the look at the <title> tags on your sub-pages. For example, your contacts
page is merely entitled “text”. Again the footer issue. If not the entire address, phone number and e-mail
then a link to it. I’m going to write an article on code validation soon – as pages like these
would benefit greatly.

Helpful Stuff – 1/9

You need to chit-chat with your provider about equipping you with a 404 page
to gently ease a person back to the previous page or home page in case of an error. I also
need to talk you about a very minor security issue. Some of the pages have a copyright,
but nothing here is consistent. There’s also too much dependence on the home page as a site map.

You may also want to do more with your meta tags. They aren’t really complete. You have the keywords, but no description. You’re also missing some important encodings which will not help it with later browsers that validate, nor search engines.

You may also want to think about employing some sort of search capability for the site. Yet another navigation tool that might help your usuers.

I know 36% seems bad … but the keys to healing this site can be wrapped up in two thoughts … re-organize, be consistent.”

  • You need to tweak your targets and organization ever so slightly.
  • You need to pick a scheme and stick with it.
  • You also need to work on your graphics.

You have the content and the audiences figured out, which is much of the battle. Now we just need to work on the presentation. And because
the webmaster allowed me to do this publicly, I’m going to return my evil with good … here
is a quick template I mocked up up of how I might re-make the site. You are welcome to use it.
And thank you for letting me critique your site.

2 Comments

  1. Hi! Thanks for the critique. After reading through it I felt a bit of a rebuttal was needed:

    Yes, graphics are bloated, I knew that. But I disagree that a picture of the church isn’t important. You want people to be able to find you and if they don’t know what they’re looking for in a neighborhood crowded with churches, they may not.

    The “Caring for people…” is the condensed version of our mission, it’s on the site at the request of our Elders and can’t be “tweaked”. Besides, changing it could change the meaning and that would be bad.

    Not sure what you mean by “cheap clip art”. The skateboarding guy in the kids section was designed by the children. Yes, we want a professional look, but not at the expense of others who want to contribute.

    Can you clarify what you mean by “more concisely”?

    Can you tell us how to do “anti-aliasing” without the expensive graphics editors? Is there a free one out there that will do that? Is there a way to do it with Paint?

    I agree whole heartedly on the “under construction” thing on the missions page. You want to give our missions team a call for me? :)

    I am aware of the 404 issue, but other issues are more pressing. Please email me regarding the security issue since that would be our highest priority.

    Thank you for the critique. You have given us some helpful advice. I do have a suggestion for you. When doing a critique, keep in mind that a site is an extension of a body of believers and as such will never be as “polished” as a business site, nor should it be.

  2. Again, thank you for letting me do the the critique here.

    I am not saying you shouldn’t put a picture of the church up on the web site, but how it is rendered, and on which page it is rendered needs to be re-considered. Perhaps it would be better served in the context of a direction page that includes the maps as well?

    Your slogan, as I said, is almost there. I’m glad to hear it is a condensed version of your mission statement. I’m just saying it needs about another hours worth of brain storming. In other words, it’s almost there … but like a “good” soup, it need “something” to make it a “great” soup.

    Cheap clip art. The man-at-work sign. The logo on the top right hand corner of the home page (/images/image1.gif). The text graphics on the right column of your newsletter page (/midweek/picture/outreach.gif). Rachel has a much better example of anti-aliasing than I could describe here in words. Also, I’ll be posting an article on graphics which includes topics like anti-aliasing.

    As for the children making the logo, that’s great they are involved, then perhaps use that graphic to splash up their own page. And go one step further into it by creating a subdomain … youth.littletonchristianchurch.org … which doesn’t cost your host anything but some configuration.

    I’ll e-mail you about the rest