Heal Your Church WebSite


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

St. Anne’s Episcopal – Tifton, GA

Criteria Change – and Intro.

I was actually putting off reviews because I’m about to make some big league
changes to my criteria. After doing a couple of reviews with it, there were
some things, some things in the wrong place, some things that were redundant,
and I felt it might cause the scoring to weigh too heavily one direction or
another. However, since the web servant of St.
Anne’s Episcopal Church
in Tifton, Georgia asked me nicely to move it
along (because I was holding up the works) … I’m going to see if the rough
draft of my criteria works by rating this site against it.

 

One thing I need to mention abou these critiques in general – the web servants of the particular sites are being
very generous allowing me to critique their site in public. You
should know that any criticism I make is at the page, and not the maker of
the page. This is a learning process for all of us. We are here to learn from
both the mistakes, and the successes of each site reviewed. And while some
of my statements may be a bit direct, better is the open rebuke than hidden love

 

So lets get to it … and again addressing the first person >>>

Seven Deadly Sins
Jesus Junk

Praise God ! No spinning crosses or fluttering flags. HOWEVER there is one
of those large ugly green hit counters The reason I dislike them so much, along with a drop down form/menu with the [Listen!]
button (that throws a javascript error when you click on it) and the big huge
official emblem from ‘The Episcopal Church on the welcome page, or the grainy
little Episcopal Sheild/icons on the photo gallery page, is that they are clichés
that have little or nothing to do with the actual content of the web site.
You’ve got real content here – which makes the aforementioned gizmos nothing
more than distractions and detractions. You’re better off without them.

Splash Page != Home Page

Again, good work not hitting us upside the head with a girthy Flash animation.
You’ve got navigation, and that’s good. However, the content has a "splash
page" sort of flavor to it we’ll address a bit further down in the review.
Still, you’re on the right track with this one.

Navigation Nightmares

Okay navigation on the verge of becoming very good navigation. Text on the
left, text on the bottom – kinda hard to miss – that is if you hadn’t colluded
the left-side menu with such a dark picture of your church. This is especially
true on your sub pages. Take a look at your Acolytes Schedule page. The menu is below
the first page scroll. If I’ve never been to that page before, I have no way
of knowing that such any left menu exists. Use the valign argument of the <td&gt tag to fix that. Also, not all your menus
on all pages is consistent in whaat they offer.
This can get a little confusing without a site map or some other tool to convey
to me the hierarchy/outline of your site navigation scheme.

Text Abuse

This sort of dovetails with my comments about the left-sided menu. The background
image is just too dark. Meaning there’s not enough contrast. On your home
page, I count 3, maybe for different fonts. Serif or sans serif, pick one
and stick with it. Also, beveled tables – too 1997-ish – don’t do that. Use a bordered
table if you must, but keep it to a size of 1 or 2 pixels. And while I like
your simple color scheme, please, please, please do something to identify
hyperlinks better.

Purposeless Bleeding Edge Technology

Pretty good job here. No DUHhtml, no plug-ins, no gratuitous gizmos
– other than an out-of-place Microsoft media-player object on the left
menu bar – which offers 16 track MIDI file that sounds out of tune because
not all instrument mappings are created equal – that and it fires out
system exclusives – but I dirgress. I understand the desire to offer
praise music, but that’s not what brings nor keeps people on your site. If you had a page about your music ministry, then there might be a place for such elements.

Over Bloated

You need work in this category. All of your images need to be color-reduced
and optimized. Your load-times for dial-ups is way to slow because of
them. Instead, what I did was created a "wash-out" version
of the photograph of your church/menu bar image. Not only was it almost
half the bytes loading, but its also more readable. As for the Episcopal
Church Logo/banner on your welcome page – first of all, it needs to
be a .gif not a .jpg, second, it’s huge – and third, it really offers
nothing to your user other than consuming their bandwidth. Now if you
faded the image and made it a single point background
(NOT repeating e.g. only once in one spot)… then it might be useful and attractive as
it "supports" your welcome. However, the graphic that really
drives me nu-nu bananas is the "landscape.gif." . I was able
to crop-n-optimize your banner so it went from 21k to 2.5k !

Lost Souls

You know what you want to say, and you’ve taken time to organize your
content. That in and of itself is half the battle. Kudos.

font friendly
Branding
Elevator Pitch != Mission Statement

It’s clear that St.Anne’s is a busy place, but try as I might, I’m unable to discern personality of the church.
Your tasks is to figure out a way of conveying it without making it sound like a mission statement.

Mission statement != Statement of Beliefs

Good job avoiding the mission statement, but still stating your beliefs.
Your History, Services, Vestry pages go a long way to help with that, as well
as your copious Catechism FAQ.

Slogan != Mission Statement

I think the reason I can’t quite get a handle on your personality is because
you haven’t summed it up in a memorable one-liner. Do you have one that sits
at the bottom of your hard-copy newsletter or atop your letterhead ?

Domain Game

Since this is a test site, I’m going to assume you’re to obtain some other
domain name that’s relevant to your Church’s name or slogan.
update – oh wait, stannestifton = St Annes Tifton … not Stann E Stifton … arg, I’m such a dope some times … never mind

Home Page
Well Branded, Well Identified

I knew the church name, and the title bar matched, though I would add
Tifton, GA to the <title> tag. Your keywords <meta> tag
is good, but your description reads like key words. But this is all
knit-picky stuff. If you had a slogan/tagine and/or a small logo to
go on the upper-left hand corner of each page, you’d be perfect.

Conspicuous, Consistent Navigation

Yes and yes – now fix our .css for the hyperlinks.

Not an Art Project … but …

Like I said under image bloat, the landscape image … well it’s gobbles
up so much valuable real-estate with so little in return. It’s nice
you have a drawing of the grounds, but it loses something in the translation.

not as washed as I'd like, but definately smaller
Sample Content

Your home page should have just enough compelling content to lure your users
in. The prayer is okay, the news .. eh, it’s okay … but have you considered linking the news item to your news letter page? … BUT what made me yell NOOOOOOOOOOO out loud
was the phrase "This site is best viewed …" If you must post that
information, create a FAQ/tutorial page for the site to explain that sort
of information. Also, put the copyright below the navigation links.

Other Pages
Content Driven

I think you’ve got this one under control. Your sub-pages are concise to
their subject matter. And the subject matter is well organized, and therefore
easy to navigate. I did notice your Catechism and Newsletter page are rather
inconsistent with the rest of the site. You may wan to bring those in line.
I’d also lose the frames on the former, especially with the target errors
I was able to generate when I clicked on the "home" menu choice.

Helpful Headers

You do a good job of providing consistent headers, but that landscape image
… phew, there’s so much more you could do with that space.

notice how the cross stands out?

Compelling Content

You have some useful and up-to-date information for both visitors and members.
There are some minor things you might want to change. For example, instead
of saying "To view services, click here!"
try something a bit more inviting and with context such as "Visit our services
page
" (did you notice my hyperlinks are underlined and in blue?-)

Linkage, Annotation, Integrity

BTW, make sure you have the rights to any media or pictures you put up on
the site. I personally would get rid of the MIDI file, but if you insist on
keeping it, you’d better make sure you’re no in violation US Copyright Laws.
Same too for the official Episcopal Church images. I can’t see why they wouldn’t
– but I’ve heard of crazier. You do link pretty well (when I can see them),
and there’s nothing that makes me want to jump up and yell "heretic!"
I would consider taking greater advantage of the title argument for
hyperlinks, and the <image> tag with the alt argument.

Worth a 1000 Words

Some of your images are out of place, or aren’t well rendered. Other than
your photo-gallery, images should be driven by the content on each sub-page.

Friendly Footers

Just add the address and the phone number and you’ll be all set.

All things to all people

When you say "best viewed" what you’re implying is that your limiting
the scope of viewership. Have you tested your site with any other browsers? The repeating background on the left menu has some real problems. Wash the image out, and do not repeat it.

Obvious Suspects
Directions page

This is definitely missing in action. Create a page with driving directions
& a map, that when printed to hard-copy, comes out on one page.

Calendar of events

Didn’t like your upcoming events page with merely a link somewhere else.
If you don’t have anything to offer, then don’t – but since all churches run
on a calendar, you might want to get busy on this one.

Valid

Your home page validates. Should I assume the rest does ? I didn’t check
for spelling.

404 page

Every one makes mistakes – you need to have a page that helps the user get
back on track.

ListServe

You have a guest book, ever thought about a listserv ?

Well Hosted

It would appear that you’re on a good host, now get the domain name issue
resolved and you’ll be okay.

Security Issues

Nothing glaring in the way of security issues, but like I tell everyone,
make sure you back up your data … often.

 

Conclusion

My short & sweet advice: Let your substance drive your style and find a marketeer type in your church ranks to develop your tagline.

 

Don’t let the girth of this review freak you out. I went into gory detail to test out my new criteria. As I look at your site, the only time-consuming issues are bringing your Catechism FAQ and Newsletter into the flock. Everything else is a short evening’s work.

But be encouraged!, Your content is organized and in place, your navigation methods
work for me, just quit hiding them.
The biggest thing is tossing the gimmicks,
reducing/optimizing/rendering your images and fixing your font problems. What
will help this along is coming up with an elevator pitch and a slogan/tag
line. This, along with bringing the inconsistent pages into line, and St.
Anne’s Episcopal Church
community will be well served by its website.

5 Comments

  1. Dean,
    I apprecaite you taking the time to look at and point out the error of my ways. The site is getting a face lift and I have been begging for six monthes for a slogan of some kind. My grandfather always told me the true sign of intelligence was the degree to which a man agreed with you.:-). I have changed over to CSS and the pages will soon be tableless(as soon as I feel like I have a handle on CSS.) I am also considering SSI for the header and footer and menus. I am at this moment working to resolve the links problems(color and such) I need to use color which fall in line with the rest of the site. I loved the washout. Can I use it? As for the landscape deal, it is on our letterhead. I hope to replace it with a cleaner graphic when I build the header for SSI. I am glad my pages finally validate. When I started the week(June 7), I couldn’t say that. I didn’t have DTDs for my pages. I am going to change the catechism page(I may outlink it). For now, I have plenty on my plate to deal with. Thanks again for taking the time to critique. Between you and Rachel( from http://www.cre8d-design.com/critique) I ahve learned a lot. Concidentially, St. Anne’s is my first site. I worked from scratch and think I ahve come a long way.
    Shine

  2. 1 – Thanks for the kind words – as I said I’m not trying do disparage you or anyone – just want us all to learn at the chalkboard — Thank YOU for your gracious reception of the critique.

    2 – If this is your first site, then you are indeed a good student on the path to righteous web design ! KUDOZ!!!!

    3 – Yes of couse you may use the graphics – Guess I should have made that clear – but by all means please do!

    4 – thanks again!

    IHS/IYS
    Dean

  3. Dean,
    A couple more questions? As I peruse more indepth into your critique, I notice you didn’t like the domain name? Can you expand on why? Also I’ve been using Paint Shop Pro 7 and Photoshop for my images. Can you recommend either a good optimization tool or good software with optimization included? I talked with my host earlier about SSI. I should be practicing with that some over the weekend. I think it will make updating a lot easier.The directions page is up. I had it on the geocities site but it didn’t make the change over. Also can you recommend some good reading on both SSI and CSS( for novices). Thanks in advance.Shine

  4. Well file this under DUH …
    stannestifton = St Annes Tifton …
    … but yours truly read it as
    Stann E Stifton
    ………… I feel soooos stuuuuuuuuuupid

    I use PhotoImpact, but they’re all pretty much the same these days – for what you’re looking to do.

  5. Dean,
    Wow, I love SSI. It’s like driving a ferrari and then going back to getting in a pinto for updating. However, Can you make sure i did it right? it works way too easy! Kinda has me worried.Here’s the practice page addy:
    http://www.stannestifton.com/ssi.shtml
    Thanks,
    Shine