Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Psycho over Flash Splash

As many of you know, I was a contributing author to Vincent Flanders’ book “Son of Web Pages That Suck.” So as some of you can guess, we exchange email on a pretty regular basis. After receiving several emails about my dislike for Flash inflicted splash pages in my post “Purpose Driven Advertisements, ” I sent an email off to Vincent because one of you had forwarded the notion that “Flash Splash” can “set the mood.” Here is Vincent’s response:

“Actually, you’re psycho — I mean psychic. Because of [my] Sunday’s Splash page blurb, I’ve had several inquiries about FlashSplash pages so I’m just putting up a little blurbette about appropriate FlashSplash pages …”

In the “little blurbette” Father Flanders makes a very relevant point regarding the “in the mood assertion” when he writes:

“Almost without exception there’s no need to get people “in the mood” by using a FlashSplash page. Why? The sheer fact that they are at your site means they’ve already made a commitment that they want to see your site’s content.”

And this is not to pick on or single-out Ocean State Baptist Church, but here is my thought on their Flash Splash page … and many other Flash Splashes I’ve seen just like it on several other church web sites … if you’re going to go to the trouble of using multimedia to convey “contemporary church” … then don’t torture me with a 60 second spelling lesson.

Instead, show me pictures of smiling faces underscored by music. Perhaps a video of a personal testimony or a snippet of the worshp service. And please, please, please make it optional. Because if I’m a goal-oriented seeker on your site because you’re contemporary, then I’m there because I found that term using a search engine … which do not index on Flash presentations, but on compelling text content.

13 Comments

  1. To link this post and the last…what purpose should drive a church website? And how is it best communicated?

    We are studying the “Purpose Driven Life” at church, so I mean these questions sincerely.

  2. At our church (http://www.west-park.org), we also have studied both “The Purpose-Driven Church” and “The Purpose-Driven Life.” Our approach to our web site was to try to extend all of the purposes of the church through the web.

    The most natural of the five purposes for us was fellowship and discipleship. Fellowship in the sense that we need to keep everyone in tune with what’s going on in different ministries so that they can get involved. Discipleship in the sense that we can educate people with our resources.

    In the end, though, no matter what purposes you focus on, Dean’s right…it’s all about the content. Our site looks ok, but it is like pulling teeth sometimes to get content. And that makes our site mediocre. It’s ALL about the content. So whatever purpose you pursue on your site, make sure you have to content to back it up!

  3. The url for our church is http://www.west-park.org

    I had some extra characters after it and movable type didn’t like it when it parsed it. My bad…shoulda used the preview button! :)

  4. “purpose should drive a church website? And how is it best communicated?”

    Dave! You’re singing my song! ;) Here’s a post I threw out recently on that subject: http://www.boyink.com/stories/2003/02/27/churchWebSitesWhatWeDontKnow.html

    For, on the site I’m building, it’s “attract” and “connect”. Attract people not coming into coming, then connect them to others.

  5. As much as I love being the dissenting voice, I don’t do this for the sheer joy of it. Really I don’t. *grin* That being said, I’m gonna challenge your basic assumptions.

    I don’t see how his statement, “The sheer fact that they are at your site means they’ve already made a commitment that they want to see your site’s content.” has any bearing on weather you should have a splash page with or without flash on it. What if that front page gives you important content you need for experiencing the rest of the site? Sure they’ve already made a commitment to see the site’s content. That flash/splash page is part of the content.

    The problem with unilateral design rules that are expressed in terms of “don’t do this” or “this technique is a bad idea” is they don’t express the context that defines when that specific technique is a bad idea. You hint at that in the last part of your post, when you specify that sometimes splash/flash pages are ok if they adhere to certain rules. But I don’t think you give enough latitude. Tell me, when you first went to Ocean State Baptist’s site, did you stop to think, “What is the message being told here?” Or did you breakdown the dynamics of the site based on your specific tastes and prebuilt biases?

    I doubt you were their intended audience anyway. I rarely go to church websites because I’m already happy with my church. But on those rare occasions when I’m looking for a place to worship, what Ocean State Baptist delivered to me would have been more than adequate to meet my needs. Their website told me who they were, what their focuses were, and gave me an overall impression of the churches organization. And the flash/splash page was an important part of that message.

    I think the question you should ask here is, what is the purpose of your website. If you intend to build a community online that seeks to answer questions and help people, then a splash/flash page is everything you say it is. But if the intent is simply to say, “Hi, this is us.” and nothing more, then a flash/splash page may just be a great way to do that.

    Zeldman talks about this very problem of trying to force great technologies on every situation in a post he wrote here, and I addressed the same issue in a post written here. They are both worth reading.

  6. Speaking of usability, you might try increasing the line height and the font kearning in your comments. The words tend to blend right together in a big blob. *grin*

  7. Jason:

    I don’t get the impression you read the article — http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/dailysucker/2003/05/05.html#a705 — or you would know there are always exceptions to every rule. Unfortunately, Ocean State doesn’t really meet the criteria as an exception because the message isn’t that important. *They* think it’s important, but it doesn’t pack the punch of the site in the article (Dian Fossey).

    Kind regards,

  8. I did read the article… a couple times over in fact. And I did acknowledge that Dean noted there are exceptions to the rule, see third paragraph. I took exception with Dean’s judgment that Ocean State’s splash didn’t have enough impact. In the case of Dian Fossey, her message has a good deal more impact than Ocean State’s, regardless of how its expressed. Don’t get me wrong; I agree that splash pages should be used with moderation. I think all techniques should be used with a good deal of thought before hand. I just didn’t think Ocean State’s use of a flash presentation was an egregious error or faux pas in web design. Sure, their website could benefit from some professional design work, but they probably can’t afford that, and for their purposes, they probably really don’t need it.

    Oh, and the two articles I mentioned above didn’t get linked so here are the links. Zeldman: http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0403a.shtml#unsyndicate & Walljm: http://www.walljm.com/blogcomments.asp?blogpk=432

  9. Jason, maybe here is another thought to consider supporting ‘alternate’ approaches.

    Some retail sites run pop-ups to promote certain promotions or products. They do this to attract the attention of the site visitor who would not normally pay attention to such a promo if it was embedded in the page. After all, they know that visitors hate pop-ups. Ditto the Gorilla site.

    Perhaps the same could be said for a church site. You can easily assume that a ‘seeker’ visiting the website won’t take the time to read mission statements and other ( boring or poor) content there to tell them about the church. You have to force feed it to them.

    Ultimately, though, content is king (to which Jason and Dean agree). A FlashSplash becomes an opportunity to look like an empty shell if the content is poor.

  10. Hey boyink, great post at your site. I agree with you 100%. Rick Warren’s next book should be “The Purpose Driven Website”. :)

    I am blogging my PDL experience ( http://www.b2blog.com/40days ), but would have preferred to have a discussion group online. What you said: “build to support the community within the church” is right on.

  11. Thanks…thanks for the mention on your blog too..but is it just me or do the links in the cotnent not work?

    FYI – I’m about 90% done building a new site for my church based on pMachine – a blogging tool. I’m extremely anxious to “put the rubber to the road” and see what web-based community building tools do for a church. Stay tuned..;)

  12. BTW Dave – didn’t notice you were a neighbor! Holland here…

  13. “What if that front page gives you important content you need for experiencing the rest of the site? Sure they’ve already made a commitment to see the site’s content. That flash/splash page is part of the content.”

    If your FlashSplash is part of the content, then many visitors will miss that content. In my opinion, splash pages must be optional. Especially FlashSplash pages. Visitors may not have Flash installed (nor want to install it). Or many visitors (like myself) will simply ignore the FlashSplash page.

    Also, consider deep-linking. If I follow a link to a page deep in your site, then I click on the “home” page link (which will probably take me to the page after the splash page), again, I’ll miss the important content on the spash page.