Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Lakeshore Baptist Church in Lakeshore Mississippi

The secret to effective parody is its similarity to real life. The comedic effectiveness is in large part determined by the timing and delivery of the satirist. The other part is how well the joker knows the material.

Proof of this can be found on the “spruced-up/special page” Don Elbourne created when he got wind that I was going to review his church web site as a good example of an effective church web site. About the only thing the parody is missing is the gratuitous Flash animation and Mystery Meat Navigation. That said it comes dangerously close so some true-to-life sites I’ve reviewed here in the past.

But seriously folks, what made this page especially funny to me was the fact that Don does indeed know how to create a simple and effective church web site that I believe captures some of the personality and purpose of the Lakeshore Baptist Church in Lakeshore Mississippi.

Let’s start with the home page. No fancy splash page to get me in the mood. Instead a page that offers an easy-on-the-eye color scheme, with a subtle, simple yet highly effective banner along the top. Followed by an obvious and easy to use menu to the left, and some blocks of data of things that might be interesting to both a visitor and a member. I personally like the tough of the “Recommended Reading.” I also like that he managed to cram all this, a schedule, a picture and some other essential information all “above the fold” of my 800×600 screen. This is very good management of the page layout.

Because he’s using what appears to be a BlueRobot tableless layout, the site deprecates nicely for those using a lame browser; Netscape 4.78 I my test case. The CSS driven rollover menu on the left merely displays as the unordered list that it actually is. And the fancy block titles show as the <h2> and <h3> tags that they actually are. Still, I might take further advantage of sever side includes for them handy text links at the bottom of the home page for the rest of the site.

His menu selections are much different than those I’ve created, but I like them. He starts off with Jesus using the free content offered the folks at Grace To You. I like the pastor page though I would prefer a bit more content, but Don is being modest, so I can’t knock it too much. I really like the beliefs page. Very important information clearly detailed to any potential visitor.

There are no sermons online, but there are devotionals by way of Spurgeon.Org. The pictures page tell a warm and friendly story. And I like how the image of the church on the location page is rendered (and doesn’t give the impression that the pastor is buried in the front lawn). The prayer request page is inviting. He offers some interesting links, though I might add a sentence or two about each one.

But one of the pages I liked the best was his Vacation Bible School page. No, not the one he links off the home page, but a fun one he created using MIVA script that renders unto Ceaser a fun example of a simple ‘ROT13‘ encryption cipher to go along with this year’s Lifeway VBS theme of “The Great Kingdom Caper.”

Don shared the MIVA script with readers of the Churchsite-Chat news group on Yahoo, but being an old school obfuscated C fan, I prefer such work to get done in one line. So here are two lines of code, one in each of a popular scripting language, which will help you create your own crypto pages.

Perl
$s =~ tr/a-zA-Z/n-za-mN-ZA-M/;

PHP
$s = str_rot13 ($s);

Hackery aside, the key to Don’s success is in using some bleeding edge technologies to provide a simple and easy to use site by all users of all browsers. And while it appears he didn’t want to create a huge site, Don definitely avoided one that came across as was rinky-dink. Instead, through understated elegance he creates a page that is inviting to seekers and informative to church members. In other words, the site very simply proves that less is indeed more.

Speaking of effective simplicity, here is a little Perl that will help those of you trying to unencode the Lifeway’s “crack the code” challenge.

$s = “JTLQCMKA TO RKGTKMK TO GTMK TO”;
Perl
$s =~ tr/a-zA-Z/rfokpzluxdesvhtwcbyivagnqjRFOKPZLUXDESVHTWCBYIVAGNQJ/;
PHP
strtr($s,”abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ”, “rfokpzluxdesvhtwcbyivagnqjRFOKPZLUXDESVHTWCBYIVAGNQJ”);

print “$s\n”;

For the rest of you, give Don’s church web site a visit, and drop him kudos or three.

5 Comments

  1. Yep, big fan of the ChurchSite-Chat. Like the idea too. Hope to get wrote up on by MeanDean some day. . . *tear.

  2. MY EYES!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!

    Nice parody site. Made my morning. :)

    Hilarious.

    ~Tom K.

  3. Not only has Don created a great-looking website, he’s also very helpful to those of us with less experience…if not for churchsite-chat I’m sure you’d have LOTS more bad examples to review!

  4. Yes – great parody. Open it in several windows for the full effect.

  5. Dean,

    Thanks so much for your kind review.

    I am using a tableless layout, but its not a BlueRobot template. I do my left navigation a bit different than his. I also wanted to have the three blocks of material underneath the main content on the front page. To do that I used a trick I picked up from the source code of the w3c recently re-designed homepage. Basically it is three divs all floated to the left with a width set to 29%.

    I’d like to eventually add sermons, but have not done it yet. My preaching is not eloquent enough to warrant producing MP3s and I’ve been too lazy to type up a full manuscript. I may end up doing that at a later date.

    Thanks for pointing out the Lifeway Web site’s use of the rot13 thing. I did not realize they used it. I added my link a while back to their Idea Bank, but I did not know they later included an online game and covered it in their “Bible Express” magazine. I’m trying to locate a copy of the June issue.

    As for the spoof site, lol. I wanted to include some mystery-meat navigation, but I’m not a JavaScript kind of guy and I was pressed for time, so you got labelless dead-links instead. Ya’ got to love those. I do all my coding by hand in a text-editor, but if I would have had access to Front Page, I really could have cooked you up a wiz-bang site that spared no pizzazz.