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.
$s =~ tr/a-zA-Z/n-za-mN-ZA-M/;
$s = str_rot13 ($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 =~ tr/a-zA-Z/rfokpzluxdesvhtwcbyivagnqjRFOKPZLUXDESVHTWCBYIVAGNQJ/;
For the rest of you, give Don’s church web site a visit, and drop him kudos or three.