Heal Your Church WebSite

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

{unidentified} Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas

Update – 11pm – Guys, I appreciate the loyal readership, I really do, but I just got an email from the pastor at {unidentified} Baptist Church … and some of you are NOT being very grace-driven.

I was asked to remove the review for some personal reasons on the part of the pastor. I will not discuss the reasons, but trust me, they are legit enough to warrant me removing the post.

There was no threat on their part, no calling the dogs of law on my big fat Greek behind. You guys know me well enough to know that I won’t shrink from that noisy bunch of bretheren out ther always looking for me to make a misque. This isn’t one of those times. The reasons had nothing to do with the webmaster not having a teachable spirit … not even remotely close.

Just trust me in this time and leave the good people (and they are good) at the {unidentified} Baptist Church alone!

* NOTE * for those of you who did flame the pastor, you might want to leave your offering at the alter and make peace with your brother.

Just received the following email about an hour ago:


I wonder if you would consider removing your review of our website,
{unidentified} Baptist Church?…

thank you

I’m going to take the generally positive review down for now … I am in contact with the webmaster. While I have a policy of standing my ground (this is a one time only event boys-n-girls), I think this is one case where some grace on my part is called for.

SO, in case you missed it, here are some general bullet points that would apply to ANY church web site:

  • Content is King! Make sure your’s is compelling and up-to-date
  • All of your elements, e.g. content, images, what-have-you should exist to convey the purpose and personality of your church web site.
  • No matter how cool the artwork, color reduce.
  • For larger images you can’t thumbnail, consider rendering images in JPEG Progressive Mode
  • IMHO – I would opt to use a random picture each time the home page was loaded instead of the “Blending Image SlideShow Script
  • Keep your navigation scheme consistent throughout the page. Don’t deviate too far from whatever you establish on your home page.
  • Here is an example of a useful url page that introduces sub-navigation without stepping on the original/established navigational theme.
  • Don’t forget, put the name of your church, your denomination and location in your <title> tag
  • Take your vitamins
  • Look both ways before crossing the street
  • Never take candy from strangers

As promised, a site review. Only this time the house is divided … I should clarify that, MY house is a tad-bit divided. Meaning, there are many things I like about the Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, yet some of the very things I like are the very elements that conspire against itself.

Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio, TexasThose of you who visit the site might figure it out away. On one hand, the site does an excellent job of conveying its personality and purpose with some cool artwork and lots of pictures … but does so at the expense of some serious bandwidth, even for my beefy DSL line. That and while the webmaster/pastor did a good job with a number of the nickle-n-dime issues (e.g. good use of the <title>), there are still a few this-n-thats he needs to tweak to get the site up to code for those who are graphically impaired … and to make search engines love the site.

You Rook Maahhvelous

Let’s start with the obvious visual elements. The color scheme, the artwork, the layout, they all work for me. At least for the home page. Though I might save some bandwidth by switching out the “Blending Image SlideShow Script” on the center screen that rotates images of church stuff for a single image that randomly changes with each time you visit/load home page. I might also install a photo gallery application which you can get to by clicking on the center image.

I’d see if there wasn’t a way of getting the artwork across the top and right side further color reduced .. or at least render them in JPEG Progressive Mode (they already may do the later, but it doesn’t look like it to me). Also, I’m not a big fan of the shadow on images, such as those on the “Location (How to Find Us)” … though I will admit, it’s a knit-picky point … and pales in comparison to the real problem with these images, their size. 70548 + 71330 bytes for images of the building is a bit much to ask of your users.

One of the not so obvious issues with the visual elements is the lack of ALT arguments for the <IMG tags. What this means is those who are visually impaired, or those who have their graphics turned off, and/or search engines have no way of knowing what these images represent because there is no text behind them to describe them. Something else doesn’t work for me .. the layout on the Schedule page. Here’s what’s happening. This incredible artwork at the top “frames” the site in such a way that the artwork on the left creates an invisible margin beneath it that shouldn’t be violated. Since the site is already using tables, the easy way would be to place extended text in as a table entry, probably another set of rows and cells with with the first cell blank to keep that left margin. This effect occurs on some other pages as well.

On a similar note, I might include the subpage name somewhere in the <title> tag so users … but mostly search engines can distinguish the difference between one page and another. I mean, who doesn’t want free multiple listings ?-)

Again folks, keep in mind, we’re tweaking this site. There’s alot of good content here, and alot of attention to aesthetics that go a long way to tell me what this church is about long before I ever walk through the door.

Dance with the date you brought …

However, the one thing that really bugged me big were some navigational inconsistencies. Let’s first look at their online newsletter, or their ‘news page.’ The header looks the same, but gone is the familiar art and navigation to the left. That and the page hasn’t been touched since 2002. I think this is a good place to implement some form of blogging software so it is easy to get a member or staff to update the page without having to know HTML, FTP and other fun stuff.

The other page that bugs me, navigationally speaking, is their resources page. On their left side navigation, they take the familiar top-level navigation menu and put it below a set of sub-level navigational links. So when the user goes from the home page to the resources page, the navigational layout changes rather drastically. There is a simple solution … flip them so the sub-level navigation is below the main navigation. OR, another solution is to add a submenu items along the top perhaps in the form of a paragraph explaining the page. Such as the “Useful URL’s” page over at Redland. A top paragraph with bullet points will also do the trick. The point here is when you establish a navigational theme with your front page (and this is a good thing to do), stick with it as much as possible throughout your site so the user knows what to expect.

Foot(er) notes

About the only other thing I would lose is the conspicuous link to the design credits/awards. Make’m smaller and put’m in the small print at the bottom. Personally, I’d drop them altogether. Speaking at the bottom, yet another “members only” link. Again, I’m not sure if I like that idea. Its easy enough to tell church members where the membership link is, such as a subdomain “members.mychurch.com.” In doing so, you don’t advertise to neer-do-wells that you may have some private data available online. That and I’m not sure I like the message it conveys to seekers.

All that said, this is certainly a good site with alot going for it. I love all the pictures. The colors are easy on the eye. The writing is easy to read/scan on the fly. I can find out when and where things happen without much work. I know which city and state the site is in, and can find it using the denomination and location in any search engine. They just need to tweak the images, and whip some of the navigational inconsistencies into line.

So what do you think. Did they go over-the-top with the artwork? What do you think about forcing the table on the home page to a width of 750? What else did you find that could use a nudge here and there? Leave a comment .. but remember, do so in a way that we can all learn from it.



  1. I pretty much agree with you on this one. I’m fine with the 750 px table – it’s the same size I’m using for my church site. The nav here does need some tweaking – I noted some small pop-ups in use for 3rd-level content on the About page, and assume it was mainly due to not being able to work 3 levels into the nav structure.

    I did note some inconsistency in message – the About page says they are a “newly formed” church yet they also say they have had a website since ’95. I don’t think you can be “new” for 8 years, even in pop music…;)

    I also wasn’t quite sure what the “Gifts for You” page was all about. The content there seemed strange for a church to include in top-level nav, and I found myself wondering if the Pastor has checked into the blogging arena because it might provide that aspect of the web that he’s mourning as dead.

    And I’d agree on the “news”, if you haven’t had anything new for a year there either find a way to get that updated more often or get rid of it. A site containing both an outdated “current news” section and statements like (we) “put our first home page on the Internet in January of 1995″ really sends a strange mixed signal.

  2. Pretty cool. No real probs with the bandwidth on our relatively slow dialup here in UK, except for one or two of the graphics. Some nice touches I have not seen done so well elsewhere. But I suspect some of the pics could have their file size reduced substantially without loss of quality.

    The pastor’s bio is nice and not formal, though I’d have like something ‘real’ that a non-Christian could handle as well. Eg. he collects stamps/matchboxes/motorbikes, and his favorite way of relaxing is watching the Simpsons/golf/climbing.

    The pictures of other church members are good too – but it would have been good to have some real bios of some real people – if not indeed their testimonies. That way, site visitors could feel that these are ‘real’ people that they almost know, and so would feel more comfortable in maybe visiting the physical church.

  3. Any idea as to why the review was removed? I saw nothing offensive, derogatory, libelous, immoral or fattening in the review.

  4. Now you went and done it Mean Dean. You big meany! Actually, I’m just going from memory, but I did not think the review was too harsh. Every site could use a little improvement and I did not think his site was bad at all. It only needed a few touches here and there IMHO. He had nothing to be embarrassed over. I’m surprised he was so thin skinned about it. After all on his own links page he said that the SWBTS site http://swbts.edu/ was “crummy.” If he can dish it out, he ought to be able to take it. Oh, well. But, I’m looking forward to seeing the new site come back online.

    BTW, this has nothing to do with his web site, but any church that has a fireplace in their building is pretty cool in my book.

  5. Doh – sorry if my comments offended!

  6. Dean, as one who is aware of (although not directly involved in) the real reason behind this…let me say, thank you for taking down the review. You’re a good guy =)

  7. there are a good number of Christians (I know some personally) out there who are indeed very very thin skinned and reacts badly against any comment that isn’t what they deem polite + “encouraging” + “edifying”, and with verses to back it up.. it’s like walking on egg shells around ‘em..

    I’ve even had Christian people who don’t want links to their web sites, and asked me to remove a link to them. And I didn’t even comment neither positively nor negatively about their web site, just a link. Maybe they don’t want any web traffic, b/c it might slow down their servers? :)

  8. Sometimes blogging feels *very* human. This has to be one of those cases.