It’s a toss-up between which two recent comments, that to me, reflect the reason why so many Christian web sites are so ineffective. One was by the owner of the site we reviewed yesterday in which he said “In my 1 1/2 years on, 1600 people on my mail list disagree with you.” Which was followed a bit later by an ‘enthusiastic’ fan of the former. She taunted me to review her site. When I said I would oblige, returned fire. “I don’t have time for your foolishness. Now I will get back to working on my site the way “I” want to do it!”
What strikes me a bit odd here is that if I were a betting man, I would put large sums of money on that the owners of both sites are most likely conservative, possibly Pentecostal or Baptist, definitely law-abiding individuals … except for when it comes to the rules of the road that govern the Information Highway. Rules such as those espoused by World renowned usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who just yesterday alerted us with the Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines.
Guidelines based not upon the random opinion of his neighbor’s aunt, but from hard-cold frequency stat based on the numerous homepage reviews performed by his company. And while these findings are biased towards big companies that can afford the hefty Nielsen Norman Group’s $10,000 fee, I think most of them are worth reviewing, memorizing and putting into practice.
That said, I’m going to paraphrase these guidelines in my own words, geared towards those of us who barely have $100 to get our entire web presence online … as always … feel free to comment afterwards:
- Emphasize what makes your church unique, and why people should visit it.
- Make sure your page layout is all things to all browsers, at least take into consideration that not everyone sees the world through an 800×600 eyeglass.
- Hyperlinks should look and act like hyperlinks. So quit fiddling around with them.
- Graphics should reflect reality. Don’t put a picture of a steeple on your site, if your church doesn’t have one. If you’re going to use stock photos, keep it to family and kids as they are more likely to attend your church than super models.
- Avoid church-speak in your tagline. Make sure it conveys your church’s personality and purpose.
- Take the pains to put a search engine on your site. Add a site map. Make sure your menus reflect your information hierarchy.
- Let the user know where they are, use sub titles at the top, center of your compelling content.
- No need to restate the obvious, like a “search this site” title over your search box … hmmm … better go fix that on the Redland Baptist Site …
- Stock quotes? Your church lists stock quotes? Okay, here’s what we take away from Dr. Nielsen’s point about stock quotes. Don’t assume people understand your numbers, acronymns and other internal-speak. So explain them, or lose them.
- Don’t include an active link for the page you’re on … sorta like that old joke in school, how do you keep a moron occupied, turn page over … the other side reads … okay, you know what I mean
Now go read the good Dr.’s findings so you can understand the context in which they are presented. And remember, we’re called not only to be hearers of the word … but doers … which to me, since I’m compelled to do everything I do and say for the glory of the Lord, reminds me to apply the following as I seek to take every thougth captive: