Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Ridge Point Community Church, Holland, MI

If all the church web sites were as well thought-out and designed as that of the Ridge Point Community Church, Holland, MI then there would be no need for HealYourChurchWebsite. It is one of a number of sites I would hold up as an example of the church online done right. A personal and heart-felt congratulations and kudos to Mike Boyink, the mastermind behind this good work in Christ!

I realize it sounds like I’m gushing a bit, but consider the many good attributes of web design built into the Ridge Point Community Church. A site built, by the way, using the pMachine blogging/publishing tool as a content management system. A site that scores well against any measure of usability heuristics:

  • Effectively communicates the website’s purpose … the site is well branded, with navigation who’s roadmap is well marked and easy to travel.
  • Effectively communicates the purpose and personality of the Ridge Point Community Church in both the essential information such as time, location, dates and places, but also provided me with enough about the warm faces and ministries they provide if I were to visit the church.
  • The content writing is effective, concise, devoid of circular logic and church-speak. Most importantly, it takes into consideration the fact that people scan webpages, as opposed to reading them.
  • The page reveals content through examples, for example, on the homepage you get six examples down the middle column that lead in into other ministries, events and elements defined and described by the website.
  • The ability to access past/archived content is possible through a variety of means, including an opt-in email alert for updates (an idea I’m going to steal), a forum, a search engine and archives links right on the homepage.
  • Links are look and feel like links. They are scannable. They are rendered using information-carrying words (instead of “click here”).
  • The Navigation works. The primary navigation area in a highly noticeable place, right below the nice pictorial banners. About my only real concern is moving the “contact us” information down to the main navigation bar as it tends to get lost due to “banner blindness.”

    That said, the site does an excellent job grouping items on the homepage by similarity. Check out the effective use of three columns on the home page. The right gives links to the essential information. The center offers you navigation by what is up and coming by ministry. The right column, by date.

    The header title of each sub-page matches the navigation and is encapsulated and emphasized between search-engine friendly <h3> tags.

    Generally, names for categories aren’t “made-up,” instead, easily recognized words and phrases are employed, though I might use “Sermons” instead of “Messages.” And not a single, kitchy icon used. Now if Mike would only deactivate links to the homepage the homepage itself, it would be perfect!

  • The search feature is easy to find and easy to use… though I’d use “search” instead of “find.”
  • Tools and task shortcuts to the most common and/or most sought after information are are provided on the home page, as I described 2 bullet points up in the effective use of 3 columns of compelling content on the homepage.
  • Images are used judiciously. Gratuitous animation is avoided. Warm, well-done images rotate for the banners, though I would consider strongly not re-rotating the image for any page visited by a user during a current session. At least not for the home page. This way, it doesn’t look like they’ve gone to a different page when they hit the back button. That said, the selection of images show real content, that is what is really going on at Ridge Point Community Church.
  • Graphic design elements, such as font-size, font colors and backgrounds are limited to less than six colors, are consistently used across the site and most of all, are driven by the content. That is, Mike does a great job in using various design elements as the last step in drawing attention to compelling content, as opposed to enslaving the content to various color and/or graphic novelties. Also, a nice use of liquid layout, even if it isn’t tableless (inside joke folks, just move along).
  • Widgets are uses sparingly, and only when compelled by the nature of the content. Again, I might use the word “Search” instead of “Find” next to the easy-to-use search box, but that’s a religious argument. I would leave less space between the search box and the “Find’ button so they’re almost touching, and thereby even more closely coupled.

    I do think a bit of instruction or “what is about to happen” information is required for your “log-in” and “register” widgets. As it stands now, I’m not clear why I would want to register. A good example of something that screams “what’s in it for me?” would be that email-update form I really like.

  • Window titles match the content. Heck, they match the breadcrumb navigation! I do think however I might change the delimiter in the <title tag> from “>” to “-” as some search engines might either toss data after a non-text item or think they’ve blown an HTML tag somewhere. I might also toy with the idea tweaking the title tag “Home > About Us > Our History” reads “Our History – Ridge Point Community Church.” But we’re really picking nits here.
  • URLs I have some problems with. I realize much of this is by virtue of using pMachine. Even then, it’s not because they are misspelled or broken, but that they’re ‘crufty‘ … that is they’re not as search-engine friendly as possible. Nor is “http://www.ridgepoint.org/ForKids/forkids.php?id=P36” as easy to remember as “http://www.ridgepoint.org/ForKids/.” Nor would I expect in the last example for the URL to throw me to the 2nd & 3rd Grade page by default. That said, rather than slug it out with the content manglement system, why not consider some mod_rewrite magic? Yeah, I know this is a tough one to fix and I would suspect it’s already a deferred item on Mike’ s to-do list because of it’s complexity.
  • News, new stuff, upcoming events … did I mention I like the email updates thingie? That along with effective use of the center column on the home page make it real easy for any visitor to see that this church isn’t as stagnant as most church websites I review. The site also offers an XML syndication link for those of us who surf with aggregators. Nice!
  • 1000 points for not subcumbing to the temptation to use splash pages. Not sure how I feel about the use pop-ups when I click on the events on the left-hand column of the home page. I realize this is a ‘borrowed feature’ of the nifty pMachine generated calendar, in which pop-ups do work for me. Perhaps this is an issue of copious comment debate?
  • 1000 more points for using your own host to avoid the casino ads pop-ups and banners I often see accompanying church websites I see on “free” webhosts.
  • While the home page does literally welcome the user, I think it fits into the three-column home page grouping, and makes a nice intro for the first column. On most pages I’d say lose the welcome. On RidgePoint.org, I say it works.
  • Error handling … hmmm … minus 1000 points for no 404 page. Nor is there there obvious a “who to complain and or report problems to” link. I might consider a drop-down menu widget on the contacts form for either subject headings, or points of contact. I use the latter on Redland. Also helps reduce spam.
  • 1000 points for resisting the temptation to display some of those meaningless “best of the web” awards. I mean if it’s not a 5 star review from C|Net or the Site of the Day from Yahoo, don’t bother. It’s clear Mike didn’t … good for you!
  • Page load and refresh problems are not an issue on this site. For an example of what I mean, visit the Drudge Report and wait 2 minutes … or worse, be 2 minutes into reading something and have it refresh on you … very irritating. 1000 points for avoiding them altogether!
  • 2000 more points for offering a privacy statement. This is mandatory as RidgePoint.org gathers user data for the forum registration and that spiffy email-updates features (did I mention I really like that feature?-).
  • Wow! Good use of forums that actually foster community and discipling, as opposed to being self congratulatory as I find on some other websites I review.
  • Dates and times are displayed for time-sensitive information. I see timestamps are avoided on pages where time isn’t an issue. I think that’s smart. I’m not so sure timezone information is essential, but I would avoid using ’03 in my dates as ’03 is also the number for a month.
  • Numbers, acronyms and other fun-stuff. I actually didn’t find any acronyms so I can’t comment on that, nor did I see any confusing numbers other than the aforementioned date thingie. Nor did I find any confusing stats, church-speak and stuff that require/lacknig support context. /li>

Yes, this review of Ridge Point Community Church, Holland, MI was a bit more thorough than others I’ve offered in the past. This is because the site is so much better than many others I’ve reviewed. Notice, in those few instances I offered a criticism, it’s generally falls-under the category of relatively advanced, personal tastes or nit-picking.

In other words if I had 2 hours to fix the site, I’d spend the first hour on error handling and form instruction issues. I’d spend the rest of the time on some mod_rewrite magic to help fix the crufty link issues.

If I had any time left over, I would see what PHP solution I could render to eliminate menu links to the page you’re currently viewing. I’d also see what I could do about not rotating banner pictures for a page you’ve visited during a current session. Mostly, I’d deal with some of the title issues because search engines are an essential key to church website getting people in the door.

Notice, this is all tinkering and tweaking. Notice I’m not saying you should make your site look like Ridge Point as much as I’m saying it should work like Ridge Point.

Everything else I’d leave alone as it would be a misguided attempt to fix something that isn’t broke … and anyone who’s worked on a classic car knows what I’m talking about.

Now go and do likewise.

12 Comments

  1. Like the three-column format… bet it requires considerable time to keep it fresh…
    .
    Wonder if Mike needed releases for the “talent” in the banners (e.g., church members/visitors)?
    .
    Since I do photo editing, I noticed the cool banner on the student page (teen face on bus ride) needs some teeth whitening Check the eyes while you’re at it… I noticed a “passport photo” shadow (my term) on a bio pic I saw, too… the bane of digital camera pics.
    .
    Nice logo.
    .
    FIND is a little tuff to, ahem, find.
    .
    Say… is that nice, smiling older couple the head of the student ministry, or did their pic just happen to rotate in while I was on the student page?
    .
    Like our church, a standard studio-quality bio pic of all the staff/volunteers for their bio pics would add polish… although there’s no way I’d EVER change Ed Sheif’s… EVER!
    .
    .http://www.ridgepoint.org/members/profile_view_ind.php?id=24
    .
    Thanks for the review, Dean…
    -
    - Frank Ramage
    - http://burtonsvillebaptist.org

  2. # The Navigation works. The primary navigation area in a highly noticeable place, right below the nice pictorial banners. About my only real concern is moving the “contact us” information down to the main navigation bar as it tends to get lost due to “banner blindness.”

    >>Good point, but then it seems like a natural place for Contact Us…I guess we’ll watch it’s usage….

    Generally, names for categories aren’t “made-up,” instead, easily recognized words and phrases are employed, though I might use “Sermons” instead of “Messages.” And not a single, kitchy icon used. Now if Mike would only deactivate links to the homepage the homepage itself, it would be perfect!

    >>Hmmm..the main navigation bar is implemented as an include…not sure I want to create another one just for the home page. We purposely used “Messages” as a non-churchy term, and it’s also how they are referred to internally.

    # The search feature is easy to find and easy to use… though I’d use “search” instead of “find.”

    >> I can’t for the life of me remember why it’s implemented as “Find”. At one point we were short on room on that nav bar, maybe it was to save a couple letters. Will look at changing that now that there’s a bit of breathing room.

    # Images are used judiciously. Gratuitous animation is avoided. Warm, well-done images rotate for the banners, though I would consider strongly not re-rotating the image for any page visited by a user during a current session. At least not for the home page. This way, it doesn’t look like they’ve gone to a different page when they hit the back button. That said, the selection of images show real content, that is what is really going on at Ridge Point Community Church.

    >>The images are done with a pMachine widget called a “pBlock”, which can either randomize, or cycle forward or back. Really not wanting to step outside PM functionality…but I do worry about a different image being a “jolt”.

    #I do think a bit of instruction or “what is about to happen” information is required for your “log-in” and “register” widgets. As it stands now, I’m not clear why I would want to register.

    >>Currently the only part of the site that requires a log-in is the forum, which has a message to that effect. All the registration functionality is straight pMachine, and I’m not sure how easily customizeable it is (again, reluctant to hack pM). We talk more about the registration internally at RP – in order to grant authorship privledges needed to contribute to the site.

    #A good example of something that screams “what’s in it for me?” would be that email-update form I really like.
    >>As soon as we figure out exactly what that will get used for, I’ll make it clearer on the site…;) Currently we have a email-based prayer reqest setup that functions off-site, and we’re really not sure that this becomes that or things get joined or the need for the email chain goes away or what.

    # Window titles match the content. Heck, they match the breadcrumb navigation! I do think however I might change the delimiter in the from “>” to “-” as some search engines might either toss data after a non-text item or think they’ve blown an HTML tag somewhere. I might also toy with the idea tweaking the title tag “Home > About Us > Our History” reads “Our History – Ridge Point Community Church.” But we’re really picking nits here.

    >>Boyink.com is setup this same way, and Google indexes it fine. I like the heirarchy implied with the “>”.

    # URLs I have some problems with. I realize much of this is by virtue of using pMachine. Even then, it’s not because they are misspelled or broken, but that they’re ‘crufty’ … that is they’re not as search-engine friendly as possible. Nor is “http://www.ridgepoint.org/ForKids/forkids.php?id=P36″ as easy to remember as “http://www.ridgepoint.org/ForKids/.” Nor would I expect in the last example for the URL to throw me to the 2nd & 3rd Grade page by default. That said, rather than slug it out with the content manglement system, why not consider some mod_rewrite magic? Yeah, I know this is a tough one to fix and I would suspect it’s already a deferred item on Mike’ s to-do list because of it’s complexity.

    >>pMachine has released a Hack to do the mod_rewrite, and I’ve configured it on Boyink.com with great succes. Trouble is, the hack doesn’t work with the pMachine forum, so I’d have to look at another package there…it’s a toss up, but I really want to stay all in pMachine for the site and forum. Looks like I fat-fingered the htaccess entry for For Kids though, as it should go to the default page. Thanks…

    # Not sure how I feel about the use pop-ups when I click on the events on the left-hand column of the home page. I realize this is a ‘borrowed feature’ of the nifty pMachine generated calendar, in which pop-ups do work for me. Perhaps this is an issue of copious comment debate?

    >>Not usually a pop-up fan here either, but the Events List is a hack/add-on that attempts to use the same code/pages for the event content as the regular calendar. The pMachine folks have hinted at a major calendar re-write soon, so I’m kinda holding off for that.

    # Error handling … hmmm … minus 1000 points for no 404 page.

    >>Good catch, been meaning to look at implementing one on Boyink.com too.

    #Nor is there there obvious a “who to complain and or report problems to” link. I might consider a drop-down menu widget on the contacts form for either subject headings, or points of contact. I use the latter on Redland. Also helps reduce spam.

    >>The Contact Us forms are actually site-section-specific, with pre-filled topics and routed behind the scenes to an appropriate person. Again, all standard pMachine functionality. Going to drop-downs goes outside of pM, and I don’t want to do that unless necessary. Past experiences with such “drop-downs for routing” setups didn’t convince me that people really took the time to choose topics from the drop-downs anyway, we still spent alot of time forwarding email to the right person.

    # 1000 points for resisting the temptation to display some of those meaningless “best of the web” awards. I mean if it’s not a 5 star review from C|Net or the Site of the Day from Yahoo, don’t bother. It’s clear Mike didn’t … good for you!

    >>Not winning any makes it easy to resist the temptation…;)

    # Wow! Good use of forums that actually foster community and discipling, as opposed to being self congratulatory as I find on some other websites I review.

    >>Considering the site has been only “soft-launched” at this point, I’m happy with how the forum is being used. I’m hoping to have to split it up in the future, with seperate forums for Prayer Requests, Want Ads, etc.

    # Dates and times are displayed for time-sensitive information. I see timestamps are avoided on pages where time isn’t an issue. I think that’s smart. I’m not so sure timezone information is essential, but I would avoid using ’03 in my dates as ’03 is also the number for a month.

    >>Hmm…will consider. Keeping it nice and tight was the goal – especially on the home page where I didn’t want the date to wrap.

    # Numbers, acronyms and other fun-stuff. I actually didn’t find any acronyms so I can’t comment on that, nor did I see any confusing numbers other than the aforementioned date thingie. Nor did I find any confusing stats, church-speak and stuff that require/lacknig support context. /li>

    >>We’ve tried very hard to not use “churchy” language – since our target is non-church or “de-churched” folks.

    Like the three-column format… bet it requires considerable time to keep it fresh…

    >>Not sure yet! While we’re in this soft-launch period I’ve just been pasting things in from the bulletin. What the site doesn’t have yet is more true “blogging” by the senior pastor, which he’s itchng to do. We also have a retired pastor who will likely post blog entries to the home page as it’ll give him a great way to stay in touch with the church.

    Wonder if Mike needed releases for the “talent” in the banners (e.g., church members/visitors)?

    >>I presented the need to the powers that be, and was told it would be handled.

    Since I do photo editing, I noticed the cool banner on the student page (teen face on bus ride) needs some teeth whitening Check the eyes while you’re at it… I noticed a “passport photo” shadow (my term) on a bio pic I saw, too… the bane of digital camera pics.

    >>I’m kind of ambivalent on how much photo retouching I want to do. I really want a variety of folks to contribute photos or other digital works for that space, so don’t want to set the bar too high. It can also be overwhelming to think about tweaking each of 65 images…and counting….and in the end I just don’t know if I’m that picky. I don’t want to lose the fun/interesting/thought provoking quality of the photo that made me choose it to begin with….

    Nice logo.

    >>Can’t take credit for that, but it is new with the site.

    Say… is that nice, smiling older couple the head of the student ministry, or did their pic just happen to rotate in while I was on the student page?

    >>The student page only has student pics. THe older couple would have shown in the forum or the members section.

    Like our church, a standard studio-quality bio pic of all the staff/volunteers for their bio pics would add polish… although there’s no way I’d EVER change Ed Sheif’s… EVER!

    >>The really bad pictures are actually there as “incentive” to get me better ones..;) Ed’s was from a story in the local newspaper…;)

    Thanks guys! I’m kind of in that post-launch “just use it for awhile” mode, but will circle back for improvements soon.

  3. Gah! I forgot that MT loses so much formatting in comments…..sorry!

  4. That pMachine software seems very powerful — like MovableType, but a little more geared towards actual websites than Blogs. Very cool!

  5. Awesome site. Definately one worthy of highlighting!

  6. Except for the intro which is terrible and played out, and the logo which needs reworked, freedomchristian.org is an outstanding site.

  7. Anyone taken a look at the Ridge Point site lately? I’m quite sad about what’s transpired. I can’t even count the number of “don’ts” that exist there… the site won’t even fit on a 1024×768 screen (there goes most lap-tops). Navigation is a bear, forums transport you to another world.

    The main graphic doesn’t even have the church’s logo in it! You get deep enough, you’ve lost the core of where you are – the name of the church!

    I’m not sure what transpired there, but I think some really bad decision were made. It went from a very usable, well layed out site to a very unusable and poorly layed site. Is this is the name of “progress”?

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  9. “Go to the whole world and preach the gospel…”

    Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

    My friend Mr. Saji Philip and I Thomas Xavier who are working in Delhi have been praying for a long time to preach the gospel and to do some job together with that.
    Now our lord has heard our prayers and we are likely to get a job visa to go to Ireland.

    We also request your prayer for realizing our dreams to come true that is to preach the gospel and for an opportunity to work together with the task our lord has entrusted us.
    We desire all this to accomplish as early as possible.

    Now we humbly request you to suggest some inspirational readings and other things
    Like (CDs of preaching of the word of God, audio cassettes) and any thing that may
    Help us to mould ourselves.

    We also promise you of our humble prayers and expect your powerful prayer support in the future as well.

    With the great hope in the risen lord,
    Saji Philip and Thomas Xavier

    Our e-mail Id: irelandmissions@yahoo.com

  10. “Go to the whole world and preach the gospel…”

    Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

    My friend Mr. Saji Philip and I Thomas Xavier who are working in Delhi have been praying for a long time to preach the gospel and to do some job together with that.
    Now our lord has heard our prayers and we are likely to get a job visa to go to Ireland.

    We also request your prayer for realizing our dreams to come true that is to preach the gospel and for an opportunity to work together with the task our lord has entrusted us.
    We desire all this to accomplish as early as possible.

    Now we humbly request you to suggest some inspirational readings and other things
    Like (CDs of preaching of the word of God, audio cassettes) and any thing that may
    Help us to mould ourselves.

    We also promise you of our humble prayers and expect your powerful prayer support in the future as well.

    With the great hope in the risen lord,
    Saji Philip and Thomas Xavier

    Our e-mail Id: irelandmissions@yahoo.com

  11. “Go to the whole world and preach the gospel…”

    Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

    My friend Mr. Saji Philip and I Thomas Xavier who are working in Delhi have been praying for a long time to preach the gospel and to do some job together with that.
    Now our lord has heard our prayers and we are likely to get a job visa to go to Ireland.

    We also request your prayer for realizing our dreams to come true that is to preach the gospel and for an opportunity to work together with the task our lord has entrusted us.
    We desire all this to accomplish as early as possible.

    Now we humbly request you to suggest some inspirational readings and other things
    Like (CDs of preaching of the word of God, audio cassettes) and any thing that may
    Help us to mould ourselves.

    We also promise you of our humble prayers and expect your powerful prayer support in the future as well.

    With the great hope in the risen lord,
    Saji Philip and Thomas Xavier

    Our e-mail Id: irelandmissions@yahoo.com