Just off of U.S. Highway 52, ensconced within the sky-high pines and down-to-earth folks that populate the western portion of North Carolina, is a quiet little rural community just north of Winston-Salem by the name of Tobaccoville; estimated population 2,200.
It’s a small villiage, so no surprise that it is home to some nice, small, but incredibly friendly churches. I know, because I’ve sung from time to time at such locales; the only real problem being the damage from peeling plaster in some of these 100+ year old structures due to the somewhat loud nature of my operatically trained voice … but I digress.
I have a hunch that the New Bethel Baptist Church of Tobaccoville, NC is just such a place. They even say so in their tagline:
“The End Of Your Search For A Friendly Church !”
Now if they would only extend this friendliness to their website.
First, a quick glance around the various pages, and we find that this website does have compelling content, that personally, I find quite inviting. Unfortunately, it is delivered using a combination of one of the ‘kitschy‘ default themes that comes with FrontPage 4.0 and some ‘out of this world‘ graphics that don’t really apply.
Not to be hyper-critical, but what does it say to a visitor when your home page sports a bandwidth consuming 22kb image of a black hole?
This isn’t helped by a home page that also sports an annoying marquee tag, a spinning animated globe along with a poorly optmized image of the interior of the church … sans the smiling faces that I’m sure make this great place to worship.
In fact, the entire site falls into many of the pitfalls that commonly ensnare a first time web design. For example, some of the sub pages suffer from irregular use of font color, such as fire-engine red on their “Favorite Links” page, all bold and all centered fonts on their dated “What’s New” page, and another large, bandwidth consuming picture that has no relevance to the subject matter on their ‘Prayer Page.’
Because this is a small church in a small
town villiage, I doubt they have access to some heavy-weight programmer talent. So here is what I suggest, spend $35 to $50 and purchase a FrontPage theme from some place like PixelMill … the simpler the better. There is already enough of a structure and content to get started, though I would place the location and contact information more conspiciously on the frontpage, and as a footer on all the sub pages.
Once emergency revamp is up, I’d suggest reading the free, online ‘The Yale Web Style Guide‘, along with Mark Pilgrim’s free online guide ‘Dive Into Accessibility.’ While reading them, I’d make tweaks based upon suggestions in either document. I’d also suggest the webmaster visiting both Jakob Nielsen’s and Vincent Flanders’ usability-related websites, often.
Finally, I’d suggest offering some actual sermons or Bible Study material online to give members even more compelling content, and to provide visitors with an even better idea of what a friendly and mission-oriented church I’m believe New Bethel Baptist is.
Remember, just as the praise song ‘Pass it On‘ states, “It Only Takes a Spark.” In other words, just because you have a small church, doesn’t mean you have to have a small web presence.