Heal Your Church WebSite


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

New Bethel Baptist Church, Tobaccoville, NC

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.

6 Comments

  1. “First, a quick glance around the various pages, and we find that this website does have compelling content, that I personally found inviting.”
    .
    Looks like a nice place… Like the picture of Pastor (nice smile!).
    .
    “the interior of the church … sans the smiling faces that I’m sure make this great place to worship.”
    .
    Noticed that, too…
    .
    “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?”
    .
    Uh huh.
    .
    “…If you have special prayer requests to share with us, please send an email to our pastor.”
    .
    Make sure to obsfuscate that e-mail address!!! The pastor will be assailed with SPAM if it’s left open (Dean’s or http://www.hiveware.com).
    .
    “So here is what I suggest, spend $35 to $50 and purchase a FrontPage theme from some place like PixelMill.”
    .
    I second that recommendation… did it myself!
    .
    -Frank

  2. “I’d suggest offering some actual sermons…”
    .
    Somewhat off-topic: do many church websites post sermons in a publicly accessible place? I’d be concerned about theft of intellectual property. Is your pastor worried about this?

  3. Actually, there is a bible study on the site. It’s on the “Pastor’s Page,” but it’s halfway down. Might be a good idea to move that back over to the “Bible Study” page and place it closer to the top where it can be more easily found. I see there’s also some additional articles / studies offered in Microsoft Word format, too — great idea. However, I’ve always been a bit weary of opening Word docs given the multitude of macro viruses going around. (Not that they would willfully distribute a virus, but it happens to the best of us every now and again.) Take a look at http://www.pdf995.com, there’s a great _free_ PDF creator that our church uses to create our newsletters. Simply “print” the word file to the pdf generator and upload. Yes, it pops up a browser window with an advertisement when you’re done — which isn’t a bad idea if you find the software useful and have the money to support it. Otherwise, just close the window and move on with your life. :-)

  4. Jon Mark,

    OpenOffice.org produces PDFs, is free, and is a great replacement for Microsoft Office anyway, even without the PDF generation ability…

    http://www.openoffice.org/

  5. Yes! I use OO.o all the time at home on my Linux box. I did notice with the latest release (1.1) that it made a very nice pdf file right from the menu. If you’re willing to learn a new word processing app, that is a great one to move to. And if all you’re doing is typing, the learning curve is _very_ small. At my church, however, I don’t dare change the word processing app that the secretary has learned. I’m just pleased she uses the computer at all, so there’s no way I’m going to change something like that on her. I think she’d either quit or kill me! :-) And it so happens that our church has access to a large number of licenses of MS Office (yes, all of them legal), so that really isn’t a priority for us.

  6. To answer Bill’s question on the posting of sermons:

    Some churches do. I know that my husband’s internship parish posts sermons as does my husband on his website. Heck, I’ve even posted them on b4G when we’ve needed filler.

    We post that the sermons are the intellectual property of ____________ and we’ve actually never had a real problem with them being stolen. Then again, we’re Lutheran and almost nobody that would want to steal a sermon in the first place would be able to (or even want to) preach one of my husband’s sermons — too academic and he quotes Luther a little too liberally.