Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Countryside Baptist Church – Olathe, Kansas

Imagine this scenario, your company tells you they’re transferring you to Olathe, Kansas. One of the first things you do is go to Google and look up a church within your domination; for the sake of today’s argument, we’ll say Baptist.

On the two pages you have a choice of ten different churches all within a 10 square mile radius of one another. You open 10 browser windows (or tabs for you cool Mozilla-heads) and begin to compare churches.

Two require huge Flash 5 introductions that nag you because the page doesn’t include auto detection for browsers with later versions, such as 7. So now you’re down to eight.

One hits you with a JavaScript prompt that asks you for your name. You enter “Don’t Bother” and close the window. Then there were seven.

Three others have slow-loading splash pages, encumbered with immense images of their church building, none with any meaningful navigation other than [enter here]. Two with spinning crosses, one with Jesus flashing in bold red letters, another playing a cheesy MIDI file. Three more windows close, whittling down the number of choices to four.

One has a long winded, all centered, all in bold mission statement that tells you why you’re going to hell, even though you were saved at age 12. Three are left standing.

Another church uses the front page to tell you how great the pastor is, and why you should follow him. That leaves two.

So now the choice is between two church websites that haven’t colluded their content with Jesus Junk, mindless mission statements, bandwidth abuse or mystery meat navigation.

Both websites “get it.” That is, they’ve correctly identified their target audience and have built their website about their content. Both pretty much say the same thing.

The only glaring difference is that one looks like it’s still partying like it’s 1999. And because of this, you never get to meet the wonderful and loving persons at the “Countryside Baptist Church – Olathe, Kansas

I know this might sound shallow, but if we are to believe Internet use and website usability surveys, and I think we know enough about the Internet these days to know the answer to that question, then the above scenario is entirely plausible. Including taking into account the look and feel of a church’s website as the final decision between church A and church B.

That is, while content is indeed king, look and feel is important because when it is well done, it improves the overall user experience. And when it is up-to-date, it gives the potential visitor the confidence that they’re going to walk into an up-to-date church facility.

So what would I do if I were given 30 minutes to heal the Countryside Baptist Church website? First I would lose the frames. Users don’t like it, and search engines hate it and it adds an unnecessary level of complexity to site maintenance.

I’d then go with a different color scheme. A nice dark color on the left menu, other than black. A white readable area to the right. The rollovers are fine as they are text and CSS-driven.

I’d flush left the “all text all centered” affliction that plagues a majority of the sub-pages.

Finally, I would lose the logo and the ancient image of the old country road. Yes, the tree and street cleverly “frame” the logo and address, but adds another level of navigation to members and seekers alike. I would take a shortened version of the “visit us” message, and follow it with either “announcements” or perhaps those great quotes on their “Meet Some of our People” page.

In other words, something more inviting and better aimed at the needs and desire of the target audience.

Everything else is just fine. The information hierarchy makes sense. The navigation is easy to follow. Once you get past the front page, we find genuine content here written by what appears to me to be genuine folks where “Friends [really do] become family” No need to hide it behind a dated look with an equally dated image metaphor.

What do you think? Am I being to shallow here? Am I being too kind? Leave a comment, we’ll discuss and learn.

12 Comments

  1. While it is important to be forgiving, in the same situation, I would have probably come up with about the same conclusion. Given that a website is a direct representation of the organization(church in this case) it is important to be both informative and considerate of the audience. As far as your critique of the one site that was left, there should never be anything wrong with constructive criticism. That is why they call it constructive.

  2. > choice of ten different churches
    You must be a better googler than I. I only found 5.

    > lose the frames.
    I didn’t see any frames. I did see a layer (non-standard). The menu is generated by JS, so is invisible to search engines and screenreaders. A google search of “link:www.cside.org” returns nothing. The internal pages will not be scanned by google.

  3. The 2 column layout is good. Navigation seems to be adequate. The “front page” needs to be changed to “invite” a seeker to explore the site. Also, the “front page” should allow a seeker to quickly determine if this is the church for which they are looking. For example, when I travel and am looking for a church to visit, I want to quickly determine affilliation, location based on where I’m staying, service times. I know this type of info is usually contained within the site but a “condensed” version on the “front page” would be useful to some seekers.

    A suggestion is break the “Meet the Staff” page into individual pages, one per staff member. My thinking is driven by the “above the fold” concept. Plus each staff member could contribute content related to their specific ministry efforts. Also, reduce the size of each staff picture for those “seekers” using a dial-up connection.

  4. I think the color is a MAJOR obstacle. I feel like I’m looking at a circa 1970′s pack of sausage. The yellow backing also doesn’t play well with the main gif image on the front that seems to have a messy white halo around it.

    They’re in Kansas, and were I them I would try to bank on the soft, earthy colors that surround them (and that are a lot more contemporary and inviting).

    I think the navigation is easy enough, so not as many complaints there. They obviously wanted it to be easy to get through.

    On the photos inside, though…those all look like stock photos and not like the real thing. I don’t feel like I have a grasp of this church at all. Even in their “Our People” section, which claims to introduce us, there are no photos at all.

    I’m also not a big fan of fluid layouts, mainly because I have trouble reading things that stretch out over about 500 pixels or so. Zeldman recommends about 400 at most, and I try to fall in there when I can. I’m getting lost in yellow on these pages not only because of the wide text area, but also because of it’s being centered, which I think you mentioned, Dean.

    So, other than that it’s great!

  5. >”One of the first things you do is go to Google and look up a >church within your domination”

    Freudian slip?

  6. Dean,

    I’m curious why you ruled out the first church on the list? The web site for Providence Baptist Church isn’t that bad. http://www.npbcwebsite.org/ They must be doing something right to get a #1 Google rank. It has a few issues that could use healing, but I wouldn’t dismiss the church from a look at their web site. Actually, based upon what I see on the site, it would be the first physical church I would visit if relocated to Olathe Kansas.

    If I had 10 minutes to heal this church web site, I’d begin with resizing the image of the pastor’s family on the home page to match the desired 300X240 html dimensions. 2) I’d fix the broken link to their catechism. 3) I’d make a local mirror of their confession of faith, instead of relying on an external link. 4) I’d fix the page with the Baptist Catechism set to music. Something very curious is going on there. A similar looking page with a slightly altered color scheme, missing picture, and different church/pastor name is there. It appears the page may be an artifact of the church pre-name change. http://www.toto.net/npbc/ 5) I’d probably also add a Sunday schedule in addition to the one hidden within the text of the opening paragraph, because as we know, people do not read web sites, they scan them.

    If I had a little more than 10 minutes, I’d make a few aesthetic changes, but that’s sort of a little more of a personal preference. Well, if it were me I’d probably go with a tableless XHTML structure and use CSS for the look and feel, but that’s just me. :) The main thing I like about the site is that it tells me that this is a church that believes in sound doctrine. While so many churches in our post-modern relativistic age are spending most of their effort in scratching people’s itching ears and trying to do little more than produce warm fuzzy thoughts, I was delighted to see a church that seems to believe their doctrine is important.

  7. A coupla things:

    You’re picking to pieces my google query for “Baptist Church Olathe”

    Okay, my example of 10 sites? It was just an example (e.g. ‘Imagine this scenario’). I think I actually only found 3 … but I used 10 to talk about real-life atrocities online we’ve discussed before, like Jesus Junk.

    I guess I should have used “Baptist Church Nowheresville” … then said, “now imagine a similar scenario with Olathe” but it seemed such a klunky way to make my point.

    Oh, and when I hit the site the night before, it had frames. People do tend to change things once reviewed … at least I hope they do. Just ask Frank over at the healed Burtonsville Baptist!-)

  8. Or you could come to my church which is only about 20 minutes from Olathe!
    :)

  9. Initial impression on first page is a graphic… have to start clicking to learn.

    I’d suggest attempting to give them what they’re looking for (at least at top of list) on the first hit of the site (home page).

    IOW, grab them on the first impression/read… don’t make them click until they want to know more?

    -Frank “Healed by the name of Dean” Ramage
    -Burtonsville Baptist Church

  10. Thank you for your constructive observations and criticism. I am the webmaster for the Countryside Baptist Church web site. The site is already going through a “healing” process and should be healthly within the month. Some of the improvements are:up-to-date look and feel.optimized, updated imagesadditional features (Bible search, sermon order form, etc.)extranet for members (searchable pictural directory, member-to-member communication tools, etc.)Our goal is to make the site more inviting and appealing while maintaining the original integrity. The comment about the photos being “stock photos” is a gueniune compliment of the web teams image editting abilities. All photos on the site are actual people from Countryside – none of them are “stock photos”. Finally, there are no frames anywhere in the site. The question “to frame or not to frame” could go on forever. With a little creative coding most of the negatives of frames can be eliminated.

  11. I am Ronald L. Rumbaugh, a transplanted Kansan, now living in Naples, Florida. I’m a BORN AGAIN BELIEVER and was perturbed by what I read in my local newspaper about what the Mainstream Coalition is going to do to the churches in Kansas. Here in Florida the pastors in the different areas of the State get together and discuss our problems. Although I’m not a pastor, I love the Lord and I attend a lot of the meetings with my pastor. This past meeting a discussion took place about the election that is coming up. We were told to look at the following web site:

    http://www.lc.org/Resources/ChurchLossOfTaxExempt.html

    Please pass this web site to other pastors in the good State of Kansas and don’t let these people deny us our rights. There is no such thing as the separation of Church and State.

    God Bless the USA and President Bush!!

  12. I am Ronald L. Rumbaugh, a transplanted Kansan, now living in Naples, Florida. I’m a BORN AGAIN BELIEVER and was perturbed by what I read in my local newspaper about what the Mainstream Coalition is going to do to the churches in Kansas. Here in Florida the pastors in the different areas of the State get together and discuss our problems. Although I’m not a pastor, I love the Lord and I attend a lot of the meetings with my pastor. This past meeting a discussion took place about the election that is coming up. We were told to look at the following web site:

    http://www.lc.org/Resources/ChurchLossOfTaxExempt.html

    Please pass this web site to other pastors in the good State of Kansas and don’t let these people deny us our rights. There is no such thing as the separation of Church and State.

    God Bless the USA and President Bush!!