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.
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.