Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Labor Pains in Christ

It is amazing to me how the Church, equipped with such a simple message as the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, has gone to such extremes to collude such a liberating message with such antithetical ideas such as crusades, indulgences and ‘kitschy‘ website design. Especially the latter in a day an age where everything you need to know about designing an accessible and usable website is freely available at places such as Mark Pilgrim’s ‘Dive the Accessibility‘ or the Yale ‘Web Style Guide, 2nd edition‘.

So imagine my ‘forhead-to-hand‘ exasperation when stumbling upon a para-church website entitled ‘Laborers In Christ.’ Indeed, it felt like a term at Leavenworth as I tried to make heads or tails of a site with a color scheme so busy that I found myself having to rest on the couch with teabags on my eyes after visiting it. Yeah, okay, so I’m exaggerating about the teabags, and it’s my 4 year old who makes me in want of rest; that aside, the ‘Laborers In Christ.’ website could use some serious healing.

Some Background!

I guess the first thing that bugs me is the black background. Yeah, I realize I’m getting into personal preference territory with this particular criticism, but honestly folks, but if we’re children of the Light, then why create sites that from across the room could be mistaken for 2600 Magazine? In the case of ‘Laborers In Christ,’ I suspect in this case the black background was necessitated as a result of a ‘virtual‘ text color scheme that is defined below the fold of the home page under the caption of “Color Symbolism of this Website.”

There are two problems with expecting users to cut-n-paste such colorful symbolism into their mental clipboards:

  1. First time visitors may actually read this caption to think that anything written in red are the words of Christ, just like it is in their King James Bible.
  2. The context is subordinated to the color selection. As a result, not only does the webmaster have to employ a black background, but has to render all the text all bold all the time. AN EFFECT SIMILAR TO WRITING IN ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME … it makes people think you’re yelling all the time.

Getting back above the fold we have a banner that is a rollover GIF that is a link not back to the homepage, but to a very long Gospel page full of Scripture references that are made difficult to read by virtue of the font and color selection. Moreover, none of the Scripture references hyperlink back to an online Bible so you can read each verse selection in context.

Continuing above the fold of the frontpage, and after the aforementioned rollover banner GIF:

  • we are greeted with an animated GIF welcome message;
  • offered a pulsating star reminiscent of the Heaven’s Gate;
  • made to read church speak in bold red and blue, all centered, all in bold;
  • forced to chase words in white that are so important, the webmaster makes you chase them one letter at a time by rendering them as a scrolling marquee;
  • pudgy red graphic page divides with some interesting alternate text;
  • and finally we’re befuddled with a ubiquitous mission statement.

Wandering in the Wilderness

Basically, the frontpage of this website contains nothing that indicates to me, a first time visitor, what this site has to offer in the way of answering my questions … at least not until I scroll to the bottom of the page where we are at last given a menu of what the site contains.

Clicking on Bible Topics, I’m faced with two list boxes requiring a JavaScript enabled browser so you can click on a keyword. When you do, you get a pop-up window that you can’t resize, has no menu options (e.g. File|Print) and offers black and blue text on a blue background. In other words, it’s almost as if the webmaster went out of his/her way to hide the light under a bowl.

In fact each and every page was, as Vincent Flanders would put it, “Learning good web design by looking at bad web design.” A “Smite” page, which lives up to its name, casting down my bandwidth with a scrolling java applet. A Bible Answer page that uses an entirely different mechanism than the Bible Topic page to deliver text in the similarly difficult to read, popup window fashion … only everything is all bold font all the time.

Of course the most insidious was a Bible Search page that offers an alphabetical concordance where you’re required to click on a letter, such as G, and you get a popup window full of word beginning with G (all in bold blue against a black background) which you’re then supposed to take your cursor, copy over the word you want into your PC’s clipboard, close the pop-up window and paste it into the parent form. I’m sure Jakob Nielsen would have something to say of this type of usability, unfortunately I doubt I could print it in polite company.

Hiding your light under a bowl

Upset? You bet I am! Yes, we’re all called to be Laborers in Christ, but our toil should be in casting down foolish arguments, not in obfuscating a message already clouded by postmodern thinking, zealots on both extremes, and hypocrites. C’mon people, work with me here.

Please note, I haven’t said a thing about the theology on this website. Nor am I demanding that it become a ‘stinkin’ art project‘. Instead I would just rather Laborers in Christ, and others sites like it, let the message speak for itself without having to “dress it up” with contrivances and gimmicks that were dated well before the dot.com bust.

Laboring for a better web presence

How would I heal this site? I would:

  1. drop the heavy metal, pr0n, warez color scheme;
  2. install MovableType;
  3. keep the categories defined on the menu of the bottom page;
  4. lose the guestbook and news pages;
  5. make each article, study, what-have-you a post;
  6. look for a better online Bible

This approach would offer this collection (and that is what this site is, a collection of documents) the following benefits:

  • Consistent look-n-feel throughout;
  • Everything can be found with the built-in search feature;
  • Scripture can be automatically linked with a simple plug-in;
  • Adding new content would be a snap;
  • RSS Syndication

Unfortunately, it has been my experience with sites such like ‘Laborers in Christ‘ that its fans tend to attack the messenger rather than modifying their conveyance of The Message. Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time.

BTW, if you’ve got suggestions for an online Bible that’s easy to deploy on a typical website, I’d be glad to hear about it.

6 Comments

  1. I didn’t you mention the amusing “Jesus Christ, Son of God” text that follows one’s mouse pointer wherever it goes! Annoying at first, but it did make for 20 seconds of fun as I hastily ran the mouse around the page…

    Good suggestions, btw.

  2. besides, the color scheme (red and black) *feels* satanic!

  3. Could this be why most ministry sites make me want to run screaming to the Albigensians?

  4. I’m wondering when I can expect to see the Laborer’s in Christ Christian award featured here. Dean, I think your site meets the requirements.

    http://www.laborersinchrist.org/awards.htm

  5. Dear Folks,

    The following scripture seems applicable to the actual outcome of your comments about Laborers In Christ.

    “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

    Your unsolicited critique of “Laborers In Christ” has yielded a 2% increase in visitors. Thank you for being a tool in God’s hand to further “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    May the grace of Christ be abundant in your life,

    Wayne Fine

    Laborers In Christ
    http://laborersinchrist.org

  6. Thank you to the lord for the Holy Spirit and joy in him and good health and miacles in Christ with faith and trust in word of God, so let us do greatful deeds in Jesus name and God loves our faith and will do wonders and powerful of works with us in Christ,thanks and bless and pray,keijo sweden