One of the most beneficial features of the computer is its ability to contain and present overwhelming amounts of data in sensible and organized amounts that don’t over run our ability to digest it. A point I’m afraid the “Centred in Christ, Caring for People” at the Priesthill (Zion) Methodist Church of Hillsborough, Northern Ireland didn’t quite master.
Put another way: when you’ve got a lot to say, don’t say it all at once.
One of the keys to a successful website is sitting down beforehand and enumerating what compelling content best conveys your church’s purpose and personality. While it is clear that the webmaster at Priesthill (Zion) Methodist did that, what wasn’t done was strking a balance between offering ‘just enough’ home page information to avoid overwhelming the reader with too much.
The most obvious example of this is a trinity of menus surrounding the page that instead of inviting the first-time visitor to explore the site, made me feel like I was in a room full of used car salesmen all vying for my attention all at once. My intial reaction was quite literally, what am I looking at … where do I begin?
House of Order
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul instructs the church that the speaking of tongues should occur one or two at a time, with an interpreter. In this way the congregation is ‘built-up’ with a message while those peaking into the church for the first time don’t think of it full of drunken idiots.
In the same way, Priesthill (Zion) Methodist needs to rethink their navigation so first time visitors aren’t bull-rushed with the wealth of opportunities obviously embodied at this church.
Likewise, they also need to let the content for each page stand on its own merit, without the benefit of colored backgrounds that make it hard to read, and without the cheap clipart and animated gifs that plague a page here and there.
What is ironic is that while the home page screams about all the activities available, it fails to convey three essential pieces of information that would make it friendlier to both potential visitors and search engines:
- Times of the service
- Phone Number
Healing it Quickly?
First thing I would do is purchase for the webmaster a copy of Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think.” I would especially emphasize reading Chapter 6 entitled “Street signs and Breadcrumbs: Designing Navigation.”
Next, I would see if the webmaster would be open to some form of content management. Not that CMS is the magic bullet that will fix all websites, but since the problem here isn’t so much the content, but how to present it … why not employ a system that generates the how on the fly?
The trick would be performing a thorough needs analysis not only of the user base, but also of the staff and laypersons that would manage the site.
Once a careful decision is made on a content solution that satisfies both consumer AND producer, it is just a matter of plugging in the existing data organization and plugging in the content, sans all the contrivances.
Finally, I would then revisit the content and work on making it just a ‘tad-bit‘ more compelling.
How about your church’s homepage? Does it say just too much, too little, or is it just right? I’d be interested in examples that would help the church mentioned above, and or could use some of the same advice discussed above.