Heal Your Church WebSite


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

A Truckload of Jesus Junk

One of the things on my long list of things I’ve always wanted to do for this site is to establish a gallery of Jesus Junk.

After visiting “The Truckers’ Haven Online Internet Truck Stop & Truckers Chapel” I think such an effort might be redundant.

As I’m writing this article, I have yet to summon the courage to scroll down past the fold. Even so, I count about six or seven animated gifs in an upper page field containing at least twelve images that either look a bit kitschy, or are entirely unrelated to the content. About the only real-world comparison that comes to mind is the right field wall at Grove Stadium in Frederick, MD (a very family friendly minor league baseball park, by the way).

The Signage at Grove Stadium, Fredkerick MD  vs.  The Truckers' Haven Online Internet Truck Stop and Truckers Chapel

Pause … breath … relax ...

Okay, during that little break, I ran the website through WebSiteOptimization.com’s free Web Page Speed Report service. It detects Fifty-Three images. 53! I don’t even think I have that many images combined over at Redland Baptist, yet the Truckers’ Haven has them all on one page.

At least that explains why the page takes close to 10 seconds to load on my beefy DSL line; that would be close to 60 seconds for those of you dialing in at 56k.

Okay pray for me … I’m going in

It’s worse than I thought. Not as many animated .gifs but plenty of banners along the bottom just below the text – that is just below the text for those of you who aren’t using Mozilla FireFox. In that case, you’re spared reading the text as the bottom images bubble up onto of the last paragraph or three.

Now I realize this is the second trucker’s site I’ve reviewed in the past few weeks. I also realize truckers have different tastes and interests – which are as legitimate as mine. So don’t read this as an attack on truckers, rather understand it as an admonishment against bad web design that fails to convey its intended purpose and personality … and folks, we’ve got a whole trailer of it here. Which is too bad, because if you situate your face about 6″ from the screen and squint hard enough, you can see they have a worthwhile ministry:

“Our goal at the Truckers’ Haven is to provide links to resources to truckers for personal, spiritual, and trucking needs, whether on the road or safe at home.”

Putting the Brakes on bad Web Design

So here’s how I’d heal this website in about an hour:

  • Use whatever means necessary to teach the webmaster that content is king.
  • Open a TypePad account.
  • Post one article per link, giving it a verbose description that brings search engine traffic into your ministry, and helps out those with specific issues find the resources they need.
  • Once the new site is up, delete all the old files and never speak of them again.

How about you? How would you help this ministry manage their content on the cheap? I’d be interested in your opinions and suggestions.

5 Comments

  1. Well honey, thar’s a hole lotta folks that luv that stuff, my family among them.

    I’ll agree that content is king, and should be the mainstay of your page, but I get a lotta emails from my family telling me about this “cool” something I gotta see or hear, most of which you would classify as “Jesus Junk”.

    Jesus spoke in parable using everyday stuff that his audience could relate to in order to illustrate His content. So we need to peak the SOME of language of the people we are trying to reach for them to understand our content.

    So, bandwith issues aside, if that language sometimes includes “Jesus Junk”, AND you can use it to get them to understand the content that should be OK.

    Most of the stuff we classify as Junk is Junk because it does not point to the content, not because it is kitschy.

    On the bandwidth side, you could load fewer graphics or put them below the content in load order or make them pop up/user-requested windows similar to your cartoon series.

  2. <snip>

    “I also realize truckers have different tastes and interests – which are as legitimate as mine.”

    </snip>

    It wasn’t the links I was counting as Jesus Junk … but the graphics used to advertise the links.

  3. As for a suitable content management solution for this site, I would employ some kind of Link Indexing Script like you can find at CGI Resource Index:

    Link Indexing Scripts

    They could create a directory of links.

    I also see some other problems with the site. The text is too small to read. The background makes it even harder to read. In Firefox, some of the flashy images overlap important site elements making them inaccessible.

    I personally am turned off by the animated, flashy graphics (that Dean would refer to as Jesus Junk), but I also understand your arguments. I think moderation would then be the key. If you are targeting an audience that prefers animated graphics, place one or two animated graphics on a page. Don’t fill a page with nothing but animated graphics that will annoy other possible members of your audience.

    I think the best route would be to add some kind of content magagement and transform their site into a link directory.

    One of CGI Resource’s Link Indexing scripts would be more suited for this. I am one of those people who do not think that blogging is a solution for everything.

  4. The site’s lack of content besides links-links-links (many of them not really on-topic) and bad links (the one on the threats of socialism leads to more links including truck parts – not nearly as juicy sounding as the link title) that I doubt many truckers would get anything out of it. My guess is that the parent ministry, http://christmas-intl.org which seems to be run by Rev. R.A. Stoneking (his story at http://christmas-intl.org/page7.html and http://christmas-intl.org/page2.html) wanted to also do a site as a ministry for truckers, but never got around really to creating content for it. You’ll see that the layout of the two sites looks identical. More ‘fair’ maybe to issue a slap-on-the-wrist for maintaining a site since 2001 in such a sorry state, and then evaluate the parent site. As for the parent site: much more content than the truckers site, but still, very little content compared to all the junk. Maybe some people think some of this sort of junk is cool, but very few would deny that their attention from the main site content is impaired by all this stuff. Christmas-intl has an organizational plan on http://christmas-intl.org/page3.html – if they are truly doing all these things, my hats off to the Rev. Stoneking – but after seeing the truckers’ site, I’d guess that the original plans were over-ambitious, and the ministry, like the site, could use more focus. If so, writing often helps clear up thought – what can you write that truly gets to the kernel of what you want to say and is presented cogently, and what’s fluff or for a different writing project altogether? Dump the idea of being a ‘portal’ or gate to the rest of the internet – way too many sites doing that – just present your own stuff with a handful of very very good links, preferably with short reviews or discussions of what’s good there. Then organization of your material on the site might help you think about what you really can accomplish with the means God has currently given you, and maybe put these other ambitions on the back burner (or in the freezer). Better to do a few things well than lots of things in a manner like truckers-haven.org . Either have someone else make your webpages, or else really really focus on just the stuff you want there (I’m talking about christmas-intl – I’d ditch the truckers site for the moment, put up an ‘under construction’ sign or whatever until you’re really ready for this site). Dean’s idea bout typepad sounds real good to me. Sin is indeed a big problem in society, but trying to hit to much on sins in institutions can really get you very much sidetracked from the gospel unless you have a very special gift which very very few have. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea that the sins of socialism page is pointing to truck parts. I’ve met some very Christ-like socialists, and some very sinful Fundamentalists – it tends to sadden my when I see one or the other engaging in excessive criticism without very, very relavent and particular factual infortion. Specificity here is then the key. We don’t need to be inspiring more fundamentalist bashers than there already are.

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