Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Lenexa Baptist Church, Lenexa KS – Seekers need not apply

One of the few fond memories I have from my near 10 year stint in New York City was attending a church whom at the time boasted a brochure that pictured the intersection 40th street and 9th (Ave) and was captioned “Prostitutes down the street, homeless on our doorstep, what a great place for a church.”

In other words, despite the “sinners need not apply” perception portended by the apostates and atheists over at the fictional Landover Baptist website, the little church behind the NY Port Authority was getting it done. Just as I’m sure the good and loving folks at Lenexa Baptist Church are feeding the hungry and ministering the bereft and leading the lost to Christ in the city of Lenexa KS – provided these needy people not seek help via Google using the keyword phrase ‘baptist church lenexa ks.’

Flashforward2005

C|Net writer Paul Festa begs the question “What if you built a Web site in Flash and no one could find it?” I believe offerings such the Lenexa Baptist Church (LBC) web site answer that question with the following modified/cropped screen-shot (which pops open a larger, unmodified/uncropped shot of the same):

click here to see lenexa noflash page

Simply put, Lenexa Baptist is NOT offering ‘a suitable flash alternative,’ in effect shunning users who don’t have the latest and greatest Flash plug-in, or have turned it off to avoid the noise of embedded banner ads. An issue discussed ‘ad nauseum’ a few weeks back I asserted that McLean Bible Church might do better to evangelize on behalf of the Master instead of Macromedia.

The problem from a technical perspective is since the LBC website employs Flash-based navigation for their header and top-menu bar, search engines (and the textually inclined) are compelled to read through everything else first to get to the text links along the bottom – provided the search engine and the Flash-impaired are built patient enough to sift through that much content .

Oh, did you notice the header/banner on the non-Flash page is rendered in – yup, you guessed it, Flash!

Text Sells

One other big problem with Lenexa’s search-ability – and one of my biggest beefs with many church websites – they use graphics to represent critical text, which in this case represents critical title and navigational clues for both users and search engines. A picture being worth 100 words, here is a visual representation of what a text-based browser and/or search engine might see:

Screen shot of what Lenexa looks like to imageless readers such as search engines

Instead here is what a search engine migh see via the Delorie Search Engine Simulator – whoops looks like they’re blocking that one for some reason – instead let’s try using the spider simulator from Search Engine World. Notice that neither ‘Kansas’ nor ‘KS’ come into the picture? Nor does Kansas City, the major metropolis of which Lenexa is a suburb.

Five Minute Healing

As church web site design goes this one is laid out nice enough and while not a big fan of bold earth tones the Lenexa website makes it work. Not my choice of colors, but they work. Content is compelling enough, though as everyone knows I want to see sermons and Bible Studies online from everyone.

My personal preferences aside, has everything it takes if they’d just fix two simple search-engine hostile implementations:

  • lose the flash navigation
  • stop representing text using graphics

Yes, there are a couple of other minor issues here and there, such as image optimization on the staff page, alt and title arguments for image and hyperlinks – but these aren’t what I’d call ‘do-or-die‘ type issues. That said, if you have other suggestions, leave a note – in love.

9 Comments

  1. Good call on the flash. Always make it an option, not a requirement.

    Hey Dean, thou shall not HTML-escape the contents of one’s posts, thus making them not validate properly when clicking the ‘Preview’ button!

    Jeremy (who works right down the street from this church)

    http://www.opcofc.org
    http://www.covenantchorale.org

  2. http://www.lenexabaptist.org/index.aspx
    This would be a much better home page, with the flash presentation saved as something a visitor could click over to. Most flash sites make you click for the HTML version, but I feel that this is a backward idea. HTML should be primary, and flash users should be required to click over to that flashier display.

  3. http://www.lenexabaptist.org/index.aspx
    This would be a much better home page, with the flash presentation saved as something a visitor could click over to. Most flash sites make you click for the HTML version, but I feel that this is a backward idea. HTML should be primary, and flash users should be required to click over to that flashier display.

  4. Man oh man… if they outsourced the web-design I hope they fired the company. I would imagine the church paid some pretty money to have the site designed – and got taken for a ride. I can’t say I’m jumping to conclusions because people take clients for a ride in SEO as well. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes out of ignorance.

    But the first rule of Flash is always have a alt-version! I can’t say that it’s absolutely necessary for a church to be SE-friendly, but definitely useable. Flash is clumsy. I have a broadband connection and it can STILL take time for Flash to load! I can’t stand it as a user, designer, and as a marketer. I admit it looks cool though.

  5. Supposition: Church website are volunteer’d.
    Result: There may not be the luxury of having alternative content. Do you pick the safe text version? Or do you try to be relevent and use some Flash and graphics?

  6. You said: “Simply put, Lenexa Baptist is NOT offering ‘a suitable flash alternative,’”

    So, if we have to double or triple our work whenever we use Flash for a site in making alternate non-Flash content and nav and debugging the more-complex HTML + Flash site, then why the heck should we use Flash at all?

    IMO, Flash may do some neat looking stuff, but I don’t see a lot of reason to go through all the extra work just for that, particularly considering the hassles with accessibility and reduced search engine indexing.

    Frankly I’ve just never seen the appeal of Flash.
    (guess that’s pretty obvious from this post ;-)

  7. “The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters.”

    – H. L. Mencken, “Homo Neanderthalensis” (commentary on the Sonata trial), The Baltimore Evening Sun, June 29, 1955

  8. Unfortunately I’d have to disagree with your comments (or they’ve changed the website since you posted your comments).
    If you search on google for their website, from your provided link, at the top is a link to the church on googles mapping page. Clicking this then takes you to a new results page with their website as the first hit (instead of this page!)
    Clicking on the link takes you to http://www.lenexabaptist.org and by using the navigation links at the bottom of the page you can find all about the church – so they do provide non-flash based information.

    Having said that I can’t stand sites that use flash for their content. A “designer” company created a website for my old company and it lasted 30 minutes as a live website before it got pulled due to howls of protest from users and internal users who couldn’t work as they had to wait for everything to load (typical that the boss got showed a flashy interface which looked good but was useless to use over the internet but on an internal lan demonstration it wasn’t too bad.)

  9. Simply put, Lenexa Baptist is NOT offering ‘a suitable flash alternative