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.’
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):
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!
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:
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.