Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Half Flashed – Brookwood Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL 35223

A philosopher asks: “If your homepage’s embedded Flash animation failed to load, would anyone notice?

My thought is: “Probably not since since the webmaster didn’t include alternative content for Flash-impaired browsers – like those used by search engines.

Below is a screen snippet from the home page of the Brookwood Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL 35223. You’ll note four numbers in red, those are mine. They enumerate items I’d try to heal if only given 30 minutes, a text editor and a compass:

frontpage snippet of brookwood baptist church birmingham alabama

  1. No alternative content for Flash-impaired browsers and search engines.
  2. As acronyms go ‘BBC‘ is a well known trademark for purveyors of PBS-like content. I think ‘Info Links’ or ‘Information Links’ might do just as well.
  3. Flash layer hides drop-down menu on my Firefox/Mozilla browser.
  4. Church-speak mission statement instead of compelling content (e.g. titles of recent sermons, upcoming events, etc…)

One other item that needs addressing on this site, the title bar. Sure “Welcome to the blah-blah-blah web site” is friendly – but since search engines index your church’s web site on the title, and since most individuals search for churches by denomination, location and with the advent of Google maps, zip code – Brookwood Baptist might be better off using the title of this article … minus the phrase “Half Flashed – “.

Because the content on this particular website is organized better than many and because – and because there is alot of it – I think getting these five issues squared away would be enough to significantly increase this site’s user accessibility and search-engine visibility.

What about you, what five things would you heal in a hurry? Leave a comment – in love.

8 Comments

  1. Here’s my 10 minute review…

    See the screenshot I sent…I use a FireFox Flashblocker, and still got some static images in place of the Flash.

    I was surprised to see this ran on EZekiel – they’ve done a good job with a design that doesn’t look like “Template #41B in light blue, please”.

    Ooops..scratch that. The site bounces back and forth between the nice design and Template #41b in light blue. I hope they’re working on transitioning the entire site over for a consistent experience.

    Some links open in new windows for no apparent reason..that’s frustrating.

    I’d change “enews” on the home page to just “news”…the e stuff is a cliche now, and makes you wonder if you’re getting different news than if you went to the church.

    Interesting that the facility info is for members only – scared of terrorism? That would seem to slow down the process of outside groups using the building.

    “Info Links” is poorly named with or without the BBC…the word “Information” should *never* be used on a website as a link, IMHO, because the whole site is “informational”.

    I think the true challenge is that the Info Links section has become what I call the “Lyle Lovett” category – a catchall for stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else in the architecture. For example – who would think to look for Service Times in that category (it’s duplicated under who we are anyway)

    I’d probably break Info Links up into two main categories with better names – there’s room on the main nav bar if the names are short.

    Members only content seems sprinkled througout the site – I wonder if gathering all that stuff under one “members only” category might help…it would be worth pursuing…

  2. I’ve seen the Flash and navigation bar before. I’ve wondered what it was, but haven’t been compelled to figure it out. Is it because of layers?

  3. I think you’re really grasping on this one, friend.
    The site is no monument to design, but it looks like they’re trying.
    The flash cover-up problem is due to the missing “wmode=transparent” in the embed tag…an amateur mistake, but it happens to the best of us…somebody really should let them know about that one.
    The main issue i have with the page is the gratuitous use of flash…there’s no real reason to have flash on that page…that’s really great that they have images fading in and out every so often, but that home page doesn’t really compel me to stay on it long enough to notice…there’s nothing really worth reading.
    Good tips on indexing.

  4. I thought it was a fine site.

  5. It seems like a lot of the conflicts that happen on sites like these is due to the less-than-perfect marriage of Flash and HTML/Java. I’m a Flash designer who can’t really do HTML. Is there any reason why it would be a bad idea to simply design the whole page in Flash, if that’s where the designer’s skill set is? Aside from minor search-engine invisibility issues, is there any reason to avoid 100% flash so we don’t have to deal with trying to mesh the two beasts together?
    -Greg.

    p.s. Does anyone have any real percentage stats on Flash-enabled browsers vs. non? It’s been a few years now. When can we make the same assumptions about flash-ready browsers that we make about java-ready?

  6. Hi Greg – have you a can opener? I have some worms here..;)

    The Flash vs. HTML/CSS debate rages on…do some Googling and you’ll get plenty to read.

    Macromedia has made great strides in dealing with some of the classic issues with Flash..usability, search engine visibility, accessibility by screen readers, etc. Flash isn’t necessarily “evil” like it once was.

    For me…it boils down to a couple reasons: For a church, I can implement a site based on an inexpensive blogging tool built upon a content management system. I can allow multiple authors, workflow, image galleries, email integration, etc – all easily and cheaply. Those blogging and CMS tools spit out a HTML/CSS site. I have yet to see a CMS that spits out a Flash site. I expect to see one soon.

    But I see church sites as needing to be more than a “static” marketing type site, flash or otherwise. I want them to house conversations, and not just be animated mar-com brochures.

    Then there’s general usability. I want my church site to be as usable as possible, to facilitate those conversations. Flash *seems* to move site designs outside simple text and graphics and links (generally the reason you’re looking at Flash is to have more “interaction” than those elements allow). For me, the interaction is between people and people, and not people and the site. For that reason I tend to prefer building sites that are technically simple, and put the focus on quality content and conversation.

    In the end, you can probably do all of the above with Flash. What ultimately matters is building a site that satisfies the goals for your organization, your current members, and your target members. Those groups need to be researched, and site goals driven out of those discussions. If Flash can then be used to meet those goals, then have at it.

    But the key is really having well-developed, user-based goals for the site, and meeting those with technology, rather than choosing any technology because you can create it and 98% of the browsers happen to have that capability.

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  8. really, all we care about is Google and Yahoo of which Google can indeed crack open a swf and gather its contents. It isn’t perfect yet, but it can do it. I’ve seen many many worse church websites…