Why do the churches rage, why do the webmasters plan in vain, because the maintenance phase of any software system sucks.
Inspired by a number of the comments left here and there to Mike Boyink’s post “Church Webmasters – Stop Working for Free” and supported by my 20+ some years on software development it is increasingly clear as to why, in spite of an era of free and relatively easy to use web-based content management systems it is no wonder we hear of churches ditching systems created in data-driven systems such as MovableType or pMachine in favor of brochure-ware rendered using FrontPage, Flash and/or E-Zekiel.
This is because creating and designing websites is sexy and hi-profile – whereas maintaining code and a consistent stream of compelling content is difficult and is about as glamorous as the janitor who keeps the toilets clean.
Unfortunately, when a church needs to bring in a new webmaster to take over a legacy site they’re more than likely find volunteers of an ‘artists’ mentality than that of a ‘programmer.’ This isn’t to say one is better than the other – but rather this is to say that if this were a football team, the designers would be begging to play quarterback whereas it is more likely that the code-monkey would be satisfied inflicting maximum pain playing the offensive or defensive line.
And this is why we find churches equipped with data-driven content management systems providing pages with excellent search engine rankings ditching their existing systems for the likes of FrontPage.
After all, what benefit is provided to the designer’s personal portfolio by learning how to code and modify someone else’s templates? What accolades can the artist possibly receive for sticking to streaming substantive compelling content when they can garner the ooh-and-ahs at the Wednesday night dinner by offering something stunningly stylish? Besides, FrontPage is almost as fun as Flash!
What is needed to solve this problem is for pastors and church councils to understand that there is an effective website needs both the artistry of a designer – with the intellect of a programmer.
But before this can happen, pastors and church councils need to develop a long term plan and mission for their online presence. Unfortunately this is not likely to happen because it would mean having to understand how web-based technology is employed to extend the real-world ministry. Something that is also unlikely to happen until seminaries begin staffing-up with online media instructors.
Bottom line: those who fail to plan – plan to fail. Usually this happens in the form of schilling out to style over substance. The problem is, substance means maintenance – and we all know that maintenance programming sucks because it’s not sexy, it means learning new things and you generally don’t get to take any curtain calls.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment – oh and by the way, I’ve temporarily disabled trackbacks until I can upgrade to MT 3.1x.