Heal Your Church WebSite

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

Nielsen Translated: the Web still rocks like it’s 1999!

“10 years ago, I wrote an article on the changes in Web usability from 1994 to 1997. A few of my original findings were no longer valid a mere 3 years after they were issued. But most of the 1994 guidelines held true in 1997 — and they’re still correct today.

Considering how primitive websites were in 1994, it’s striking that most of these initial usability guidelines remain valid for today’s sites.” – Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, June 11, 2007

Yesterday, usability expert Jakob Nielsen basically asserted and proved with metrics that the web still rocks like it’s 1999 … or more accurately, sucks like it’s 1997!

Based upon his typical number-crunching studies, the good Dr. asserts that most of the usability issues he originally cited back in 1994, and then re-asserted in 1997, still hold true today. All I can figure is that he must have included a good number of church web sites for his ‘suck-ability’ results to rank so high when he writes:

When we add the points that remain in force to those that represent designer restraint, we find that 80% of Web usability insights from the 1990s are still current or potential problems today.

What do I mean?

As many of you know, I took a six month break staring in late October of 2006 through March of 2007. When I got back into the swing of things, I looked through my massive backlog of ideas and links to good examples of terrible church web site design … as pictured below in the screenshot of my current backlog:

25% of the HYCW backlog as viewed in the wordpress dashboard

As depressing as this image is, here’s the sad part – aside from the fact that I’ve got more material than time – that I was actually able to cite some church web sites this past April, that I had discovered had serious issues as far back as 2002! Worse, most of these sites still have the same issues, only in some cases they’re worse as they’ve compounded poor design with additional crummy-content due to a lack of what Nielsen refers to in his article as “developer restraint.”

Perhaps even more “Flash-inating” are the web sites I’ve already “FrontPaged” here as posts, often not only pointing out the error of their way but recommending solutions to heal their church web site.

Yet even with such offerings, we still had a situation this past Sunday where during my “how-to-session” for Malaysian web masters where I was able to dip into 4 and 5 year old articles and demonstrate good examples of bad design – even with sites that had been updated as recently as a week ago!

Folks, I don’t mean to sermonize too much here – BUT – so long as we as a corporate Body continue to produce a 2nd rate web presence, so too will we produce second-rate results in converting web site seekers to people in the pews, and people in the pews to furtive laypersons.

Time to break a vase kiddies – or at least a web development book – and get crackin’ on some web design that doesn’t suck like it’s 1995.

If nothing else, I think it is time many of us sit down and ask ourselves, does our church web site meet or exceed its intended conversion goals

… for some of you, that may mean first asking yourself: “does my church or charity website even have any stated conversion goals?

“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, [1] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27


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  3. Bingo…Goals. Without them, church websites will continue to be bastions of crappy fluff.

    Perhaps this is really a test of our faith. Our half-hearted faith makes it hard to say, with honesty, what we really want to on our websites. Or our inability to work together in brotherhood to find one goal and message that we want to communicate to our community and world. Or we are afraid that whatever we say is just what every other church website is going to say, and not nearly as well.

    Or all of the above.

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