“Donâ€™t confuse web design with football either. Or sex. Or anything else.” says Vincent Flanders in his article on ‘Donâ€™t Confuse Web Design With Dining.’ I’ll add to that: don’t confuse your church website with ‘real people from the congregation.’ Here’s why: people don’t want to marry a church website as much as they would rather date it.
During the day, I’m a product management director for a suite of online software services that is consumed by close to 500,000 people during the course of any given day. So while I may not be an expert in something heady, like say dispensational eschatology, I am placed in a position where I’m compelled to know how the web is utilized and consumed on a daily basis – by a similar demographic.
Which is why I say with as much brotherhood as possible in this faceless, emotionless electronic medium:
“Frank I love ya, but I gotta disagree with ya on this one.“
What am I talking about? Well I’m responding to a very thought-provoking and well-put comment by Frank Johnson, the head honcho, super strategist and all around nice guy at Strategic Digital Outreach. A website whose feed you need to add to your aggregator right now … that’s okay … I’ll wait.
Done? Good, let’s dig in. Here’s what Frank wrote that got me thinking while I was practicing for Petra on the Stairmaster 7000 PT Stepmill:
I do have one comment/question. Since the home page is the most important page on a site, do we really want to use that space to present the idea that the “total of our church” is made up of the sum of “dates, times, places, personalities and purposes”? Assuming that by “personalities” you mean staff members (I know that’s a big assumption because you may not mean that at all), is this really what the church is?I’d much rather use the home page to introduce real people from the congregation, use the website to facilitate face-to-face meetings between those people and interested visitors, and then deal with dates, times, places, personalities, purposes, etc. in the context of a new face-to-face relationship.
That’s not to say that information shouldn’t be included on a church website. I just don’t think those data points are the essence of the church.
First, Frank – THANK YOU – I love thoughtful comments like this. Keep them coming!
Second, err … umm … well yes, we did assume a bit much. Trust me, I’m not into pastor worship so when I say “personalities” I mean more than just the staff members. And perhaps it is that ambiguity created in my writing that lead to your suggestion that we put dates, times, places, etc … elsewhere than on the front page.
Which is why I can easily agree with Frank’s assertion that a church website should facilitate face-to-face relationships. With that point of purpose I entirely agree.
However, what I strongly I disagree with is the implication (and now I’m the one making the big assumption) that the web can be anything but what it is, a medium for conveying thoughts, ideas and information that is consumed more like fast food than fine dining. Or as Vincent Flanders writes in the aforementioned article:
“Many [non profit organization] web designers confuse the web world with the real world experience of dining vs eating. When you dine itâ€™s all about setting the mood â€” good conversation, the ambiance of a fine restaurant, great wine, and enjoyable company. Thatâ€™s fine for dining, but in the world of the web thereâ€™s no need to set a mood. Itâ€™s like eating at a fast-food restaurant where youâ€™ve got to get calories in your body because you donâ€™t have time to dine …”
Mr. Flanders isn’t the only expert to make this argument. One need only dive into Jakob Nielsen, the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and various other individuals and organizations who’ve spent lots of time and money clinically researching how the web is consumed. Each in their own way concluding that we’re a bunch of lazy beasts, a description offered by Nielsen who follows that web users want the “maximum benefit for minimum effort” when it comes to information foraging. Including, I might add based on my own web servant experiences, foraging for a new place to visit on Sunday morning.
And it is for these reasons that while I agree with Frank Johnson entirely on the “what” …. I have to with great respect, admiration and Christian love … disagree on the “how.”
Bottom line, and with apologies to Romans 10:14-15:
How will they know whose site they have not seen? And how will they see whose site they have not found? And how will they find a site unless it has search-centric content? And how will it have index enabled content if the front page is a Flash page? As it is written, â€œHow consumable are the feeds of those who preach the good news!â€
Oh and Frank, because you posted a great point that inspired a post – you get a free lunch if you’re ever in my neck of the woods!
Great discussions like this are more than worth it!