Heal Your Church WebSite


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5 things the Holy See website could do with the Pope’s visit to the U.S. and UN

See large screen shot pointing out some of the recommendationsI realize, understand, and respect the Catholic tenant that their faith is built upon a combination of Scripture and historic tradition. That said, there’s no reason the Vatican website should continue to ineffectively rock like it’1999. With that in mind, here are 5 things I’d do to enhance the Holy See website to better publicize and describe Pope Benedict XVI’s April 15-21, 2008 Apostolic Journey to the United States of America and visit to the United Nations Organization Headquarters:

  1. Deal with the annoying home page issue
  2. Lose the Mystery Meat Navigation
  3. Provide an RSS feed for the trip events page
  4. Embed a Google map of the journey on the the trip events page
  5. Offer immediate YouTube videos the events

Allow me to explain:

1. Deal with the annoying home page issue
I completely understand the point of offering a point of entry for multiple languages and cultures – what I don’t understand is why this splash page is actually defaulted as the home page. Meaning, once an individual selects a language, cookie that up and redirect the user back to the main navigation page of their desired dialect – rather than send a visitor back to the language selection splash page each and every time the they click on a link for the home page.And while we’re at it, how about providing similar language support/options on the footer of the page as some may enter the site via sub pages via search engines? Especially in a day and age where identifying the country of a visitor’s ISP is possible, making default language options a possibility.
2. Lose the Mystery Meat Navigation
The rollover links on the main navigation page have got to go. I realize there is some mystery about one’s faith – however that should never be extended website navigation. Especially as this particular annoyance was first identified back in March of 1998 in Vincent Flanders’ seminal work “Web Pages that Suck.” For more information, I recommend studying Father Flanders’ sermon on the topic of “Mystery Meat Navigation.”
3. Provide an RSS feed for the trip events page
If you’re going to enumerate news events of the Pope’s visit to the U.S., then provide Real Simple Syndication (RSS). The cost of implementing RSS are miniscule – yet the return on investment is potentially huge as it allows aggregators, bloggers, news services, search engines, email programs and browser applications to plug-in and peruse up-to-date articles on the Pontiff’s journey shortly after their posted.
4. Embed a Google map of the journey on the the trip events page
While the Vatican Holy See website has at least provided a page dedicated to the Papal visit to the United States, it could offer quite a bit more by embedding a Google Map instead of the current, dull, static picture of America with dots rendering.Taking this approach brings the trip to life – I should know, I’m nowhere near as famous as the Pope, yet I received quite a few daily hits to a travel map of Jordan I created on Google Earth and then coverted into a Google Map.
5. Offer immediate YouTube videos the events
Here’s another no brainer I blogged about in preparation for my recent tour of the ‘other’ Holy Land. Consider the recent PC Magazine article entitled “February Web Video Views Top 10 Billion” which informs us that “U.S. Internet users viewed more than 10 billion online videos during February 2008. “Meaning, someone associated with the Holy See should be following Pope Benedict about with a video camera, posting to YouTube, and then embedding/linking up the videos on the Vatican website.

Along with the items I’ve enumerated above, I suspect the larger problem here seems to me a long running reticence to revitalize this site to take into consideration the changing face of the web.

Whether this is a result of bureaucratic turf wars and/or simply a lack of training and talent – one immediate way of remedying this issue is for more fast and flexible to change blog-based Catholic church websites, along with a number of popular Papal bloggers to go ahead and employ my ‘fast five’ recommendations – if nothing else as an educational opportunity and service of and to the Body.

One other aside note – usually when I blog about anything Catholic, I get one or two “love notes” and or long-winded comments attempting to teach to see their theological reasoning as to why I shouldn’t “assist those people.” Please be aware that I’m very busy these days, so please save such ‘compelling‘ content for your own Chick-Track blog.

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