Redesign Your Congregation’s Website Along With Me

September 13, 2011

Beginning a Step By Step Series on Web Redesign for Congregations

Over the next few months I’ll be on a journey overhauling my church’s site. I’d love for you to join me and rebuild your congregation’s site, perhaps even at the same time.

Although I tend to be hands-on, I’ve learned over the years that great congregational work is as much about process as it is product, and thus the goals are….

  1. Make it as easy as possible.
  2. Make it fun.
  3. And of course, build excellent websites for your congregations and for mine.

Think about the big picture…. The more great congregational websites there are, the stronger our collective outreach and ministry will be, which in turn means the better the world will become. It all starts with a single step.

Is This Series Right For You?

Many of you already know your site needs work. Your current one just isn’t doing what you need it to. And some of you don’t have a site at all. Design and redesign aren’t that different, so this series is definitely for you too.

But there’s another group I hope to reach as well. That’s those with a site that’s good, but not yet what it could be — a site that only scrapes the surface of the Web’s potential. My church falls in this category. If you ask most of our members they’ll tell you we have a great site. It welcomes visitors, it looks attractive, etc. But if you probe just a little, it’s easy to find areas with room for significant improvement. For example, over 9% of people coming to our site are using smart phones, but it’s not optimized for small mobiles.

But Don’t You Have to Be a Web Ninja To Do a Redesign?

I adore Web ninjas, but no, that’s not the critical role for this project. Your congregation isn’t Google or Facebook.

There are only two absolute requirements.

First, you must be motivated. You have to know in your gut that a redesign really matters for your congregation. You don’t need to understand all the particulars of why this is true yet. We’ll get to that in just a few weeks. What you need is the energy to start this process and keep it moving. The best source of that is confidence that what you’re doing will make a big difference.

Second, if you’re a volunteer, you need to be very familiar with the congregation — most likely having been an active member for some years. If you’re staff and don’t yet know the congregation well, I assume that this is already a priority for you for many reasons. Do what you need to do to really understand the community before launching into this project. An outside perspective is helpful for redesign, but not for the project lead.

If you are a geek, wonderful. It will certainly help in many ways. But if you aren’t rest assured you can find the right people and we’ll get to that soon too.

Easy? How Can That Possibly Be for Redesign?

Simple: we’ll break the project into a series of steps. Most of the steps are surprisingly modest and quick. Actually, they have to be because I only have a few hours a week to devote to this work. And I expect that’s true for many of you too, whether volunteer or staff.

The key is breaking the project down into manageable chunks, plus not fretting about areas you don’t know a lot about before you are out of the gate.

How Much Work Will It Be?

To make this fun, the key is to be relaxed and confident about what you’re doing. There are three things that will make this possible for all of us.

1. Each week won’t take much time — just a few hours on average. That’s because we’ll be spreading the redesign out over quite a number months. We should be wrapping up and launching our amazing new sites in the spring.

2. You must not do this by yourself. A congregational website isn’t a personal blog or a small business site run by a lone wolf. By its very nature, a good congregational site requires participation and buy-in. Moreover, early on you’ll assemble a small team of people with complementary skills to do the core jobs such as editing the content. With a team, you’ll spread the work around.

3. €œTest early, test often.€ That’s a dictum Web ninjas hear frequently. It’s not only easy to say, it’s easy to do. And yet…. In my experience it’s the most common mistake made in building websites: the architects assume that they know how others will use their site, so they don’t test. In fact, the closer to the site you are, the narrower your focus becomes. In other words, you’re almost certain to miss the obvious. But we won’t fall into that trap. We will be taking time to get feedback at many stages of the process. It may sound like extra work, but in the end, I promise it will not only make for a better site, it will save you time.

What’s Next?

If you’re interested in what the steps are likely to be, here’s the initial list of steps.

For each post in the series I’ll cover what you need to do for it and why, what I’ve learned from doing the particular step, and what’s coming next. Speaking of which, get ready….

Next week we’ll be launching the project with a first and very easy step — a bit of initial planning. Your assignment is to pick your notebook (or notebooks) of choice. They could be paper or virtual, small (maybe 3x5s or a smart phone) or large (perhaps a whiteboard that you take photos of). Whatever works best for you. My notebook? I’ll let you know in the next installment.

Posted in: Church Websites, Redesign