Category: Design

To Build a Church Web Site: Plan the Project

This entry is part of a series on building church websites. Check out the first post.

Require Project Sponsorship and Involved Stakeholders
Having fought through a number of IT projects in the past without executive sponsorship and involved stakeholders, I don’t think I would do it again. It isn’t fair to the team of people who are working so hard to get the site built. If the project isn’t important enough to the organization that an executive or Elder needs to oversee it, then the web project has a low opportunity for success and the outcome will be poor. When we say “executive sponsorship”, we aren’t just saying a dictum or decree is handed down that all staff will cooperate so the site gets built. We are saying that a) this individual is accountable to others for the projects success, b) he/she is engaged in every phase, and c) the person is clearing roadblocks for the web team that they can’t clear themselves.

Posted in Design, Programming, Web Ministry, Writing

To Build a Church Web Site: Study the Audience

This entry is part of a series on building church websites. Check out the first post.

Know Your Users

There is a temptation with church people to try and reach everyone all of the time. Some churches egocentrically want everyone to be *their* audience. As a result, Church Marketing Sucks. Knowing and prioritizing your users will get you further than any other single thing you can do on a web project. When you have been diligent in this phase, hard decisions during the stretch become much more simple. Don’t allow your project to move forward until you know the secrets your users aren’t telling.

Church Mission and Vision

In some cases, your churches mission and vision will put you a long way down the road of knowing who you are building the site for. Our mission actually uses the language “All People”, so we did not have the luxury of being handed our target audience. We had to put together a cross-departmental team to profile our audience segments and decide who we would focus the site on. You might be surprised to find out, “the lost” won’t cut it as a target audience.

Posted in Design, Programming, Web Ministry, Writing

To Build a Church Web Site

When our church decided to launch the 3.0 version of our site, we knew it would be a serious effort. As “the web guy”, my charge was to be the glue that holds the pieces of the project together. There are numerous how-tos available for churches who are just getting started with their sites. My hope in this series on how to build a church web site is to share our story in a way that could help someone who already has experience in building sites and could learn from our approach.

Some statistics suggest that as high as 60% of all IT projects fail. With the added difficulty of getting IT things done in non-profit organizations, the challenge may have actually been a bit bigger for us. I am of the opinion that each project requires its own path. This path is largely determined by the goals and size of the project, the length of time for project completion, and the budget. A single approach won’t work for every web project.

Our project was really broken into these phases:

Posted in Design, Programming, Web Ministry, Writing

Stonebriar’s Redesign

I may say more about the recent redesign of Stonebriar Community Church in the coming days, but I wanted to let everyone know the site is live now. Nathan Smith has a little write-up on it. Already some good feedback on how we can improve things. If you find problems, there is a link in the lower-left corner labeled “Problems with the site?”. Click it. Use it. I am taking off for a few days to rest, but afterward may write more about my involvement as the PM and IA guy. I learned a lot from Nathan, Chris, and David.

By the way, I work full-time for Stonebriar and this redesign project was one I managed on company time with company resources. That said, they don’t have anything to do with this blog, and all commentary is my own. There is no policy on blogging (thank goodness), but if they had one, it would include them wanting me to let you know these comments and discussions are not necessarily representative of the church. Like any employee of any company, I have my own beliefs, perspectives, passions, and druthers. I speak out of a freedom of speech which still has to be in check with what is responsible given my association with the organization. Just wanted to make sure all of you knew this BSpotted blog and site are done on my own time. I will put something more official sounding in my bio soon to this same regard, but with all the new web traffic I thought I should clarify.

Posted in Design, Web Ministry, Writing

From Bubble Graphs to Mind Maps

Bubble Graphs

I can honestly say there are almost no learning techniques from Jr. High that I have carried forward through my short academic life into business. However, there is one gift that a now nameless, faceless teacher once gave me. That gift was the ability to put my thoughts on paper first, and then dork with them and refine them. She (I think it was a “she”) called them “Bubble Graphs”, but the point was to brainstorm about a topic for a speech, a paper, or an argument and document things. Then go back and do the organization and structuring of those thoughts, with a final output being an outline.

Those of you who have conversed with me for more than a few moments know that my brain multi-threads pretty well when thinking, speaking, and typing. It doesn’t do so well with multi-tasking actual work, but it is highly optimized for thinking. This becomes problematic when my environment puts certain constraints on me, like for instance time, energy, and sleep. So, in time I developed a method of getting my rapid, fluid thoughts out of my brain and onto one of these “Bubble Graphs”.

Posted in Design, Programming, Writing

Where is Jason?

Everywhere and nowhere, that is where. In addition to some significant life changes I hope to blog about next month, I am in the midst of a big web ministry project at the church where I work. We changed our audience focus from insiders to outsiders, and are completely redoing our site visually and architecturally.

I did heaps of research on Church web sites, and was fortunate enough to partner with some of the greatest design and technology folks doing stuff for ministries. BUT, I missed one site that would have changed my entire perspective on this deal. Unfortunately, I am almost done… and it is too late to reverse course. I am just sick I didn’t see this before starting my project.
Bobby Chandler, one of two designers on our church staff, has the scoop.

Posted in Design, Programming, Web Ministry

What Highrise from 37signals Means for Ministry

Truth be told, that is just another one of my catchy subject lines to make you read the post (sorry to those seeking a trustful person, ’cause I am as depraved as any blogger). I have subscribed to 37signals news alerts by email and I just got one that summarizes something I have been looking forward to considering. You can read about their description of the product in the quote and at the links below, but let me just add that I am very excited to see how this tool could be used by church plants, smaller ministries, and those of us helping out ministries with technology. Looks to be a great way of keeping track of people in a low-footprint, agile kind of way.

We’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on our latest
product, Highrise (previously known as Sunrise). Highrise is a
shared contact manager that helps you keep track of who you talk
to, what was said, and what to do next. Like Basecamp helps you
collaborate on projects, Highrise helps you collaborate on
people. You can use it alone or with your co-workers. You can
think of it as a company-wide, web-based, shared address book
with a few twists.

Posted in Design, Web Ministry

How to design News & Events pages for Churches?

We are in the middle of a new web project where I work as Web Ministry Coordinator. We are completely overhauling our site design and information architecture with the help of Chris Merritt and Nathan Smith. Of the many things we are trying to do, including creating a staff blog on the church site, rolling a News & Events page is top on our list.

Church news and events are usually a big focus for church web sites, but this focus is spread out throughout the site. At most church sites, you might get a calendar page with detail of upcoming events. We really want to create something which can compete with the major news outlets, but deals with hyper-local content specific to our church, it’s people, and the local community of 30,000 folks.

We want to include local news, church news, announcements, upcoming events, calendar events for the week, blog entry teasers, birth announcements, death announcements (which we will either name “Grieving the Loss” or “In Memoriam”), prayer requests, and service opportunities. The idea is to create a page that people might save as their home page in their browser, or at least use as a reference point within our site for everything new happening at and around the church.

Posted in Design, Web Ministry, Writing

Father of the TV Remote Control Dead at 93

I am a big fan of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Mainly because I get to hear quippy commentary from George Will during the round table portion of the show. But they also have a section of the show called “In Memoriam” which reviews the “important” people who died that week, and displays the total number and list of soldiers names who have passed away in Iraq and Afghanistan during the week.

This month they listed a little-known person named Robert Adler, who literally changed my life. Co-inventor of the TV remote control, Robert Adler was quoted at a later point in life as saying “This thing has so many buttons. I don’t know what most of them are for and frankly I could not care less.” Proof that the people who invent the technology are not always the first to value its use. Zenith has a great write-up on Rober Adler’s work for them.

Posted in Design, Programming

NRB Reflections – Technologies Churches Could Use More Effectively

This is another response to some questions proposed for my talk at NRB. Two previous posts about NRB were my Initial Reflections and What Ministries Need to Know about User-generated Content.

What are examples of online technologies where churches could be doing a better job?

1. Forums and Email lists.
These have been around for awhile, but in many cases they are not being owned by the ministries. By owned, I mean promoted and managed. It’s one thing to ask your constituents to engage you on your forums, but it is another to have the maturity and perspective to let sinful people be themselves. Many times in ministry we want the people we serve to not bring their baggage with them. Well the online culture promotes transparency and vulnerability. The privacy of homes let’s people do things they would not otherwise do, and yet, this provides an amazing ministry opportunity. Forums, when done well are an example of a 10 year old technology that hasn’t been done well but by only a few ministries.

  • One example is This community has grown to include over 150,000 monthly visitors from ninety countries. Run mostly by volunteers, it is an example of a successful virtual space where Christians and non-Christians engage each other sharpen one another.
Posted in Design, Web Ministry