I quipped on Twitter “Reviewing some websites for people and giving comment. My version of Community Service.”
See, every week people from mid-sized mega-churches ask me a) for referrals of web developers looking for work (I dunno if there are any) b) for general advice on getting a decent website off the ground, or c) how to improve what they have. Much of the time I save the requests and hit them all at once when I am in the mood. Last night though I couldn’t take it any more and went off a bit on one unsuspecting friend who really just wanted a). I kinda feel bad, but there are some big truths in my response that I thought I would share. You are just going to have to show me grace and look past the unprovoked, frustrated tone.
Here is what I said:
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David Drinnon was kind enough to reference a comment I left on his site in a fine post this morning on building site maps and information architecture. In it he even calls me a friend!
What I love about blogging is that I left a partially thought through comment on his site last week and then he gives me kudos today and places my thoughts alongside his wisdom such that I come out looking like a champ! The reality is that he has some great nuggets in that little post including Web Sort and Adobe’s Website Production Management Techniques.
In a beautiful example of what goes around comes around, I am today beginning work with my team on the Information Architecture for a new site we are trying to crank out by the first two weeks in December. David’s help could not have come at a better time!
Chris Merritt from Pixelight Creative wrote this article for Digital Web Magazine describing the process he used on the Stonebriar redesign. Chris is a great guy and was way more generous to me in the article than I probably deserve.
Overall I am incredibly pleased with the outcome of the site. But l am also glad people are commenting about the good, the bad, and the ugly about the site. It’s the best way for us to get better! As I have said before, no website is perfect or will stay perfect. To all those churches out there struggling to get a new site launched, remember that the most important thing is to get something out there that is better than what you have and then improve it continually over time. Having a great visual design and sturdy front-end coding are great foundations on which to build out your site over time.
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. Read the rest of this post... (2337 words, estimated 9:21 mins reading time)
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. Read the rest of this post... (1453 words, estimated 5:49 mins reading time)
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: Read the rest of this post... (413 words, estimated 1:39 mins reading time)
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”. Read the rest of this post... (907 words, 1 image, estimated 3:38 mins reading time)
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.
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. Read the rest of this post... (415 words, estimated 1:40 mins reading time)
So I attempted to cancel my Blockbuster.com subscription a few moments ago because of a bad experience, and had to fill out a survey to get it done. There was a comment field where they asked “How Can We Improve? Would you mind taking a minute to explain why you’ve decided to cancel your account?” So, I was willing to help out and wrote the following in my very sick state (the flu or a cold maybe). Upon submission of the survey, a form error was returned on the comment field which reads: “Please type in 255 characters or less for your comments.”
Apparently, Blockbuster doesn’t want all of my comments or a true discussion with their would-be customers. So, I am posting this to my blog for the world to see and adding the link to the comment field in the Blockbuster.com subscription cancellation field (I doubt they will read it). The first amendment has never been so sweet, has it? Read the rest of this post... (762 words, 1 image, estimated 3:03 mins reading time)