Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Best Websites Ever (Help us design a Site)

I've been a bit absent recently. Just a lot on. But you can still help me:

York Street Anglican is going to upgrade it's website. It may take some time. There is a lot of work that needs to go into it (the wording of the site, which requires painstaking thought matched with an articulated vision, as well, of course, as the look and usability of the site).

So help us out of the gate:
  • What are some good websites you've seen?
  • And why do you like them?
Any kind of website, of course.

But it would be helpful if you pointed out some church websites too.

_________________
Pic on Flickr by Even Farinosi.

28 comments:

Justin said...

I'll start. Just one I saw recently that I liked:

St Mark's Darling Point.

I liked its clean look: the black and white against red. I liked the quality of the pictures. I liked how easy it was to find the info I was looking for. I'm not a fan of the font. But its a good site.

Your favourites?

Justin said...

Oh, and just cut and paste the site if you don't know HTML. But surely its time you found out?

Click HERE.

Go to this bit:

A HREF="http://www.htmlgoodies.

You cut and paste that line, and change only two things:

1. Put in the web address you are linking to, instead of http://www.htmlgoodies.com (keeping the inverted commas)

2. And then the words that you want instead of Click Here For HTML GoodiesOr just paste it in.

Justin said...

That was lots of words. Onto your favourite websites...

amy perkins said...

Hi Justin. I like

Church@School in Beverly HillsHope my hyperlinking works. Just followed your little tutorial. Thanks for that.

Liz G said...

this one is pretty good and clear
http://www.stpaulscarlingford.org.au/

Justin said...

Keep them coming.

But let me add a rule:

You can't link to your own church website unless you give 5 reasons why it is a quality site over other sites.

This has to be a genuine exercise in good sites, rather than just your own.

PS I don't know if any of the previous posts have done that, by the way.

Clifford Swartz said...

off the shelf, easy to maintain websites on cloversites.com

US$1k, US$20/month upkeep.

Mark D said...

Marshillmakes most Australian church sites look positively amateur ...

Sally Hitchiner said...

Off the top of my head this is a really good one
(Mattesson's church)

Justin said...

Mark D- they look amateur cos they are mostly amateur. Good lay people doing good and hard work. I presume at Mars Hill, they have a whole department on the website, which is not where we are at.

Other suggestions?

Justin said...

Oh, I meant to say that Mars Hill is a good site. Sure. But what is good about it, and why?

Julian said...

Hi Justin,

You've just started raising the question of manageability - which probably implies you want to:
(a) keep content fresh so people keep coming back; and
(b) give it the ability to be updated by relatively non-technical administrative staff

For this you want to look at a content management system (CMS) like Joomla or Drupal.

An example of a Joomla church website that I like is St Matt's from Perth:
http://www.stmatthewsunichurch.org.au/
http://www.stmatthewsunichurch.org.au/blog/author/rory/

With it you get a bunch of plugins - the facebook integration is quite fun.

Cheers
Julian

Anthony Douglas said...

My launching point on the same process as you was Mitchelton Pressy.

The design is attractive (though looking more cluttered at the moment); I like how it highlights people's faces as a statement of where their priority lies; I especially like the way they've thought of multiple navigation systems - on the left and the top. It anticipates the different ways people will think of the information they want to find.

Julian said...

The other thing you may consider is online rostering - depending on where your congregation is at.

Some people do this through Google Spreadsheets, DabbleDB or a customised local solution - or even an Excel export.

However - one step at a time - back to the Analysis of the Requirements for the site.

I reckon you need to identify your target audience and answer their questions. I reckon your target audience is half newcomers, half regulars.

For the newcomers, you answer the questions: Who?, What?, Where? When?

For the regulars (in my opinion) - event dates and details, who to talk to about what, links to past sermons, links to committee forms.

When designing the site - also keep in mind the 3 click rule - (also known as the iPod design rule). If it takes more than three clicks to get to - it's too hard.

How to present this information? That depends on the reaction you want to achieve in your audience, and what is trendy.

I might leave it there.

Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

You may be interested in some of the articles from
top 75 websites from Churchrelevance.com
(and also
Church Marketing Sucks)
The 'top' websites featured are almost exclusively North American, very professional (ie, are supported by a team of paid professionals within their churches) and are slick and glossy. I'm not commenting on whether I like them or not-just that it may be of interest to you!

At the other end of the scale, I do like
Trinity Buxton's site for its simplicity, out of the box layout and friendly colour-scheme*—and particularly the "what to expect" section.

* I have to disagree with you Justin-I really dislike the red type of St. Mark's. This doesn't say 'welcome' to me but shouts aggression.

Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

Oh, and St.Peter's Barge is also an interesting one-not perfect-but simple, free from distraction, friendly colour scheme, and easy to navigate (although I would suggest that some pages scroll too long). The 'book review' tab is a nice touch. It's a great example of how photos don't need to be of people and can still be effective. My advice is never use stock images of people (unless they accurately reflect your congregation-and they never do!) and only use 'real' people photos if they are of professional quality.
Alex

Sally Hitchiner said...

http://www.thecrowdedhouse.org/

another creative (Apple rather than PC type design) church website...

I guess you'd have different pictures but I like the format of this and how it doesn't look so clunky as other ones... I think we need a bit of grace and beauty in our website design...

Mike Paget said...

There's often a lot of confusion about how people engage with websites. It's worth remembering that the goal is not the provide clear links to all your content - its to provide a total quality of experience which will lead people to want to meet you physically.

So, when I did overall internet architecture for banks etc, we used to talk about providing clearly signposted pathways for every process someone wanted to perform. In other words, not 'where to a find...' but 'How do I...find out about Jesus/find out about your church/baptise my child/get to you.'

Then there's presentation. No one cares how flash it is. Mars Hill's website is terrible unless your target audience is tech-savvy 24-26 year old males. It leverages the 'blog' feel far too heavily. So: presentation is designed to communicate a cultural vibe. It communicates how old you feel, how friendly you feel and so on. Check out www.credo.org.au as an example.

Finally, there's functionality. Is your site just a data repository? What can people do? My church's site, www.barneys.org.au, has a full (and very expensive) secure banking portal built in to handle transactions and donations. We can do online enrolment in paid courses or weekends away, tax-deductible giving, and so on.

Finally, remember that podcasting doesn't have to be as prominent as so many make out. The only people who are likely to podcast are Christians. They will sign up once, and then not come back to the site again for ages. So don't waste too much design effort on them.

Mike Paget said...

Oh, and don't forget to decide up front - before you ever go to a web designer - who the site is for. In house community? Broader public?

Mike Paget said...

I just read Justin's restriction on referencing your own church website... Oh well - here are some reasons to look at barneys.org.au and credo.org.au

1. They are an example of an evolving design principle (from Barneys to Credo).
2. They are built around processes, not data.
3. Barneys' site cost almost $20K, whereas Credo's was done by students and alumni, for free.
4. They showcase how green and similar colours are much more welcoming than red.
5. They demonstrate how design reaches different communities. We deliberately made the Barneys site more conservative in style to reach a broader demographic.

Craig Schafer said...

Just wanted to double underline, bold and italicise Mike's comment on 'who is this site for'.

I've always targetted the website at the 'outsider' who may or may not be Christian. Our goal is to give them a good sense of what it will 'feel' like if they turn up on Sunday (which is most people's first port of call).

For that reason I like the Church at the School one, even though it is very simple in terms of design. It includes a number of 'real photos' (not stock) which gives a visitor a sense of the building and people. It is simple to navigate and much more straightforward and intuitive than some of the more cutting edge sites with their 'I'm new here' or 'connect' labels and navigation.

I think this is a strength of our own site (which I would not dare to link to!). It is only supposed to be a temporary one until I can get around to doing a project like yours, so it is a simple CMS template - very not slick! But I am astounded at how positively first timers at church commend our humble little temporary website as helpful, it is normally one of the first conversations I have when I meet a new person.

For what it's worth my advice is therefore to focus on the 'functionality and content' before how it looks and much more than 'how it looks'.

Craig

Matthew Moffitt said...

Christ Church Inner West are slowly and quietly updating their website.

Justin said...

Matt --- you can only link your church is you can follow this rule from a previous comment:

"You can't link to your own church website unless you give 5 reasons why it is a quality site over other sites.

This has to be a genuine exercise in good sites, rather than just your own.


So get to it, Matt.

Mike Paget said...

I'd like to point out that the sneaky dogs at CCIW (and here I chuck around charges without for a moment claiming to have done my research) have stolen Barneys 'I'm married/a student/a pixie' headings for newcomers. I second Matt's praise of their website, though, thereby excusing him from providing 5 +ve points.

Matthew Moffitt said...

...tee hee, there might be a bit of truth in that Mike. We did some research by looking at other church websites around Australia and overseas, and saw the 'about you' section as a developing theme on newish websites. Barnies was one of the best ones. And thanks for your comments on this blog - helpful for us as we finalized the CCIW site.

J Moff, if pressed I would say:

1. Aesthetically speaking, it has a design that is pleasing to the eye.

2. This is related, but I want to make it separately to point one. The website is designed, but it's not over designed. It doesn't have all the most recent and trendy trends in graphics on the front page.

3. It's reasonably easy to navigate.

4. It has an integrated web presence, i.e. facebook, YouTube, and one day should have Twitter. I feel that this is a must for websites today - web presence.

5. It's realistic for a church our size. The website does overeach it self, nor is it underachieving (given the people we have in our church it will be a tragedy). I think this is important for churches to remember. You can have a great website and you don't have to be Mars Hill.

But keep in mind this is only stage one, and we haven't even started work on the Ashfield, Five Dock and Haberfield sites (the challenges of being a multi site parish!).

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