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7 things about church website design Pt.2

Here are 7 things David Bunce wishes he knew about church website design before he started. In part two of this two-part article, he explores money and the myth that churches are unwilling to learn and adopt new media

I’ve been designing websites for churches for over 7 years, three of them as my main source of income and a way of putting food on the table. I love my job and I love the challenge of discovering new and innovative ways to share the gospel of Jesus. Over that time, the web and technologies available have changed a lot and I have learnt a lot. I have also learnt a lot about working with churches and charities and the particular challenges and problems that this sort of web work posts.

4. Churches with less money are often still grateful for help pointing them in the right direction

Often I have churches coming to me who aren't ready to hire a professional designer or simply do not have the sort of money available. Whilst I would always advocate hiring a professional designer when possible, I know that this is not an ideal world and some churches are quite frankly unable to do so.

When faced with a situation like this, I have two options – I could either simply send them away and break off communication, or I could choose to point them in the right direction and try and help them find a solution.

I find many churches are grateful for this help, and I see helping resource and educate churches in how to effectively communicate on the web as part of my job. I try whenever possible to be generous in sharing knowledge and resources, even when I'm unable to get involved in a project personally.

5. Churches are often willing to learn and adopt new media

A stereotype I often hear is that churches are scared or unwilling to adopt new media such as websites, Facebook and Twitter. Whilst this is probably true in some circumstances, it is not true in all instances and I have found many churches are keen and enthusiastic about trying something new, even if it means stepping into uncharted territory.

What a lot of churches simply want is someone to come alongside them, partner with them and explain how new media works, how it is different from more established ways of communication such as leaflets, books and posters.

6. The church website is often not the most important item on your contact person’s agenda

A lot of people who end up as the link contact between me and a client are often very busy who have been lumped with the task of having to communicate with ‘the web designer’ because it was a hot potato that no-one else wanted. It’s difficult not to take this personally and there is often the very real risk that it will result in a poor website because the person doesn’t have time, energy or desire to put the effort in required to make a great website.

In practice, however, this arrangement often can work – it simply means taking more time and expecting the project to happen over a period of months rather than weeks.

7. New is not always best

I love new technology, especially on the web. All my projects now use HTML5 and as much CSS3 as I can get away with, whilst still being accessible and respectful to those who don’t have the latest browser.

At the same time I realise that new is not always best. Very few churches are ready to be using things like the HTML canvas element or SVG graphics. JQuery and AJAX, whilst having useful applications, often instead result in users being confused and disorientated in a place where traditional page loads would work better.

Therefore, I always try to keep the needs of my clients at the forefront, using the technology that fits their needs and sticking away from content that is simply a distraction. So far, my clients seem to be grateful for this.

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