Givin’ the people what
|Members of the UMC.org development team review designs. Photo by MICHAEL POLIVKA|
they want ... online
By Matt Carlisle
Ministry via the Web is difficult for some to grasp. We understand ministry that happens face-to-face, during a mission trip or on Sunday morning. But for many people, the introduction to a congregation’s ministry will come online.
The Barna Group, a faith-based research firm, reports that nearly six out of every 10 Protestant churches now have a Web site, an increase of 68 percent since 2000.
Churches are dramatically increasing their efforts to meet the online needs of church members and seekers. User-centered design, a relatively new Web site design approach, can help them succeed.
In the spring of 2005, the Web Ministry Team at United Methodist Communications was charged with redesigning UMC.org, the official Web site of the United Methodist Church.
Before taking on the assignment, team members attended seminars on user-centered design. This approach considers the core needs of the organization, but emphasizes the needs of users. Some of the first church Web sites were developed in a brochure design based on what church leaders thought members or seekers wanted.
The redesign of UMC.org began in meetings between designers, the Web Ministry Team and stakeholders such as general church and annual conference staff, pastors and church secretaries. Next came conversations with church members throughout the world and with seekers. More than 140 people were interviewed.
|Members of the UMC.org development team participate in a stakeholder interview. Photo by MICHAEL POLIVKA|
Interviews revealed that expectations are high. Google, Amazon and eBay have set the bar. All organizations are expected to deliver services at the same high level. Research findings like this can assist local churches as they develop or redesign their own sites.
The new UMC.org Web site design will launch later in 2006. Visit UMC.org for progress reports and resource tools.
User-centered Web site development is time-consuming, but the return on time invested is a site that meets the needs of members and potential members.
Well-developed content and resources will bring site users back often. The user-centered approach also minimizes the costly risk of having to undo a poor Web site design in a few years.
—Matt Carlisle, director, Web Ministry Team, United Methodist Communications.
Matt offers practical Web ministry advice on his weblog, www.mattcarlisle.com.
User-centered Web site
|A member of the UMC.org development team maps the content structure for a Web page. Photo by MICHAEL POLIVKA|
Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug (New Riders Publishing)
The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web by Jesse James Garrett (New Riders Publishing)
Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces by Carolyn Snyder [Morgan Kaufmann, (800) 545-2522]
Card Sorting: A Definitive Guide