Today we’re reviewing the website for The Kingdom of God Christian Community.
R. Joseph Owles wrote that his vision for The Kingdom of God Christian Community is “to grow into a fully functional church–online church for an online community of faith.” He requested the review because he wants “to know what is limiting my church’s online growth. is it merely lack of advertisement, or is the format undermining the goal.”
A little more about the site:
- Site was created using OurChurch.com’s NE1 Web Builder
- Target audience: That’s the tricky question. Non-committed Christians and those who aren’t Christian or were at one time but have ventured away.
- Budget: whatever i can scrounge together
- Goals: Cool to have video worship posted, adapting the sermon and readings week to week; and have an online bible study via skype or yahoo chat or something.
Appearance and Layout
This is tough one for me because this site uses one of my company’s templates, but I’ve got to be honest.
When I first looked at the site the phrase that came to mind is “Christian clichés.” I feel like the lighthouse theme has been overused in Christian circles. That’s just my opinion, though, I know a lot of other people like it. The peaceful, expressionless image of Jesus looks like a picture my grandmother might have hung on her wall when she was alive. The image quality is low as well, like it’s a scan of a print.
The red color used for the name of the site and the links screeches at me. I would suggest changing those to a color (or colors) that are more compatible with the blues and grays of the template.
Navigation and Usability
The navigation menu is intuitive enough. Some of the menu items are in all caps while others include both lower and uppercase. This should be consistent across the site – preferably lowercase with the first letter of each word capitalized.
There’s not a lot of functionality built into the site, so the usability is fine.
Purpose and Goals
I love the fact that there is a brief introductory video on the homepage. In fact, I suggest removing the image of Jesus and making it the first thing a visitor to the site sees. However, it’s not clear in that video or in the text on the homepage that the site is for an online church. It’s also not really clear who is a part of the church or who the church is for. What is it that distinguishes this church from any other church online or offline?
I would suggest putting brief vision and mission statements on the homepage.
This is getting a little off topic, but I looked at the vision and mission statement pages and I’m not sure they are really vision and mission statements. A vision statement should paint a picture of what you want the future to look like. A mission statement should state specifically what the organization is going to accomplish. I just don’t get a clear compelling picture from these pages.
There are several major issues with the content of the site. Here are some suggestions.
- Shorten up the pages. The homepage should only be 1 or 2 screens long. Other pages 3-4 screen lengths at most.
- Standardize the text. There’s way too many variations which I’m guessing are intended to add emphasis. To much bold, italics, underlining, and varying of sizes and colors.
- Unclutter the pages. I strongly suggest removing the plea for donations, the Facebook widget, and the big promotional graphic for the book that are at the bottom of most of the pages in the site. Putting smaller versions of those items in the left sidebar would be a better alternative.
Finding the Website
This is going to be a real challenge. As an online church, this site is competing in search engines with every other online church, many of which are backed by megachurches. The only way this site could compete in search engines is if it has a focused niche. That would require narrowing the target audience. It can’t compete in search engines for “online church” but maybe it could for “Episcopal online church” or “online recovery church” (not that those niches would necessarily be appropriate for this church.)
Another options is to forget about connecting with people through search engines but by social networking and word of mouth.
Interactivity and Social Media
It looks like there is a Facebook, but there doesn’t appear to be much interaction there.
There’s also a Ning community site. This is great because at its core a church is a community, and without interaction there can be no community. I like the chat feature (though I don’t like that a person has to register before they can chat), the discussion forum, and the blog. And it’s good to see the blog is being posted to daily (at least for the last 3 days).
I think the Ning site needs to be much more prominent on the main website. One of the main goals if not the highest priority of the website should be to get a visitor to the site to become a member of the Ning community.
Before I wrap this review up, one other thing I want to touch on is the overall concept of creating an online church community.
Most people join a church because of the people. When people visit a church, they need to experience community. They need to feel like they’re accepted and getting to know other people in the community. I think that’s no different with an online church.
This is essentially a church plant. For a church plant to be successful, it needs to start by recruiting a core group of people who are committed to the vision of the church. There needs to be at least 5-10 people who commit to chatting, posting to the discussion board, and interacting with other people. That way when visitors show up, there is already a blossoming community for them to engage with.
I would also suggest setting up specific gathering times for chat or worship. Having real-time interaction would be huge.
Lastly, I just don’t know how many people are going to connect with a computer-generated audio liturgy. I would suggest looking into ustream or livestream which would enable you to do a live video broadcast of a service to the website. You could lead the liturgy while those watching read responsively or use the live chat feature.
Right now this appears to be a community site without a community. So, I think the most important thing to do is to look for ways to make the site less informational and more relational.
My top suggestions are:
- Remove the donation, Facebook, and book stuff from the bottom of each page and put smaller versions of those items in the left sidebar.
- Rework the homepage. Remove the image of Jesus, add a 2-3 sentence vision statement that makes it clear this is an online church & the vision is for an online Christian community, feature the Ning community site, and remove the prosperity message.
- Change the colors of the site title and links.
- Standardize the text, eliminating a lot of the bold, italics, underlining, color variations and size variation.
If you really want to take your site to the next level…
- Recruit a core committed to the vision for this community.
- Schedule chats for specific times & purposes.
- Start doing live video services using ustream or livestream.
What do you think of this site? Post your impressions and suggestions in the comments.
And if you’d like a free, professional review of your website, click. And remember to be eligible to have your site reviewed next week, you must comment on one of this week’s blog posts.