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The 7 Deadly Sins of the Parish Website

BY Matthew Warner

| Posted 7/13/10 at 1:50 AM

 

Here are 7 quick ways to absolve your parish website of some serious sins that endanger its sole purpose of leading the faithful closer to Jesus Christ and His Church. 

These suggestions don’t tackle the many other venial sins. But they do give some extremely quick ways to get your parish website on the path to Purgatory.

Each of these improvements can be done or put into action in a single day.

1. Turn off the music, eliminate any cheesy animated gifs and flashing text, remove any visible visitor counters and get rid of (what you might think are) really cool animated menu thingies. They are not near as cool as you think they are. I promise. This is precisely what Jesus was talking about in scripture when He said, “and if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.” Cut them off.

2. Get rid of that gaud-awful background image. And if you have to keep it, at least make it so that all paragraphs of text we need to read are on a white background. And yes, I am looking at you, too, Mr. Vatican website developer person. It is painful to focus on text you can hardly read.

3. Get rid of the crazy colors and fonts. Choose 2-3 strategically used fonts and then pick a simple color scheme that is easy on the eyes and easy to read. Then stick to it. Great websites are graphically elegant and functional - not distracting. And nobody is going to even notice that your website’s colors change with the liturgical season if people just stop visiting all together on account of the headache they get every time they visit your website.

4. For St. Pete’s sake, remove the upcoming event info inviting everyone to come to the Fall festival…that happened last year. That’s a great way to let a visitor know that you used to do stuff. But lately you really haven’t done anything worth saying anything about. You are better off having nothing at all than having really old, irrelevant information.

5. Simplify the bazillion links in your main menu and on your front page. Keep it simple, spark-plug. Put the top 5-7 things that people will want to see/use most often in your main menu. Bury the rest somewhere else on secondary pages/menus. You don’t want to overwhelm visitors with too much information. Imagine if your mom’s microwave had a hundred buttons on the front of it? It would just be silly.

6. Super-summarize (or just delete) the gigantic block of text that is currently serving as the center piece of your front page. When visitors land on your website, they should know who you are and what you’re about in approximately 4 seconds. Welcoming them with a reading assignment is not an effective way to do it. It’s also not very visually appealing. Move your full mission statement and welcoming encyclical off the front page.

7. Start spending more money and time on your website than you do on donuts.  With the amount of money many parishes spend on donuts on a single Sunday, they could pay for a very nice website for an entire year. One with a current CMS (content management system) that allows all parish leaders to update their own information in an organized, timely way. Do not leave the website in the hands of just some random volunteer who happens to like HTML and gets around to updating the website once a month.

What other deadly sins did I miss?  Please share them with us.  And please share this post with as many others as possible in the interest of preventing further public scandal.