Top 10 Church Website Design Mistakes of 2007

It is the last day of 2007, so like every great media outlet I figured why not go through the archives and come up with a list of those topics that produced the deepest and most memorable mental scars. Below is my list of the top ten mistakes I’ve seen on church websites over the past year.

Mistakes I would hope that as a body we would resolve to remedy, though I suspect like most new year’s resolutions are destined for abandonment by about the 14th of February.

So with limited commercial interruption, I offer Mean Dean’s Top 10 Church Website Design Mistakes of 2007:

  1. Believing you are your user:

    Unless you’re writing a church website for a bunch of blogging pastors, frustrated graphic artists and/or “… burned out computer geeks, your user isn’t you. … This is very hard to get through somebody’s head; it’s very hard to get rid of this notion that what you like your user is going to like… Again, your user is not you.”

    For the most part, people aren’t seeking the church experience online – rather they are shopping online for a real-world church experience. Those church webmasters that fail to realize this, fail to realize the full potential of their church website.

  2. Flashination:

    Flashination is a term I give to (church) websites that seem to be overly fascinated with Macromedia/Adobe Flash. What many church web servants fail to realize is that “.. fancy media on websites typically fails user testing …” at least according to Jakob Nielsen’s recent AlertBox entitled “Low-End Media for User Empowerment.”

    Where I see Flashination most often is on banners, headers, and home pages of church websites – usually in the form of scrolling images from the Church. A visual effect that is cool precisely ONCE and from then on becomes a bandwidth consuming annoyance.

    In response, allow me to quote some sage advice from Dr. Nielsen who wrote in his 1996 ‘Original Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design:’

    Never include page elements that move incessantly. Moving images have an overpowering effect on the human peripheral vision. A web page should not emulate Times Square in New York City in its constant attack on the human senses: give your user some peace and quiet to actually read the text!

  3. Church-speak:

    Without getting into a raging debate over speaking in tongues, those in charge of getting out their church’s message need to understand that, at least in the U.S., 1 in 3 adults is unchurched. Meaning 1 in 3 adults don’t understand the church-speak that ‘bables-up‘ scribed in expensive color brochures, sermon videos and web sites.

    Fact is, the church website isn’t about offering online brochureware nor a meas to show how cool a computer geek you are. The purpose of your church web page design is to convey the Christ that is in your congregation to the World by addressing the needs of seekers and members … AND by disciplining the same with the solid food of the Gospel.

    If you do both these things then I can guarantee that you will not have to spend $5k on a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert, nor will you have to worry about justifying your church’s online marketing expenditures.

  4. Turning your Homepage into a Splash Page:

    What does it profit your church or charity’s website to have the most beautiful web pages ever designed if it doesn’t convince people to visit your church, engage in your ministries, or at least inquire for more information? Yet more and more often I review a graphically and technically impressive church website that is more an art project than effective ministry tool.

    In the worse cases, the home page has become such as testament to the web designers Flash and CSS skills that the home page loses its effectiveness as an introductory and central point of navigation – degrading into a sometimes technically adept and entertaining splash page.

    And if you don’t know what’s wrong with having a splash page – regardless of the webmaster’s displayed technical prowess – then we need to have a long email correspondence.

  5. Thinking you’re Spurgeon:

    There is something to be said about Shakespeare’s oft-quoted assertion from Hamlet:

    … brevity is the soul of wit …

    Or as usability expert Jakob Nielsen writes his 1997 post entitled “how people read the web:”

    People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.

    Or as I say in my post “George Orwell: 12 blogging tips:”

    If all else fails, just remember this tried and true adage: “You’re not Spurgeon, quit trying to write like him.”

  6. Image Bloat:

    The <img> tag in HTML should be treated with the same suspicion one glowers upon all those slickly packaged low-cal cookies we see in the diet food aisle of the grocer. Both promise to avoid a glutton’s guilt – but in both cases it smoke and mirrors, leaving you feeling bloated and sluggish.

    One of the most perpetuated sins of church web design is image bloat – most often perpetrated in the form of thinking that somehow, the height and width argument of the <img> tag somehow magically and physically shrinks an image file. It doesn’t – it only appears that way. Or in in the immortal words of usability and marketing guru, Vincent Flanders who wrote in his Father Flanders’ Sermon for Sunday, July 13, 2003:

    Just because Jesus miraculously turned water into wine doesn’t mean he can miraculously turn your 1280- x 1024-pixel image whose file size is 1.8Mb into an image whose file size is only 74Kb just because you changed the WIDTH= and HEIGHT= attributes to WIDTH=”420″ and HEIGHT=”336″.

    This mistake is so common that it’s beginning to be as annoying to me as the confessions of the students of the young men of my Jesuit high school were to Father Ambrose “For your penance say three Hail Mary’s” Forsthoefel.

    In English, just because I write: <img xsrc=”mychurch.jpg” height=”160” width=”240”> does not magically or physically make my 920k image posted straight from my brand-spankin’ new digital camera load like a 20k image. Instead it means I make a page that should load in about 8 seconds take 188 seconds!

  7. Using Religion is a ‘Chruch:’

    We all know know at least one atheist, agnostic or skeptic who boldly (and often blindly) asserts religion is a crutch. Much in part due to the overbearing legalism and spiritual abuse that goes on in a minority of cases.
    That said, I it is my prayer that the Church on the whole prove these individuals wrong, not only with Christian love and charity, but also with correctly spelled <title> and <header> tags.

    Especially those whose message is unintentionally geared at a dyslexic demographic with typos such as “baptsit chruch.”

  8. Missing the usual suspects:

    Let me translate the above point for those of you who still think a long animated Flash splash page leading to a huge image of your church’s empty parking lot is the way to go … more and more individuals shop for church homes online, the greater the risk your church runs into never seeing them visit if your church website sucks!

    Yeah, pretty brutal – but enough of the ‘meme’ that God content is important, that aesthetics aren’t important. In other words solve their problems; don’t show off your fancy-schmancy solutions. Solving their needs is as simple and common sense as making the following information easy to find, read and render in print:

    • Church denomination
    • Geographic location
    • Days and times of services and studies
    • What stuff you have for their kids
    • Example sermons that show you’re not some slathering cult
    • Smiling, inviting faces instead of stony facades
    • Email contact
    • Phone number

    Yeah, you’d think the above list is obvious … but don’t get me started.

  9. Using graphics for text:

    What does it profit a charity to have the coolest web site design of all time if it can’t be found via a simple, context-related search on Google or Yahoo?

    That’s what you bargain for when you opt to use an image file, a Java applet or Flash to render the title and slogan of your church and/or charity website.

    A situation made much worse by those who go one step further and render their menu navigation using the same bandwidth busting technologies – in the day and age of CSS.

  10. Games, Gimmicks and Gizmos:

    I don’t know about you, but to me the Cross is an ‘emblem suffering and shame,‘ which is why I find the spinning animated version of it so offensive. It not only trivializes what happened to our Lord on that painful day, but it also makes your church website look cheap.

    So do ’special effects’ such as cursor trailers, pop-up windows, scrolling marquees and Flash-intros. Yes, they may look slick the first time and all your geek buddies will think you’re cool, but such contrivances quickly become annoying hindrances to individuals who are actually in need of some compelling content.

    Don’t get me wrong – don’t be afraid to use various technologies, just make sure there is a legitimate need.

    rule of thumb #4: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

    rule of thumb 4.a.: you’re not allowed to have a spinning gif of a gold lamé cross on your website unless you have the same atop the roof of your church!

And we’re done. I’m sure some will disagree, and that’s fine – some will add to the list, and that’s fine too. Just remember if you leave a comment, leave it in love so we can all benefit and learn from it.

Now go out there and have yourself a great 2008!

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 12 – Santa with Baby Jesus Nativity(ies)

On the 12th day of Kitschmas my webmaster brought to me: 12 Santa with Jesus figurines.

You betcha I ain’t kiddin’! I mean,what better way to convey to the kiddies the true meaning of Christmas in our current entertainint-driven culture than with the rotund, non-fasting, Nordic image of Saint Nicholas looking over a WonderBread white baby Jesus?

A confusing little mixed-metaphor dontcha’ think? I do. I also think this mix of Madison Avenue imagery with legal historic details is an excellent object lesson in why we need to be careful about semantics in a different light: semantic HTML.

For example, below is list of Santa with Jesus Nativity images I discovered in about 2 minutes on the web. In the past, one might use a <table> tag to render this list … but since IT IS a list of images and descriptions … why not use a list-like entity where the markup gives search engines, visually impaired seekers, and other systems and users a clue about the content in which they’re about to receive?

That is, why not use a definition list to render a list of images and their associated ‘defining’ descriptions (with typos included from the cited websites)?


Dona Gelsinger Christmas Miracle Collectible Angel Figurine
Dona Gelsinger Christmas Miracle Collectible Angel Figurine: Rejoice! The beloved work of renowned artist Dona Gelsinger comes to life in this collectible Santa and angel Nativity figurine, depicting Santa and a pretty little angel worshipping at the blessed birth of the Baby Jesus. A sweet lamb and bunnies join in the miracle, making this special collectible Christmas decoration an even more adorable treasure for your holiday home!
Santa with Baby Jesus figurine
Santa with Baby Jesus Stand: This Santa with Baby Jesus stand combines two important symbols of Christmas, Our Lord Jesus and Santa Clause.Enjoy this tall and cheerful statue with Santa holding the Star of Christmas and the Baby Jesus.This is an absolutely stunning figurine of Sants in his dark red clothing with white fur trim, holding Baby Jesus who is wrapped in a blanket. This Santa is made of Resin and stands 11 1/2″ H.
The Greatest Gift Of All Figurine
The Greatest Gift Of All Figurine: Elevate your Christmas display to a whole new level of sophistication and beauty with this elegant Christmas collectible figurine. This lovely Christ Child and Santa Claus figurine is beautifully sculpted and carefully hand-painted in resin, highlighting the poignant expression on Santa’s face as he kneels next to the smiling Baby Jesus’ manger. Real fabrics, molded and shaped by hand, are featured on Santa’s “fur”-trimmed coat and the Christ Child’s swaddling clothes.
Roman Santa Kneeling W/ Baby Jesus Ornament
Roman Santa Kneeling W/ Baby Jesus Ornament: Roman Santa Kneeling W/ Baby Jesus Ornament – This stone resin ornament is a licensed Roman item, has a very special message that can be taught to children and adults alike for generations to come. The message is that Christmas is not all about Sanata Claus, but rather Santa Claus also humbles himself before his maker, Jesus. Comes in attractive gift box, measures 2 1/2″
Santa & The Christ Child figurine
Santa & The Christ Child: There is no greater joy than watching a baby’s face at his or her first Christmas. The excitement and happiness parents feel are contagious and surely their child is not immune to the love surrounding this holy holiday. It is only fitting then, that the gentle gift bringer, Santa, comes to visit the greatest Bringer of hope, love and peace: the little Baby Jesus. As the Baby’s face lights upon seeing Santa’s gift, a cuddly teddy bear complete with big red bow, his hand reaches up to accept the precious gift. Santa’s eyes glisten as he sees the sweetness and beauty of the Baby Jesus, who, though nestled in His humble bed of straw, bears all the dignity and power of a King.

Blech!

For more on how and why semantic HTML makes more sense than the usual “code slung like hash” I suggest reading my recent post entitled: Enough with the Bread and BReakfast markup already!

For those on how and why the semantics of how and why imagery of the Coca-Cola Claus and the Uber Caucasion Christ may be sending the wrong message, may I suggest a post on the Colossians Three Sixteen blog entitled: Everybody Loves Santa Jesus!

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 11 – Happy Birthday Jesus Tattoos

12 Days of Jesus Junk - day 11 - Happy Birthday Jesus tattoosOn the 11th day of Christmas my webmaster rubbed on me – 11 “Happy Birthday Jesus” tattoos!

Just when you thought I’ve already cited and objectifried the worst in Kristshun Kitsch, the crass world of commercialization, like a good rash, provides the gifts that keep giving.

In this case it’s we’re talking “Happy Birthday Jesus” Tattoos. Yes folks, everyone knows your kids will love wearing these faith-based tattoos! Easy to apply and remove, they’re fun to find in Sunday School goody bags and Christmas stockings. So what if you send your children a mixed message later in the year when teaching Leviticus 19:28?

Which brings us to today’s object lesson, 11 blogging mistakes pastors & laypersons should avoid.

Yes, like the overzealous but ignorant Sunday school teacher who means well  rewarding their students with rub-on body markings, so too is sometimes true when an equally well meaning pastor takes over a church blog.

The result is a series of errors that plague most new to blogging, including the following:

  1. Getting hung up on high-tech instead of compelling content;
  2. Assuming Google will do all of your site’s ‘networking’ and ‘advertising’ for you;
  3. Shoot-off-mouth first, ask questions later;
  4. Shotgun topics – too many points (pellets) in one post;
  5. Anemic headlines that have no zing;
  6. Ignored or devalued commenters and their input;
  7. Shotgun categories – not taking control of your niche of expertise;
  8. Assumed it would be easy;
  9. An ugly URL that is hard to remember (lest spell)
  10. Know-it-all-itis
  11. poorly constructed excerpts and/or lead paragraphs.

Three things I keep repeating here, and will continue to repeat:

  • People don’t read the web, they scan it;
  • Aggregators and search engines index and list titles and excerpts (or lead paragraphs where excerpts aren’t present) – write to that;
  • We cannot serve two (or more) masters – write to a single topic, if you have more, post more tomorrow.

Bottom line, just it is our job to leave a mark on the World, not to be marked by worldlinesses – so too it’s our job to leave our mark online with our writing, rather than merely splatter senseless, non compelling markup just so you’re different like everyone else.

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 10 – Moses Action Figure

12 days of Jesus Junk - day 10 - Moses Action FigureOn the 10th day of kitschmas my webmaster threw down on me – 10 Moses Action Figures (all clutching tablets of the 10 commandments in their patented kung-fu grip!).

Seriously, todays wandering into ‘Wadi Crapola‘ was made a bit amusing by some of the descriptions given for this particular item. Of note:

Recreate theTen Commandments with this 5 1/4″ hard plastic Moses Action Figure. It has moving arms and legs, as well as removeable shepherd’s staff and stone tablets. Moses info on the package too! – Giftoplois

A description that is only topped by this one:

The story of Moses has more action than a James Bond movie. Miracles, murder, plagues, escape, betrayal – his life was filled with dramatic events and exciting adventures. With our 5-1/4″ tall, hard plastic Moses Action Figure you can recreate the entire epic saga in the comfort of your own home.

Use the removeable shepherd’s staff and stone tablets to punish your roommate with God’s plagues or deliver the Ten Commandments to your little green army men. Comes with interesting Moses info on the back of his card. – StageFight.com

For me however, I’d suggest buying this Torah Toy as an object lesson in … wait for it …

… a reminder to read my classic article entitled:

Here are the first three just to whet your whistle:

  1. You shall have no text other than your church’s name, denomination, city and state correctly spelled in between the <title> tags of your church’s home page.
  2. You shall not make for your self webpage description and keywords meta tags that contain key words that are not related to your church’s ministries, purpose and personality.
  3. You shall have no text other than your church’s name, denomination, city and state correctly spelled in between the <h1> tag in the header of your church’s home page – even if you are using some form of CSS text/image replacement.

Now go be doers of the word, rather than mere readers!

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 9 – 9″ Plush Long Arm Religious Gorillas

9 inch Plush Long Arm Religious GorillasOn the 9th day of Christmas my webmaster gave to me, a 9″ Plush Long Arm Religious Gorilla!

Oh how I wish I were making this one up today. I mean talk about a John 11:35 moment – what in the name of all that’s Christmas does a day-glow colored gorilla have to do with anything related to the birth, life and death of our Savior?

That said, I think the colorful string of hominidae hangers do at least offer us an excellent object lesson to those new to church website design:

Don’t go ape over new technologies just for the sake of implementing them!

Here are 9 wretched examples, from memory, I’ve encountered where the church webmaster made a monkey out of their website with some new gizmo or gadget they encountered:

  1. gratuitous flash animations & navigation
  2. cursed cursor trailers
  3. spinning animated crosses
  4. page swipes & animated marquees
  5. dhtml snowflakes drifting down the screen
  6. pop-up and pop-under windows
  7. cursed cursor trailers
  8. disabled right-click
  9. rainbow colored dividers & title text

Please don’t do this. Yes they effects are all cool … for about the first five seconds, after that, they tend to drive your users away.

Remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. That is, don’t be afraid to use various technologies, just make sure there is a legitimate need.

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 8 – Elvis Christmas 8 Track Tape

Elvis' Christmas Album 8 Track Stereo TapeOn the 8th day of Christmas my webmaster played for me – an 8 track of Elvis singing my not-so-favorite Christmas tunes.

Yup, nothing croons the sacred event of our Savior’s birth like the original culture king singing such greats as:

  • Blue Christmas,
  • Santa Claus is back in Town,
  • Santa Bring my Baby Back,
  • Here comes Santa Claus,
  • White Christmas

Now before you Gracelanders  go all ballistic on me, this former opera singer actually enjoys most of Elvis’ stylings. So why then the kvetch about the 8 track as Christmas kitsch?

Mostly to use a crufty old recording-playback medium to point out how often I stumble across a church or charity website whose content is equally crufty.

For those who don’t speak ancient geek, crufty is defined in “the Jargon file” as:

crufty /kruhf´tee/ adj. – [very common; origin unknown; poss. from ‘crusty’ or ‘cruddy’]

  1. Poorly built, possibly over-complex. The canonical example is “This is standard old crufty DEC software”. In fact, one fanciful theory of the origin of crufty holds that was originally a mutation of ‘crusty’ applied to DEC software so old that the ‘s’ characters were tall and skinny, looking more like ‘f’ characters.
  2. Unpleasant, especially to the touch, often with encrusted junk. Like spilled coffee smeared with peanut butter and catsup.
  3. Generally unpleasant.
  4. (sometimes spelled cruftie) n. A small crufty object (see frob); often one that doesn’t fit well into the scheme of things. “A LISP property list is a good place to store crufties (or, collectively, random cruft).”

This term is one of the oldest in the jargon and no one is sure of its etymology, but it is suggestive that there is a Cruft Hall at Harvard University which is part of the old physics building; it’s said to have been the physics department’s radar lab during WWII. To this day (early 1993) the windows appear to be full of random techno-junk. MIT or Lincoln Labs people may well have coined the term as a knock on the competition.

A point re-emphasized by noted usability expert, Jakob Nielsen whom effectively asserts in his June 27th article entitled “Change vs. Stability in Web Usability Guidelines” that translates to the rest of us that ‘the Web still rocks like it’s 1999!’

How about you? Is your church web site up-to-date in terms of the interface, the data, the markup and the message implements? Or like the website for the First Freewill Baptist Church of Union City Georgia, does your church website imply that you’ve been partying like it’s 1999?

My point? Even though the tunes on the Elvis 8 track are timeless, who is going to hear them now? Likewise with your church website. Just because the message of the Gospel is ageless doesn’t mean the same applies to the data and technologies used to convey your organizations web presence.

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 7 – Walking With Jesus Playing Cards

On the 7th day of Christmas my webmaster dealt to me, a set sevens, with an ace-king kicker.

12 days of Jesus Junk - day 7 - Walking with Jesus Playing Cards

What better way to demonstrate grace than to take a bad beating on the river during a late night game of Texas hold ’em during a youth lock-in?

Sure, you’ll have to let the kiddies shave your head, but at least you didn’t lose it when you realized you were drawing dead after going all in because you came equipped with your deck of ‘Walking With Jesus’ Playing Cards.

And speaking of betting the house, it’s probably time I complain about all-Flash based web sites (again) – or that is a church and/or charity website whose webmaster wagered the entire user interface and/or navigation on a third-party plug-in technology.

Not that Adobe Flash isn’t popular, but it’s also not without it’s problems including:

  • search engine hostile
  • tends to break back button technology
  • comparatively expensive to maintain
  • more labor intensive from a smaller pool of human resources
    (often having to steal from Peter to pay the addicted Paul)
  • relatively inflexible to change without a substantive investment in relational database interface
  • higher user error rates than simpler forms of navigation
  • long load times

Along with the above factors related to Flash itself, I’ve noted some trends in the Church website community when it comes to webmasters suffering ‘flashination‘ as they tend to:

  • convert their websites into art projects
  • effectively make their home page an ineffective splash page
  • be geared exclusively at the 18 to 32 demographic
  • attempt to compete with MTV and other media outlets

Perhaps the biggest problem I note with such sites is the trend for Flash-masters to continually “up the ante” with style over substance, in many cases because users quickly bore and/or ignore the gimmickry after the first or second use.

Well that and I often get one or more comments from webmasters – and sometimes their wives – whom have fallen in love with their creation to the point of forgetting that “You are not your user.”

Rule of thumb:  Don’t confuse a church website with … um … marital bliss

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 6 – Jesus Saves Goose Leg Bands

On the 6th day of Christmas my (new) webmaster crimped on me, six goose band leggings …

EBAY - 15 UNIQUE 'JESUS SAVES' GOOSE LEG BANDSI didn’t think it possible to “jump the shark” with a topic as over-the-top as the 12 Days of Christmas crapola … but it appears that our misconception of culture for Christianity has taken us to new heights in coming off like a buncha babbling idiots.

Case in point, a set of ‘unique “Jesus Saves” goose leg bands‘ available on E-Bay for $12.99.

I don’t have a problem with the message, rather I’m having great difficulties in understanding how effective it is to run out to my local reservoir, tackle a wild goose without getting ‘beaked’ and then banding the poor water fowl’s leg with a context-less message is going to be read by individuals falling into one of four categories:

  1. hunters
  2. biologists/conservationists
  3. unsuspecting drivers
  4. unlucky jet pilots

In case you haven’t guessed already, today’s is conversion goals – specifically begging the question:

  • What are you trying to say?
  • What are your goals of what you’re saying?
  • To whom are you saying it?
  • How are you saying it?

For example this past November, before I went to Jordan, I learned a little bit of the Arabic language and customs because I knew my message of peace would fall fallow if I didn’t communicate it within the context of the recipient.

In terms of our object lesson, and forgetting about the unsuspecting driver and/or unlucky jet pilot, how do you suppose someone working on behalf of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center feels when they run into one of these cryptic, unregistered and untraceable bands? Do they drop to their knees and repent – or do perhaps they say a few choice words about the amateur (and possibly unpermitted) attempt at gaming the game system to advertise?

My point simply being that “how you say it” – especially online – is as important as what you say; and I’m not talking in terms tickling one’s ears with political correctness. Instead, and for example: two websites with essentially the same information, but two entirely different approaches. You decide for yourself which one gets the job done more effectively:

Put another way, you need to decide if your church and/or charity is going to convey a message that allows its recipients to soar like eagles – or present them with a dead goose. The choice is yours.

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 5 – Jesus Pencil Toppers

On the 5th day of kitschmas my webmaster was struck down by G*d ... here's whyThen the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your web developers whom you have outsourced from India have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves cheap plastic pencil toppers.’ – ‘Dude’ronomy 911

On the 5th day of kitschmas my webmaster was struck down by G*d.

Why?

Because of … and let everyone sing together: “5 Jesus pencil toppers.

I’m sorry folks, but this one bugs me at a variety of levels. In part because it’s just flat-out blasphemy by unbelievers, and those who do worship the Christ, idolatry.

“They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood [or perhaps plastic?]!” – Jeremiah 10:8

Apostate or apostle, this false image of our Lord not only provides everyone with the near perfect example of how commercialism has lead some down a false path – but because this pencil topper is actually not an eraser – this plastic crap also gives us an object lesson in a not as serious sin I sometimes find on church and charity websites: faux navigation.

False navigation can come in a variety of irritating and confusing forms:

  • underlining text that isn’t a hyperlink;
  • formatting hyperlinks so they blend into the text;
  • menu titles that do not match the title of the pages to which they are navigating;
  • anchor links that effectively go nowhere; and
  • DuHTML-driven drop-down and slide-in menus that don’t work the same across all browsers or user age groups

“All of them are put to shame and confounded; the makers of idols go in confusion together.” Isaiah 45:16

The point here is to realize that the primary purpose of any navigation is to get a person from point A to point B as intuitively as possible – that is without several pages and/or hours of instruction.

Here’s a good question to ask yourself regarding website navigation: if it’s not obvious, then perhaps it’s over done?

Oh and for those who’d like to discuss the finer theological points of the aforementioned merchandise, please allow me to direct you to a website I myself just discovered as I researched this item: A Little Leaven: Jesus Pencil Toppers – whose description of this item accurately asserts:

Our internal studies have shown that use of the Jesus Pencil Topper in high school classrooms reduces incidences of cheating by .001%. But, it increases blasphemies by 600%.

Tell’m Mean Dean sent ya!

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12 Days of Jesus Junk – Day 4 – Jesus Loves me Kazoos

Kitschy Jesus Loves Me Kazoos - in 4 hot neon colors -On the 4th day of Christmas my webmaster brought to me, four neon colored kazoos! Yes folks, even if your singing sounds like an injured cat in a trash can, you can still harmonize with that “Mitt Romney sings your Favorite Carols with the Mormon Tabernacle” album your great aunt bought you back in 1987 when you’re equipped with one of these cheap, plastic “Jesus Loves me kazoos” pictured to the right:

Speaking of the sound of fingernails being dragged down an old, faded chalk board, I’d like to employ today’s “Kitschmas present” as a metaphor for yet another type of annoying surprise that I continue to find on a number of church websites. That is, the earsplitting gift of music – and now videos – that automatically play when the web page loads.

I mean how effective do you think a church website is that ambushes someone within earshot of their boss with some tinny rendition of Peter Schickele’s “The Seasonings” – especially in a work place where there is a sensitivity regarding music downloads and US Copyright Laws?

Fact is that though 47% of the U.S. is now online using some form of broadband, most still dislike the time it takes to load media files – not to mention the unwanted legal headaches such files present.

Fortunately services such as YouTube give content providers the opportunity to act smart by embedding a click-to-play image that we can surround with useful summaries; in turn offering the user the freedom of choice to play or not to play.

A good example is my own post entitled “Dean takes a dive in the dead sea that ‘rocks’” where I take the ‘Nestea Plunge’ into the Dead Sea with a 25lb rock on my chest – but only after providing users a brief description along with the option of clicking the play button – before showing the silly 1.5 minute video.

Point is, so long as you have the rights to the content and feel it contributes to your websites conversion goals, provide it, but in an opt-in format only. Otherwise your love comes across like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal … or in this case, more like some krummy hot-pink kazoo in the key of B#.

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