A celebration of cruft, the king of kitsch ministries.

The WikiPedia defines ‘cruft‘ is computing jargon for code, data, or software of poor quality and ‘kitsch‘ as art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an existing style. The Celebrations Of The King Ministries in Loma Linda, CA provides a website that is both. The only real question being, what % is kitsch, and what % is cruft – as the design of the this church website seems to take its queue from the Hamster Dance school  of design, circa 1998.

Click here to see the full-sized Celebration of the King Ministries - rocking like it's 1999

In short, this is a site where the content needs to be saved into plain, simple and separate text files and then from the root directory of the website, cured via the following Linux command line operation:
rm -rf * or in MS-DOS: del *.*

I know deleting everything sounds rather drastic, but here are five things alone on the front page I found that lead me to thing the current site is beyond healing:

  1. Spinning animated crosses – once again, if you don’t have a spinning gold cross on the roof or steeple of your church, then you’re not allowed to have one on your site.
  2. Gold lamé background image – aside from making any text difficult to read while limiting one’s color options, I’m not so sure imagery of satin sheets really conveys the right message for a para-church ministry.
  3. Using graphics to render text – and really unreadable graphics at that. I’m talking about the page and ministry title. Search engines index sites based on text – rendering the ministry’s name with graphics is like putting a lamp under a basket.
  4. Having to explain one’s navigation – especially on this site, where it instructs users to read through page scroll after page scroll of text below … before clicking on the image just above the instruction. Personally, I prefer text-driven menu navigation, but if you must – at least also offer a link into the ‘main site’ after the super-long, unreadable and not-so compelling text that while providing alot of information, still leaves one wondering why they should navigate into the site any further.
  5. Looking cheap – its no secret, one of the reasons para-church ministries create a web presence is to bring in donations. However, just like the parable of the sower indicates it was those who invested whom received the reward, so too a ministry will receive little if the website looks and feels like little, if any professional attention was invested in its creation.

So how does one heal a church website in such bad condition (and trust me, I navigated into the other pages – it doesn’t get any better)? Here are five steps I’d take:

  1. As I said earlier, copy off all the content into plain, simple and separate text files;
  2. Create a free account with Blogger to post the content;
  3. Create a free account at Odeo, OurMedia, or SermonCloud to post audio files;
  4. Create the following categories for content:
    • about us – for all the biographical, mission-statement and goal-oriented information,
    • news and events – for all the the news letter, email, and upcoming events type stuff,
    • podcasts – upgrade away from the tape ministry, Audacity and a half-decent sound card will get it done; and
    • help us – show people how they can assist through volunteerism, donations, etc …
  5. Now begin re-entering as individual posts the content once copied into text files, remembering that what you enter last will appear first.

Now I realize some might argue: “… but the site will look more like a blog instead of a website!

This is true, but it is also true that it will immediately provide the following benefits:

  • content that is more readable by humans and search engines;
  • content that is more organized both for the consumer and the provider;
  • content that can be easily revises, amended, and/or appended;
  • a consistent style and navigation that governs the entire site; and
  • no need for the content provider to worry about the technical details – nor to be led into temptation by evil design elements that cheapen one’s online presence with cruft and kitsch.

If nothing else, the above approach could be used as a very inexpensive but effective short-term stop-gap until the folks at the ministry can muster either the time or funds necessary to move to a more formalized website. Trust me, any designer walking into such a project will be more than grateful such an interim step was taken – a gratitude likely displayed by not charging nearly as much as to re-factor the current site.

How about you, what would be your approach to healing this para-church ministry website? Leave a comment, in love, so we can all learn.