Crossing Church’s Maddening Moving Mystery Meat

NOTICE: to all graphic designers doubling as web masters – your church’s website ain’t a stinking art project. If it were, then there would be no need to worry about such mundane things as conversion goals, usability, and accessibility – issues that seem perennially make top 10 web design mistakes lists.

Including that most egregious sin that seems to have taken permanent residence near or at the top of such enumerations, Mystery Meat Navigation (MMN), which is defined as:

“… a term coined and popularized by author, web designer, and usability analyst Vincent Flanders to describe user interfaces (especially in websites) in which it is inordinately difficult for users to discern the destinations of navigational hyperlinks—or, in severe cases, even to determine where the hyperlinks are. The typical form of MMN is represented by menus composed of unrevealing icons that are replaced with explicative text only when the mouse cursor hovers over them.”

  1. A good example of this bad design concept is the ‘art project’ for the Crossing Church of Louisville, Kentucky – here is what the navigation for their main page looks like:
    main menu for Crossing Church, Louisville, KY
  2. And just to insure that my 70+ something mother doesn’t visit, they create moving targets of the menu on the sub pages, as pictured below:
    'family' menu for Crossing Church, Louisville, KY
  3. If that wasn’t enough, the moving menu targets sometimes overlap, making the navigational meat not only truly mysterious, but incredibly frustrating for anyone over the age of 30:
    'family' menu for Crossing Church, Louisville, KY

While I normally would have a fast 5 suggestions to offer – this time I’m going to suggest 5 questions for consideration:

  1. Does hiding the menu navigation help or hinder seekers from discovering what the Crossing Church has to offer?
  2. Are the moving navigation menu navigations conducive to attending individuals who seek operational information?
  3. How well can the site be found via a search engine with so much of its text rendered as media/graphics?
  4. What are the maintenance cycles like for modifying this site?
  5. What is the cost of delivering content in this manner?

Here’s my point – there is a time and place for Flash animations. Creating complex navigation interfaces is not one of them …

… not if your conversion goals are getting seekers into the pews, and keeping them there once they get there.

Your mileage may vary.