Lack of vision, content is everything

Churches With No Message

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

— Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

Okay, so I'm taking that verse totally out of context, I know. Suspend judgement for a minute while I apply that statement to web design. Where there is no vision, websites perish. If I had a dime for everytime someone flippantly said "I need a website" and nothing came of it, I'd be able to pay off my student loans (okay, maybe not but you get the point).

Even worse is when you've met with a client, and come up with a design, and then you just sit and wait for weeks, even months, without them coming up with any meaningful content. I think that's one thing that people don't really take into consideration: content drives design. Too many people have the "make the design, and we'll fill it in later" mentality.

If someone was to do a car commercial, one would expect to have all the specifications of that car model at hand, right? You wouldn't shoot an up-scale Lexus style commercial if you were trying to appeal to a younger audience. No, you'd want a sporty, up-beat VW Bug or Dodge Neon style commercial. In all reality, if the car wasn't ready yet, the commercial wouldn't be shot.

Yet alot of people, pastors in particular, seem to think that having a website is just a checkmark on the to-do list, and that style doesn't particularly have any importance. A website however, isn't some milestone that must be achieved in order to be a modern (or post-modern) church. It is simply another means of communication, like a flyer or bulletin.

You wouldn't hand out empty bulletins in church, or post empty flyers, and expect that somehow people would get the message. Why then, do so many people seem to think that the empty website will draw a crowd?

In my opinion, having a good looking but empty website is just as bad as having a content-filled, yet ugly website. In either case, the church might as well not have a website at all, because in the first case, that's telling people "We don't care about the message, just the delivery," and in the second case, that's telling people "We're unprofessional in how we handle things."

As a TA for the IT605 web design class at the seminary, we have a good, bad, and ugly list. While I don't want to point fingers and name names, let me just say that it grieves me to see how many really bad church pages there are out there. In our criteria, we look for two main things:

  1. Is the church site up-to-date?
  2. Does the site look good / bad?

Only if the website passes both those criteria does it get filed under the "good" category. While it's tough to find a good looking site that isn't well updated (as good design and prompt updates tend to go hand in hand), those outdated sites in the bad/ugly catagories abound.

So, this brings me to the second part of the verse I'd referenced earlier: "He that keepeth the law, happy is he." How does one "keep the law" when it comes to being a good customer/client? Here are a few tips:

  1. Have your content ready, otherwise the project will drag on indefinitely.
  2. Have a clear vision of what your church/website is about.
  3. Trust the design aspects of the site to the designer. After all, that's why you hired him/her.

Basically, if you follow those general rules of thumb, you'll be in good shape, and will be one of those ideal customers that designer type people fight over. And if you think I'm crazy in my ranting, here's a list of articles from other designers who are of the same inclination as I…