I wanted to find out what was the best congregational website in the Unitarian Universalist Association as a way of highlighting a good work and encouraging others to excellence.
First, I looked at every website linked from UUA.org. I intended to keep culling them until I had a list of ten that I would review. But I accidentially deleted the cull when I got down to about thirty.
That's just as well. You see, I kept coming back to the same site and though "I really like this one." Now, there are more elaborate sites, cuter sites, and technologically more advanced sites, but this one stood out. It even made me want to visit. Just as important, it represents a congregation of sixty-four members, which I think is significant given the resources larger churches can muster.
So which is it?
- It is clean. No animated wigits. No Flash animation. No audio attack. Appropriate use of images. The site is table-based (not my favorite) but lean. The URL is memorable, and there isn't a ad in sight. (I would loose the UUA banner.) That's a pretty rare combo.
- It is useful to both visitors and members. Non-members get everything from directions and dress code to building rental options. Members get calenders, bylaws, and community events. Most of the sites I saw might as well say "Members only."
- You know who and where they are. First, in the literal sense. Some sites seem bashful to state where the church is. The title -- across the top of your browser -- in most sites was something unhelpful like "Welcome!" or "UUFF." The address wouldn't be on the front page. Had you Googled in, you mightn't know if this church was in your area. Inside the site you can read more about them -- I would put local history and identity in "About Us" above the UUA -- and you get a good sense of their character. (Which I also like.)
- They keep the important stuff "above the fold." Like the fold of the front page of a newspaper. Theirs currently feaure hte name, the Sunday's service, news about a forthcoming congregational meeting, a search box, a cute tagline ("A Caring Community Supporting the Freedom to Believe"), the most important links and some questions that would likely appeal to a seeker. Perfect.
- The details work. The congregational picture is the congregation on the steps of their building. This is almost always the best option. But most congregations choose a picture of the inside or outside of the building -- never a lively looking building -- or some representative member. I don't think that's wise either, since its bound to make someone feel excluded. A couple of churches even indulged in using what were obviously photos from an image service: the website equivalent of leaving in place the pictures that come with a frame. Tisk, tisk.
Oh, I suppose there are more things I really liked about this site, and I may expand this entry. Until then, take a look for yourself, and go and do likewise.