How do you know it's good?

There is clearly a need for an objective approach to assessing what constitutes a good church website - what follows is a draft which I hope to develop, and constructive comments are welcome.

I have borrowed the format of the National scale of level descriptions for Religious Education. The use of two strands and a series of levels allows distinctions to be drawn between the idea and the reality, the conception and the creation (to borrow words from T S Eliot).

LevelPractice - doing the job
Theory - having the vision
1A simple site - perhaps just a page or two - possibly created using an extended directory service or a free homepage facility.Aware of the importance of having a web presence - a church noticeboard on the web.
2A few pages with single tier navigation, perhaps mixing text and photographs, perhaps using a photo gallery to avoid selection and editing issues. Appreciates the value of providing information about the church and what it does. Moving beyond pure text media - a brochure on the web.
3Core text and other media edited for the web, pages are regularly updated, featuring a calendar or events /activities listing of some sort.Demonstrates concept of the church website as a dynamic, updated webspace, with regularly updated information about events - a web version of the church magazine.
4Attention given to quality of design, layout, navigation and editing. Communicates initial messages clearly and concisely. Conforms (broadly) to standards for browser consistency and accessibility. Makes sure visitors can find the things that are likely to be of initial interest. Understands how to use different media types in their appropriate contexts (some but not necessarily all of text, still images, audio, animations, video) to meet specific needs. Starting to differentiate between the needs of different audiences.
5Every aspect of the church's activities and groups are represented, giving a rounded picture of the fellowship. Information is presented attractively, and the site - which may contain dozens of pages -  is easy to navigate. Important / topical items are always highlighted and brought to attention - the site has a dynamic, up-to-date feel to it.Aware of the value of exploiting a range of technologies to address the needs of different audiences within the church fellowship, and those of potential/prospective members.
6Addresses other needs - e.g. the church in the local community, providing a unique source/collection of community information, perhaps. Aims to attract other audiences and raise the church's profile in the process. Explores the potential of the church's web presence beyond internal and other Christian/church audiences.
7Real effort is made to use the website as a way of engaging with the church's local community / potential 'catchment area'. This may involve promotion of the site, being pro-active, having interactive areas on the site, doing some campaigning about local issues... Shows creative thinking in breaking down barriers to access. Addresses the needs of all internal, other Christian and wider audiences in a coherent way.
8High quality graphic design, good attention to detail and use of language. Is topical, engaging, offering something of interest to anyone who is a potential visitor to the church. There is opportunity to interact with other users of the site. The website conveys a clear idea of the "personality" of the church, in terms that would encourage the average person to want to know more. Shows that the church website is an integral part of the church's mission, reflecting completely the church's vision and perception of its role, and presented and maintained accordingly, to the highest standards.
Exceptional Something special... perhaps an active, vibrant village/community website is part of the church's web presence...Takes the concept beyond Level 8, adding something extra which is of benefit either to the wider Christian community or the wider local community.

Martin Brasier - June 2009


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Verse of the Day
John 3:17
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

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