Adam Bird

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Case Study (Part 1) - kings-medway.co.uk

A view of the Kings Church Medway homepage

If there has been a common theme running so far through the early stages of this year, it has been work. Not the professional kind, which I’m still playing the waiting game on as to what my future holds exactly - but the stuff I do from home, the little something for a mate, or a friend of a friend. I’ve got a couple of little projects boiling away nicely, including my first Arabic language website which will prove to be an interesting technical challenge, a website for a local car accident repair centre as well as trying to keep up with the brilliant and inspiring courses from Code Academy.

Today then, I’m going to attempt something wholly new to this blog and add to my increasingly crazy workload, by starting a series of blog posts looking at the life cycle of a web development project. Starting at the beginning, in looking at an existing website, where it falls short, what it does well, all the way through to research, design and eventual redevelopment and deployment of a new site that hopefully practices everything that has been learnt during the whole process.

In doing this, I’ll hopefully be able to demonstrate in documented terms the challenges of a typical web development project, learn about what works and what doesn’t from the steps I’ve decided to take and most importantly, leave a trail of legacy documentation for the client whose website I’ll be reviewing, advising and working on.

Who is the client?


The website that I’ll be looking at is www.kings-medway.co.uk, which is a church in Chatham run by my Uncle Matthew. He is the Pastor of the church and has a team of people who look after, build and maintain the current site and related on/offline media.

The church itself is over 100 years old but has been known as Kings since 1977. In most recent times, under my Uncle Matthew’s stewardship the church has become a vital source of community resource, with Caring Hands - a drop in centre for the homeless opening and providing warmth, shelter and food for those who need it.

I’d like to thank Matthew for allowing me to do this. I know that his team have spent a lot of time getting the website ready and have spent many hours working on it. As I said to him, you’ve a member of the family that works as a web developer, so use him - family resource is free!

A look at the website:


A view of the Kings Church Medway homepage

Some of the problems:


- Generally, the overall design of the site is old fashioned and tired. It suffers from a lack of consistency with colour, type and template. The homepage has been split into two pages, one a dashboard type page covering everything that is happening and another a collection of links to further buried site content.

- The welcome page contains panels which animate, or cause flickering, whilst in itself is fine, too many repeating animations give the page an unattractive appearance. As a further note, a rough rule of thumb dictates that if the user cannot choose to pause or stop an animation it should self expire after three iterations.

- The colour scheme of the site is rather eclectic, which again is fine in moderation, but doesn’t work in its current guise.

- Collections of links are not grouped and consistent within their group. For example, social media icons should be familiar to the end user and grouped together so that all links are of the same format and ideally, of same size.

- Reviewing the code of the site, much of the content on the homepage has been sourced from third parties, whilst again, is okay in moderation, it is important that they are correctly used. For example, each rotating banner is calling an individual JavaScript file, which has been referenced within the page multiple times. This file should only be referenced once and called by however many objects appear on the page.

- Incorrect verb used on the Facebook link. By saying “follow us on Facebook”, it implies that you can subscribe to the Churches Facebook updates. But actually the user will have to add a friend request. The church, as a business should instead set up a page, whereby the end user can choose to “like” or “unlike” to receive notifications within their news feed.

- From a search engine point of view, there is nothing, apart from some short meta content within the head of the document that tells the robot what the site contains. All the content is image and javascript based, so there is little that can be used by Google (for example) to index the site.

- The Caring Hands part of the site deserves further prominence, but doesn’t stand out amidst the kaleidoscopic nature of the welcome page.

Next steps:


Alongside Matthew and his team, we need to look at the website in its entirety, work out what the website needs to do, what its function really is. Is it a brochure that tells the people of Medway about the great work that the church does for its wider community? Or is it a portal for its congregation to use as a resource and spiritual guide - is it a place for both?

Also, together, we need to work out what the limitations of the team are. Does the use of third party plugins and flash highlight a lack of html and css knowledge? Can this be found within the church - or can I offer my services in a way that makes it easier for the team to proceed once the new site is live?

Further feedback:


If anyone has anything further they'd like to add, I'd be really interested to hear of anyone else's opinions. Leave a comment below, or email me at: adamdbird@gmail.com.

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