Adam Bird


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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Case Study (Part 4) -

King's Church Medway website

Towards the end of last month, I read a status update from my Uncle Matthew who is Pastor of King's Church in Medway. His status championed the launch of his church’s new website and encouraged his Facebook connections to visit. Except that when I did, I wasn’t enthused by what I saw. After I put across my point of view he agreed with my assessment and accepted my invitation to review the current site and work with him and his team to start again - pretty much from the ground up.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve visited the church several times. On each occasion we’ve had a proactive discussion on what a potential new website should feature, how it should look and most importantly of all, how it should communicate - not just to visitors of the website, but to friends of people who belong to the church, or organisations that help on a daily basis to do good for the greater church community.

We made a decision early on that we were actually dealing with multiple websites rather than try to tell the full story across a single domain. We turned this into a three way split - the Church, Caring Hands and Light the Way. There is still a possibility of a fourth website, but this is still pending upon various other important matters unconnected with this blog, so I’ll leave that where it is for now.

The Social Layer:

Outside of the three domains set up to deal with each of the three websites, a social layer will be created to help spread and share the good work that happens both inside the church (Kings), outside in the local community (Caring Hands) and on a global level (Light the Way).

Each of the three sites will have an external voice (Twitter) telling the world what they are doing, have done, or are about to do. Whilst members of each community (Facebook) will be invited to attend events and partake in sharing content that is posted via each community's Page. Each of the three sites will also have an associated You Tube channel where imagery can be captured and added to the website or shared across any of the two communication channels (Twitter and Facebook).

Each site will also have at least one blog which will allow any invited member of the organisation to write a post keeping visitors to the website and to any of the social channels updated with all the latest goings on inside the church.

An example would be:

  • - A member of the church writes a blog post about the planning for the next Light the Way mission.
  • - This blog post appears on the Light the Way website, but I, as a potential visitor would have to visit the website to read it. Instead because it is a blog post, and I've visited the website before I can subscribe to the blog feed and have this appear automatically in my own news reader. Immediately one piece of content has reached me in either one of two ways.
  • - The author of the blog is also an page admin on Facebook, so they update the Light the Way Facebook page with a link to the new content.
  • - As I’ve also ‘Liked’ Light the Way on Facebook, I’ve now received three opportunities to read the same content.
  • - More importantly, now that I have, and it is on Facebook I can share this content with my own Facebook connections. From one person seeing a single piece of content, I’ve now exposed this to 500 of my own friends. If the Light the Way page has 100 people 'liking' the page and all 100 share a piece of content, you can see how quickly good news spreads!
  • - The author of the blog, just for good measure sends a tweet from the Light the Way Twitter feed with another link to the new post. This has now been picked up by me again as I’m also following Light the Way on Twitter. I then decide to retweet the link so that my own followers can read it.
  • - I wasn't the only one, the charity in which Light the Way are helping on their mission also notices’s the tweet. They have 10,000 followers. The charity retweets the Light the Way link and immediately it is picked up by a much bigger audience.
  • - And finally, now that the organisation has been broken down into three, each part of the church can now talk about one another, the church can share content that Caring Hands or Light the Way has created and vice versa.

It might seem common sense to me and it is, I deal with it day in day out and understand how each of the platforms work. I also understand how used correctly, they can do great and wonderful things for your business, or in this case organisation.  Never presume that people will visit your website, get your website to the people - it's straightforward enough. But for my Uncle and his team, its unknown territory which they a, need to know how to use and b, know how to get the most from it.

For example, a particularly talking point was Facebook. At the moment the church has two Facebook accounts, one set up as a friend account and the other as a Page. The friend account has every attribute that you and I have, a DOB, a first name and surname and strangely for an organisation a Gender. Hang on a minute? How can an organisation have a gender? It doesn’t, which is why Facebook created 'pages' for organisations, authors, clubs, brands and businesses.

The biggest problem, particularly if you are a religious organisation with a ‘friend’ profile, is that you are mixing in the same Facebook social circles as those you have ‘friended’. You can now see all of your ‘friends’ problems, the status updates which moan about someone else, or links that they’ve shared, or even photos uploaded which could cause embarrassment and/or distress to either party.

By creating a ‘page’, you are then elevating yourself out of that social circle and putting yourself above it, so that that in your own ‘news feed’ (which is different to your profile) you will see only things that your organisation has ‘liked’. You no longer have friends and you can only share content that has been added by those pages that you've liked . Everything that people then do, everyone who ‘likes’ your page is then invisible to you as a page owner, leaving you then to take all of your great content and share it in the knowledge that you are only sharing it with those people who’ve explicitly said that they ‘like’ you - and if they no longer want to hear from you, they simply ‘unlike’ your page and you can carry on with sharing to those who are interested.

The Design:

Whilst the social layer eco-system gets put in place and members of the church learn to how to use and perfect each system, I have been left to think about and consider how the three main websites are to work and what they might begin to look like.

This, for me is the hardest part of the whole process. The main issue being that by trade, I am not a website designer. I bring to life other peoples designs, which does have its benefits. The websites I build day in day out are (mainly) beautifully but the downside is that I don’t use Photoshop or Fireworks to design, I use it to slice and optimise, which is fundamentally different. The only ‘design’ work I do is on the odd occasion like this where a little private project needs bringing to life and I’m the only one to do it!

My design ethos then, is pretty much non-existent other than knowing what I like and knowing what I don’t. I can look at all the websites in the world and tell you if I like them or not, but I couldn’t tell you why. It is instinctive. Some are more obvious than others, but at the beginning of this whole series of blog posts I reviewed and looked at a group of websites which I said that worked and others than simply didn’t.

My main design considerations then for this project were as follows:

  • - the design had to be modern and well laid out
  • - it had to fall into the later category of sites that I felt worked in my earlier blog post
  • - all three sites had a common ‘theme’ or something that linked them all together so that if you visited them all one after another you were dealing with the same organisation
  • - it encapsulated the brochure style of a static website, but incorporated all the elements of the social layer that was discussed above
  • - that Uncle Matthew and the key church stakeholders liked it!
  • - that each design incorporated a functional piece of JavaScript that I’d seen elsewhere, that I didn’t know how it worked, but I’d teach myself to build it

With all things considered and thought out, I’m glad to say that after nearly three weeks, after plenty of deliberation and revision, we now have a design that all parties are happy with and are now currently working at developing into a functional website!

The Shared Elements:

  • - Each site has its own color palette
  • - Each site has a header, a footer and a navigation that is exactly the same but identifiable through colour and logo.
  • - Each site links to each other
  • - Each site has vital elements in familiar positions i.e. quick links and social media icons
  • - Each site then has a content area, which can be used to display the specific site content individually using a design that is unique and stands out from the other two.

Not wanting to give too much away at this point, I’ve added a screenshot of the three sites sitting side by side - roll over the image below to see the colour version:

As always, please send me any feedback, opinion or comment either on the comments below or by email at


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