Church Website Critique Guidelines

When it comes time to review pending website updates, things can get out of hand quickly. Feelings can get hurt, broad sweeping statements can be made, and everyone turns into a veteran website designer. With these easy website critique guidelines, turn awkward meetings into productive feedback sessions you will actually look forward to.

The first obstacle to making this a fun critique session is that weight you feel sitting on your chest. Yes, that thing called an ego needs to get checked at the door. If you designed the website, be ready to have your mistakes pointed out. If you are the church leader, be prepared for someone to overrule your veto of that color you "just don't like". Everyone still has a vote, but you need to frame your question and critiques correctly.

What were the objectives?

Establish what the objective and scope is before word one is said. Often it is not within a project's scope to rework an entire page, let alone an entire site. Perhaps the only thing that was to be looked at was the fonts. If this is the case, try to ignore the other things you may not like.

How did you accomplish them?

There are several ways to accomplish an objective. From making something more prominent, to tucking away less important information, to allowing your eye to move over the content more easily; there are objectives for each project. It is up to the designer to explain what the problem is, how they approached it, and the reasoning behind the solution. Often when you talk through a problem, the designer themselves may realize a mistake before anyone in the room has the chance to talk. Allowing the designer to explain this sets the tone of the critique and allows people to focus on the problem, not their own personal agendas.

How effective were you?

After the objectives were stated and the designer explains why they did what they did; the rest of the team has a chance to sit back and evaluate the solution. The suggestions that follow should be framed with an additional piece of the puzzle; the user persona impacted by this decision. Instead of saying "I think this should look more modern and professional", the feedback is framed "Our target demographic is 50-something executives that value a clean professional look. Not the 20-something 'hipster' feeling this design gives off". If you truly know your audience, then suggesting these changes becomes less about your preferences and what your users really want.

I hope you can see that by following these website critique guidelines, you can have sessions that are enjoyable for both the person making the site and the key stakeholders in your church. Your stakeholders, such as your pastor, know the audiences they are trying to reach every day. You should have a good handle on how to craft a good website. By educating each other you grow professionally and craft an even better websites.

Action Item

After you created your personas, schedule a critique session when a design is ready for your next website project. Lay out the ground rules, and gently correct any line of reasoning not framed in the user's perspective. Get focused, get feedback, and get that new project ready for launch!

Note: This article was inspired by UIE's Podcast on building concesus in critiques.

Photo courtesy of Lynne Lancaster

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.