Forced to Create a Bad Website

It is frustrating to create what you consider to be a great prototype or mock-up for your church’s website, only to have it completely changed by your approval authorities. My advice to you is to first not take it personally. Web teams around the world, both in churches and Fortune 500 businesses need to adjust their designs to suit their stakeholders. Second, realize there are preventative measures you can take to help mitigate these situations. This article will discuss why these conditions occur, and the best ways I have in thwarting them.

There are some of the many reasons why people ask you to build what you consider a bad website:

Legal Restrictions

When dealing with denominational churches, you may have restrictions and regulations as to what you can post and say on your website. Unfortunately you may have no say in the matter and have little to no recourse. This may put a halt to your re-branding efforts, or desire to create a new tagline for your church. Yet if you cannot create a new image for your church, you may have some wiggle room with a single ministry. Use something like a microsite to keep it connected but allow you to try different designs and messages.

Politics

Cramming every ministry on your website is not an option, and your various ministry leaders would probably agree with you. They understand you can only include the most important things, like their ministry. These are often battles you cannot win, and have to look for strong leadership from your pastor and committee leadership.

Personal Agendas

Sometimes there is no other reason for discourse than “I don’t like it”. This is where you can pull out devices I had mentioned in earlier articles. Tools such as personas and content strategy documents can be paired to see what exists on a page and why that audience should care about it. It will shift focus away from that one obstinate person’s desires and what you website visitors will want to see.

A web team’s defense toolbox relies on information, and I have two methods of delivery. For added effect, do these together to first educate your team, and then put that knowledge into practice.

Education

Put your expertise to work and create some training material. These should be a set of reference materials along with some interactive lectures. Use videos from industry leaders (I recommend UIE’s All You Can Learn library) and recordings from web conferences to back up your opinions. It is one thing if you say it, but when a practitioner from a well-respected company repeats it, the message sticks.

Workshops

When a lecture seems too formal or one-way; a workshop may be the trick. Come armed with some clear objectives you wish to solve, a dry erase board, and a lot of sticky notes. Work through the problem by focusing the questions on the website visitors and their concerns, vocabularies, and obstacles. Sketch out ideas on your whiteboard, capture artifacts on sticky notes, group topics and problems to see the biggest areas of concern, and by all means keep a positive attitude. When the dust settles, summarize the findings and start creating a roadmap of how you will obtain the goals your team helped you figure out.

Action Item

First, do not despair if you have a website that you are not proud of and do not agree with. I have made many sites with design decisions that still make me cringe. Take that cringe and turn it into determination that you will create something amazing next time if you help guide the decisions through education and collaboration. Utilize resources such as internal documents and trusted external education sources to bolster credibility. Conduct workshops and get everyone marching to the same beat, and in no time your website will perform like a well oiled machine!

Image courtesy of Torli Roberts

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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.

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.