Tuesday, January 09, 2007

About the new UMC Web site

The United Methodist Church's denomination web site is undergoing some significant changes. Unfortunately, the phase-in of those changes is not as smooth as I'd like to see. There are many disconnects, pages with a lot of "This feature is still under development" pop-up balloons, and broken links.

I was always taught to never use "under construction" type web pages. Make the development on a development server, then go public all at once. The current UMC method may be the result of a desire for feedback while development proceeds, which might also mean that the denomination is still unsure of what the final outcome will be. But maybe this method will get the massive changes done faster.

The new web site has a fresh new look, more color, more animation (for those that like that sort of thing), and either access to lots more information or else links that make the old information easier to find. Of course I do cringe at the heavy use of green in the navigation menus. My web development training has been to try to avoid red and green colors due to people with the most common form of color blindness.

The "Pastor: Overview" page has text overlap problems (at least in IE7) in the right-side "Related information for" box. But you can tell the type information that will eventually be there.

A few new features:
  • A horizontal menu and a horizontal submenu that changes with the top menu item selected. Some studies show that people prefer left-side vertical menus, but this one works, though it takes a bit of getting used to.
  • The home page has a link to a new "Methopedia".
  • Role-based (some say "personality" or "profile") sections of links, in Leader Resources, for example. Four common role-related links appear at the right side of the main horizontal menu: Pray, Give, Serve, Connect, Lead.
  • Added syndication capability for webmasters
  • Personal Profile pages, "similar to MySpace, FaceBook, and similar social networks", the site says. Sure, go ahead and add a nice sharp photo of yourself and some juicy personal information that an identity thief would love to get his grubby little hands on. Parents need to keep track of this area if their kids use it.
  • "Our World" has a collection of feature "stories of faith".
  • Most main menu index pages have a nice, medium size color photo. The overall page design is attractive.

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