secret shopping the sites #3: straightforward isn’t bad

As I continue my series looking at college ministries’ web sites, I landed upon a church-based college ministry in the Southeast. Here’s what I picked up on:

Straightforward isn’t bad at all. With a church-based ministry, web presence is affected by the big wild card of the overall church’s practices and platforms. Many college ministers are at the mercy of whatever their church has in place. But in the case of this particular ministry, that doesn’t seem so bad – the page is “clean” and very straightforward. While part of me does wish they had a big button linking me to a cool outside site, that may not be allowed – or as with many college ministries, it may not be worth this ministry’s time/effort/money.

So instead, I get a very clear description of the ministry that’s both inviting and comprehensive: I learn (in one paragraph) the mission, ages, main meetings, and who to contact. Then a few exciting-looking events. (And the events are current, so that’s a plus.)

Will visitors find what you want them to? At first, I thought the page was very simple, until I noticed some links to additional pages off to the side. That’s one difficulty using a “shell” designed by someone else – they may not make navigation as easy for your visitors as you’d like. There are ways to fix this – like creating great big “buttons” or other links in the middle of the page. It’s more important that people find what you intend for them to find, than that everything stays perfectly un-messy.

Unlike many web sites, many visitors to a campus ministry web site aren’t looking for particular things (especially not in the summer). Instead, they want to learn what you want to tell them. So is it quite clear what you hope to tell them?

Populated (and non-populated) pages. On one of those page links, I found a college ministry podcast, with new listings all the way up through May. That’s pretty cool. On the other hand, a media page link brought be to an empty page. Less cool. No reason to have a link if it’s not active; if you’re hoping to fill it in the future, that’s great – you can still remove the link for the moment.

Other cool additions. A campus map (of the church, in this case) to help visitors find the ministry. A Google map of where small groups meet. Those are both pretty simple, awesome ways to make things easy for your guests.

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