A year ago, I linked to an article that's still a great, relevant read today. In essence, it defines web sites being about communication served by IT. It's still a great read. Here's how it plays out in our environment.
Less clutter. Less noise. More clarity. That sums up our communication strategy. In this era of information overload – and life at light-speed – we strive to provide an escape hatch. As an extension of our communication strategy, we've designed our site simply to answer two questions:
1. Is this a fit for me?
2. If so, what is my next step?
What you won’t find on the site is the snack menu for the toddler room. Because people just need to know when that room is staffed and ready for their child. And, they don’t need a page on the philosophy of our men's ministry. But, a story of life-change from other men who attend GCC.
What you will find:
• This Week – what’s happening in our 6 main venues (weekend, mid-week, children, middle school, high school and college)
• Events – what’s coming up for everyone (you can sort by men, women, students, families or adults only)
• Volunteer – the places you can roll up your sleeves and get involved.
• Groups – gatherings that create environments to meet others at GCC.
And, once you’re online…we place a high importance on flow; allowing people to get to what they want when they want it with minimal road blocks. That’s why we try to keep things no more than two clicks away and minimize scrolling. People don’t need more information, they need clear paths to the facts so they can make a decision. And, they need a channel to connections with resources or each other without waiting for a middle man. We don’t like to wait, neither do you and neither do our site surfers.
What about when the facts just aren’t enough and you need something more? Well, we’ve thought of that, too. We recognize no amount of cleverly crafted words or still photographs can do an experience justice, but media is as close as you can get without actually being there. The biggest investment we’ve made and continue to make in our web site is our media player. Not only is it a multi-dimensional way to get a slice of an experience, it has become the most effective tool people in our church use to invite their friends and help share stories of life change. We get that.
Speaking of flow… There is no one size fits all approach to a person’s journey…online or off…and, we get that, too. We provide multiple entry points to the same information and let people choose which way they want to get there. Think of how people experience and navigate in a department store...it’s much like that on the Web. We structure our online information using the same approach. I don’t drive down Grape Road looking for signs that say “Size 8 Adidas Workout Pants”. I see the sign for Kohl’s, go in and look for the women’s department, look for the athletic wear, see the Adidas sign and then I go to the rack and look for my size. Then, I might try it on, depending on my previous experiences. The next time I come to that store, I might be looking for size 1 boys tennis shoes and my search path will look different, but the department chunks and isles are the same. I know the direction to head. And, if I stop to ask someone in the housewares’s section about kids’ shoes, they know where to point me even if they don’t know the inventory of that department. That’s how GCC’s web site works.
Internally, individual ministries aren’t trying to figure out how to promote their ministries and they aren’t competing with each other in a carnival communication style trying to out-yell or out-explain. We don’t have to know all the answers and everything that’s going on at the church outside our own ministry, but we all know where to go and look. We are unified by a by bigger steps that transcends of specific or departments. You can find everything you need to find in one of four places (home page, events, volunteer or group). We have more time to focus on creating experiences and relationships in our teams and events, not by creating more content.
Externally, guests experience a place where everyone speaks with the same voice and there is a consistent environment across departments and mediums. They are not bombarded or burdened with the chore of searching through a jungle of competing, screaming messages. And, they’re not surprised by conflicting personalities between pages. There are no dead-ends or ramblings to frustrate a surfer…only slices of experiences and clear paths to next steps where the power of drilling down, self-selection and sorting is left to the unique needs of the individual.