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    Best Practices! - Entries tagged "User Experience (UX)"

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    MonMondayMayMay6th2013 Screen Resolutions Visiting Church Websites
    byDavid Pohlmeier Tagged User Experience (UX) 0 comments Add comment
    We talk a lot about responsive websites here at iMinistries. The short explanation of a responsive website states that the website shall scale in size to fit the size of the particular device it's being viewed on. It's interesting to note that there are a lot of different screen sizes. I checked our Google Analytics account and we've maxed out at 5,000 as the amount of different screen resolutions that have viewed the websites on our server. That covers just one year of statistics and almost 13 million pageviews.

    As a visual point of reference, here is an illustration of the top twenty screen resolutions visiting church websites on our server in the past year.



    The average screen size, based on the top twenty resolutions, is 1,214 x 886. 

    Over this period of time, the top ten screen sizes are as follows:
    1. 1280x800
    2. 1366x768
    3. 320x480
    4. 1440x900
    5. 1024x768 
    6. 768x1024
    7. 1920x1080
    8. 1280x1024
    9. 1680x1050
    10. 1600x900
    Seeing this makes for a compelling argument for the need to have a responsive church website. Number three on the list is the iPhone. There are so many devices and screen sizes available to consumers. It has been speculated that by 2014, more internet traffic will come from mobile devices instead of  traditional personal computers (source).

    What are you doing to prepare for this?

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    ThuThursdayMarMarch21st2013 5 Truths About Giving and What it Means for Your Church Website

    The following statements were originally posted in the article "6 Truths Behind Why People Give." I thought it was worth reposting as some are useful in the thought process of setting up online giving for a church website.

    I'll Give You All I Can...

    1. Giving is mostly emotional and irrational.
    The right brain tends to rule the left in giving, and people donate out of feeling more than thinking.  In fact, if you get people to stop and think, they tend to give less.

    2. Giving is personal.
    The closer we feel to a cause or the person advocating that cause, the more likely we are to give.  We give more when we feel we’re helping another person to whom we can relate – or when a cause is made so highly tangible we’re sure we have the chance to make a real difference.

    3. It’s really hard to change #1 or #2.
    If your job is to raise money, just roll with these truths.  As researcher Daniel Oppenheimer told me: “Crafting solicitations that appeal to human psychology can feel manipulative at times, which is why it’s important to remember people really do want to give.  They like giving; it makes them happy; it provides meaning.  When we help people give, we’re not just assisting charities and the causes that receive the money—we’re also helping the donors.”

    4. Giving makes people happy.
    Researcher Michal Ann Strahilevitz puts it this way:  “Most fundraisers probably don’t think of themselves in the business of selling happiness to donors, but that is ... their job.”  Giving makes you happy, and when you’re happy you give more, which makes you happier, which makes you give more. 

    5. Giving is a social act.
    Since we’re all social creatures who are well-versed in peer pressure, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our giving is heavily influenced by what we perceive other people to be donating.  We’re all about keeping up with the Joneses even when it comes to philanthropy.


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    MonMondayJulJuly30th2012 Summer Reading List for People Who Make Church Websites

    Summer is winding down, but it's not too late to add a few books to your reading list. If you build, maintain, or just plain love church websites, crack open these three books while you're on the beach, and use your vacation to fill up your inspiration-o-meter.


    Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

    Subtitled "A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability," Krug sheds light on how website visitors think (or don't think) and how you can help them navigate your site without getting lost or frustrated. This book is one of our favorites and has inspired us to re-think how our websites, home pages, and online forms should look and work.


    The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

    In this page-turner, Duhigg helps explain why people "Do What we Do In Life and in Business" by looking at the process of habit formulation. By understanding this process, marketers and website builders have learned how get people to buy their products and design intuitive navigation for their websites. If you've ever wanted to break a bad habit, start a new one, or help others do the same, this book is fascinating.


     

    Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content
    by Colleen Jones

    We've been reading Jones's excellent content-focus blog, Content Science, for some time now, so we've added her latest book to our summer reading list. In this book, Jones explains "the key principles of influence and how to apply them to web content ... that attracts people and engages them for the long haul." We can't wait to dig into this one.


    What About Your Reading List?

    What are your favorite books from this summer? Leave them in the comments.

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    WedWednesdayJunJune13th2012 Introducing Multi-Campus Support iMinistries is pleased to announce our powerful new multi-campus church website feature. Churches or organizations with multiple locations can now clearly display content from each campus on one single website. Users visting the website can choose what information they want to see based on the selected campus. Using a feature like this creates a perceived sense of unity for a church. After all, it is one church body, simply worshipping and ministering in different locations.



    Why is this important to Visitors?

    Site visitors know that they go to a multi campus church, but they care most about the campus they attend. Weeding through information that isn't pertinent to them can be a hassle. With this new feature, you give website visitors the ability to set their campus once and display everything based on that selection, nothing more.

    Selecting a campus preference sorts:
    • News
    • Blogs
    • Events
    • Ministries
    • Staff (Coming Soon) Implemented
    • Volunteer Opportunities (Coming Soon) Implemented

    Why is this important to Administrators?

    It makes website administration faster. Admins no longer have to create ministries, news and event items or volunteer opportunities, etc. on each campus website. Create it once, select the applicable campus(es) and your done. 

    Why is this important to your bottom line?

    We've made it affordable and flexible. If you hosted 2 Enterprise plan (10+ Administrators) websites on our Church Website CMS, we just saved you $1,188 per year! This will make any Executive or Financial Pastor very happy.

    Be sure to contact us if you are interested in setting this up on your website. View the pricing details.

    See it in Action

    Harvest Bible Chapel and it's seven campuses located in Chicago, Illinois and it's suburbs uses the multi-campus feature. Take a peek at some screenshots below or visit their website to see for yourself how it works.


    The campus selector



    Our new ministry sorting feature filters by campus



    News (on the left) and events sort by campus preference


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    MonMondayJunJune4th2012 Should I Have a Responsive Church Website? These days, websites are being viewed on a myriad of device types. Besides computers and laptops, your website is being viewed often on tablets and mobile devices. In just the last six months, our analytics reveal that the amount of views has grown by leaps and bounds.
    • From Oct 28, 2011 to Nov 28, 2011 there were 29,580 visits via mobile devices.
    • From Apr 28, 2012 to May 28, 2012 there were 44,740 visits via mobile devices.
    That represents a 51% increase in the amount of visitors.

    During this time, the top ten devices used were:

    1. Apple iPhone
    2. Apple iPad
    3. Apple iPod Touch
    4. SonyEricsson LT15i Xperia Arc
    5. HTC EVO 4G
      6. Samsung SC-02B GALAXY S
    7. Motorola DroidX
    8. HTC ADR6300 Incredible
    9. HTC ADR6350 Droid Incredible 2
    10. HTC ADR6400L Thunderbolt 4G

    Some interesting observations:

    • A Android powered tablet device doesn't make the list until #22
    • A Blackberry lands at #33 for the first time
    • The Barnes and Noble Nook makes the list at #78
    • The Amazon Kindle lands at #101
    Clearly, Apple is the winner in the mobile and tablet department accounting for the first three most popular devices on the list. Over six months the iPhone accounted for 93,772 visits while the first non-Apple device, the SonyEricsson LT15i Xpreria Arc, only accounted for 8,170 visits. A massive 1,147% increase! Even the iPod Touch accounts for more traffic than any other device.

    What does this mean for your church website?

    Simply put, don't lose focus on the thousands of internet browsers who are viewing your website on tablets and mobile devices. The easiest way to ensure the best experience for all users is to use a responsive layout for your design. According to Smashing Magazine, a well regarded website and development blog:

    Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. In other words, the website should have the technology to automatically respond to the user’s preferences. This would eliminate the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.

    In simpler terms, the website looks good no matter what ...
    • device is being used
    • screen size is being viewed
    • web browser is being used
    • operating system is being used


    Image via John Polacek

    It should do all of this automatically based on the user. It doesn't matter what gadget is currently on the market or what will be coming out soon. The website will just work and it will look good.

    If you are interested in seeing this in action, check out the website jericho.iministries.org on your computer in a normal web browser. Then, either view it on your phone or tablet or visit this website to see a (rough) preview of what it will look like on various devices.

    Here at iMinistries we offer many of our new(er) free church website templates as responsive. We can also be hired to implement a custom responsive church website design that's integrated with our CMS. Sign up for a free trial below or contact us to learn more.

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    MonMondayMayMay21st2012 Visually Filter Your Ministries

    Ministries are a driving force in your church. They communicate many things to many people. Unfortunately, the message of a ministry can get lost.

    You want to connect with men, women, singles, couples, young people and old. You also want to connect with people to provide support, freedom, outreach to your community, missions, and more. Why not make them as vibrant on your website as they are in real life?

    Formerly, your ministries page was an over looked page on your website. It was simply a list of your ministries. This was not your fault and we will take the hit. We admit that it was unattractive and didn't provide any real value to a website visitor. That is no longer the case. We are happy to introduce to you the brand new Ministries page.


    We are very proud of this new feature. It gives a very clear way to visualize everything that is going on at your church as well as some amazing interactivity to the person who is checking out or wanting to get more connected with your church. They can intuitively filter based on settings that are under your control.

    Don't waste any time and see for your self by either watching the video below or interacting with it yourself by going to one of our demonstration websites.


    What do you think? We welcome your feedback so post a comment below.
     
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    MonMondayMayMay14th2012 Above the Fold - Should I Worry About It?

    As a web designer there are a few "suggestions" that clients throw at me all the time.

    • Can you make my logo bigger?
    • Can we have only pictures and no text?
    • Can we have a flash website?
    • Can you be sure to keep everything "above the fold?"

    In this post, I'd like to address the concept of above the fold.

    The term comes from back in the days of printed newspapers. The best photographs and most attention grabbing headlines were placed above the newspaper fold to entice buyers to purchase that particular issue. There was literally no way to see what was on the bottom half unless you made the purchase, costing you money.

    For years now, the term above the fold has been used to represent the information that is placed above 600px on a website. According to the people who use this term, users aren't willing to scroll on a webpage. The fact of the matter is that this does not cost the website visitor anything other than a quick flick of the finger on the scroll wheel. It's free, unlike a newspaper. There is no reason someone won't look below the fold unless you have a poorly designed website.

    Take a second and read this quick post called "Life Below 600px" by Paddy Donnelley. I subscribe to the concept of the build up. Simply put, provide information and graphics that a website user will want to see. Then entice them to scroll down and want to see more by even more great graphics and written content. Maybe the best example you can find out there on the internet is the website for Charity Water. I want to scroll on just about every page on this website. The data is presented so well. There is breathing room around everything and pages have important information 3000px down. I saw it though.

    We analyze the statistics and how our iMinistries website is interacted with on a regular basis. We've also noticed on all of our pages, users are willing to scroll. With the above the fold concept you'd think that most of the clicks to our "Free Trial" or "Pricing" button would happen only at the top of this page. Clearly, we are getting many clicks all the way at the bottom. We believe this is because we've presented the information on this page in a simple, clean  visual way and have provided content that our website visitors want to see.



    On a Church Website, what do you think should be above the fold?

    • Important calls to action
    • Good graphics or pictures
    • The main website navigation
    • Some well written, SEO friendly text
    Spend some time on good copy and good graphics and persuade users to scroll and they will. A successful church website needs both of those to encourage interaction.

    If you'd like to read up on what some industry and research experts have to say, I'd encourage you to check out these articles.
    1. Blasting the Myth of the Fold
    2. The Myth of the Fold: Evidence from User Testing
    3. Utilizing the Cut-off Look to Encourage Users to Scroll

    And finally, check out this article written in 1997! It even suggests that users are willing to scroll.



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    WedWednesdayAprApril25th2012 Improved Page Toolbar Last year we introduced the page administration toolbar at the top of the screen when you are logged in and editing your website. This useful addition to our church CMS sped up page editing and creation for site administrators. With our latest system release, we've made some major improvements to this valuable tool.

    Out with the old



    In with the new



    The first and most obvious improvement is the design. We've streamlined the look and designed it to be more visual. We've also taken out the color so that it blends into the web browser so your focus can remain on the content of the webpage.

    Another improvement we made was the ability to access the full list of existing content with ease. This new feature changes dynamically based on the type of page content you are editing (News, Blogs, etc.). For example, if you're editing an Event, you will now see an additional button called View Events. This will bring you to the Event Administration page within the CMS.



    Another reason for the update was to help start moving some of our editing tools in a more touch-screen-friendly direction. While most tablet devices are for consumption, we do know that a few users create content with them. These buttons are bigger, making it easier to tap, and should help facilitate the use of them on these smaller-screened devices.

    This change was brought upon by our experience editing various websites and comments made by our users. We always welcome suggestions and comment from our users. Please share with us your thoughts.

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    MonMondayAprApril9th2012 Gain User Support by Meeting These 4 Common Needs

    The folks at nonprofitmarketingblog.com often have incredible insights into the minds of the people who support non-profits. Many times, these insights are relatable for people who build websites -- especially church websites.

    All people have common needs and patterns of behavior. We can use these needs and behaviors to help gain their support, loyalty, and website visits. Meet these needs, and they will return again and again. Here are four common desires people have and how to satisfy them through your church website.


    TO BE SEEN AND HEARD


    People have always desired to stand out from the crowd, and most marketing efforts today pander to the idea that everyone is unique and special. No one wants to be a faceless number, now more than ever. So don't make them feel that way when they're on your website.

    Make it easy for people to contact you. And when they do, contact them back IMMEDIATELY. Listen to their feedback, too. If no one visits or likes something on your website, change it, even if it's your pet project.

    "Not listening is the root of most problems, personal and professional."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO BE CONNECTED TO SOMEONE/SOMETHING


    More than just being seen and heard, people want to feel like they are contributing to a cause. Be creative in the way in which you interact with your website visitors. Facebook and blogs are easy ways to create a dialogue with people, but how can you get people to join your movement? Why not tap your church's talented people to make videos, graphics, stories, and other inspiring content?

    "Engage by connecting to what your audience (NOT YOU) wants to hear."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO BE PART OF SOMETHING GREATER THAN THEMSELVES


    The most important reason to have a website is to share your mission. Why do you exist? What are your goals? How do you achieve them? Explaining your vision is key if you desire others to be inspired into uniting with you.

    "We need to lay out the grand vision of our cause ... That means a hopeful, inspiring message."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO HAVE THE SECURITY OF TRUST


    Don't just write out your mission statement. Anyone can say they do something. Show your ministry at work through compelling stories, videos, and other content. Make regular updates to display a continuous striving to accomplish your vision. When people see you back up your promises, they will trust and support you.

    "Honor the trust others have put in your organization."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    LEARN MORE



    Optimize Your Church Website for How People Think - iMinistries Blog
    What Makes a Healthy Online Presence for Churches? [INFOGRAPHIC] - iMinistries Blog
    What Do 76% of Visitors Want From Your Church Website? - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayJanJanuary23rd2012 Optimize Your Church Website for How People Think
    In their article, "The Psychologist's View of UX," UX Magazine explains the how the working of the human brain effects how we should create websites.

    Below are five facts about how people behave and how we we should take these behaviors in account when creating church websites. 


    1. People Crave Information


    People will always desire more and new knowledge that comes from consuming information. Your church website exists mainly to help quench that thirst, so make sure you provide the information visitors seek. Check which words and phrases people are searching on your website--maybe they can't find this information easily enough.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • "People will often want more information than they can actually process. Having more information makes people feel that they have more choices. Having more choices makes people feel in control. Feeling in control makes people feel they will survive better."
    • "People need feedback. The computer doesn't need to tell the human that it is loading the file. The human needs to know what is going on."

    Read it: 4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page


    2. People Don't Want to Work or Think More Than They Have To


    UX Magazine explains, "People will do the least amount of work possible to get a task done." This means not overwhelming users with more "stuff"--links, banners, graphics, text--than necessary. Find out, through analytics and user testing, what the most important information is to users and make it easier to find. Through the same means, find out what is not important and get rid of it.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • "It is better to show people a little bit of information and let them choose if they want more details."
    • "Instead of just describing things, show people an example."
    • "Only provide the features that people really need. Don't rely on your opinion of what you think they need; do user research to actually find out. Giving people more than they need just clutters up the experience."
    • "Provide defaults. Defaults let people do less work to get the job done."

    Read it: Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full)


    3. People Have Limitations


    Even though people often crave more information than they can process (see #1), their brains do have limits. Making your content readable and eliminating unnecessary content will fill visitors with the right information instead of the useless.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • "People can only look at so much information or read so much text on a screen without losing interest. Only provide the information that's needed at the moment."
    • "Make the information easy to scan."
    • "People can't multi-task. The research is very clear on this, so don't expect them to."
    • "People prefer short line lengths, but they read better with longer ones! It's a conundrum, so decide whether preference or performance is more important in your case, but know that people are going to ask for things that actually aren't best for them."

    Read it: 3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience


    4. People Make Mistakes


    None of us are perfect. This is what makes the good news of the gospel so good! Translate that to your church website's usability by knowing that your visitors will ultimately get lost, click on a link that goes a different place then they thought, or find something hard to understand.

    Try to anticipate these future errors by making a list of all the tasks a visitor might try to complete on your website--are they easy to complete? If not, try to find a way to prevent these mistakes.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • Preventing errors from occurring is always better than helping people correct them once they occur. The best error message is no message at all.
    • If a task is error-prone, break it up into smaller chunks.
    • If the user makes and error and you can correct it, then do so and show what you did.
    • Whoever is designing the UX makes errors too, so make sure that there is time and energy for iteration, user feedback, and testing.

    Read it: 10 Mistakes Not to Make on Your Church Website


    5. People are Social


    UX Magazine explains that, "People will always try to use technology to be social. This has been true for thousands of years." You can cater to this desire by creating content that is sharable between groups of people. Videos, blogs, interesting stories, and podcasts are all ways to spark the social fire in your website visitors.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine:

    • If you do a favor for me then I will feel indebted to give you a favor back (reciprocity). Research shows that if you want people to fill out a form, give them something they want and then ask for them to fill out the form, not vice versa.
    • When you watch someone do something, the same parts in your brain light up as though you were doing it yourself (called mirror neurons). We are programmed with our biology to imitate. If you want people to do something then show someone else doing it.
    • You can only have strong ties to 150 people. Strong ties are defined as ties that with people you are in close physical proximity to. But weak ties can be in the thousands and are very influential (à la Facebook).

    Read it: 4 Reasons Your Church Website Should Tell Your Story
    5 Reasons Why Your Church Website Should Have a Blog

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    MonMondayOctOctober31st2011 4 Steps to Treating (Not Tricking) Your Church Website Visitors This month, millions of kids across the U.S. will don superhero, princess, and pirate costumes in exchange for bagfuls of candy from strangers. When they ask "trick-or-treat?" from neighborhood porches or similar church-hosted celebrations, the question is rhetorical--there better a treat on its way, or its on to the next place.

    Your church website visitors are no different than those costumed children--give them what they came for, or they're moving on.

    Whether your preparing for hundreds of mask-wearing toddlers to visit your home expecting candy, or hundreds of website visitors expecting information, the concepts are the same. Here are four ways to leave your church website visitors with an "I-just-got-chocolate" smile on their face.

    1. Welcome them to your doorstep.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Turn your porch light on, open your door, and have a seat with a giant bowl of candy on your lap.

    On your website

    Ensure your visitors know they came to the right place by displaying your logo and name in the upper part of your home page. Use clean design and your brand look-and-feel to give a pleasing first impression.

    2. Don't scare them away.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Some spooky decor is acceptable, but don't go overboard. Jumping out of the fake coffin may be too much for some people.

    On your website

    Take it easy on the rotating banners and ads. Limit yourself to a handful of advertisements per banner, and make a clear call to action for each. Too many moving parts will overwhelm your visitor.

    Use simple navigation at the top of your home page to make it easy for users to know where to go next. Displaying news, events, your contact information, and a search bar will help your visitor find what they're looking for faster.

    3. Give out quality goodies.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Everyone knows which house gives out pennies and which gives out full-size candy bars. They all go to the candy bar house.

    On your website

    People come to your church website for compelling content and useful information. Be creative in how you deliver. Videos, interactive blogs, live sermon feeds, and podcasts are all great ways to get repeat website visitors.

    4. Evaluate steps 1-3, improve, repeat.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Ask yourself some questions, and let the answers determine your future actions ...

    Which candy was a hit, which wasn't?  Buy more of the hit, none of the dud.
    How can I get more traffic?  Coffee for the parents?
    Were younger kids too afraid of the decor?  Ditch it in favor of more visitors.

    On your website

    Ask yourself some questions, and let the answers (supported by user testing and analytics)
    determine your future actions ...

    Which content was a hit, which wasn't? Create more of the hit, get rid of the dud.
    What are visitors searching for? Does navigation make sense for the user?
    How can I lower my bounce rate? Simplify home page with less ads and banners.

    Your feedback

    Do you have any church website horror stories? Where you ever tricked instead of treated? Share your comments below.

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    MonMondayOctOctober17th2011 4 Free Tools to Test Your Church Website's Usability As the administrator of your church website, you are not the best evaluator of its usability. You live and breathe the website every day. You know exactly what information each page contains, where they live on the site, and the fastest way to get there. Since you know so much about your site, you need real users and fresh eyes to tell you if your user experience is positive or negative.

    Here are four free and easy-to-implement tools that will give you insights on your website's user experience from real, unbiased sources (actual website visitors).

    1. SeeVolution



    What it does
    Heat maps show where visitors click and scroll; provides basic pageview analytics

    What you get

    • Tool use for up to 200 users on one domain
    • 7 days of data
    How it's helpful
    You can use the click heat maps to see where people are clicking (or not clicking), giving you insight on what's getting user attention and what needs help. Scroll heat maps show you if your users are finding the information you put below the fold and if you should move the important info up. Basic pageview statistics give you a peak at traffic without the complexity of Google Analytics. Visit SeeVolution.com >

    2. FiveSecondTest



    What it does
    Upload images of your web pages and ask questions about them to users from FST's database or the general public

    What you get for free
    • Public tests
    • No priority as to how they're assigned to testers
    • Create tests to get more tests
    How it's helpful
    Users see a web page for 5 seconds and then answer questions about first impressions, design, and trustworthiness. These tests are a good way to gauge your home or landing pages' effectiveness at wowing a first-time visitor. Visit FiveSecondTest.com >

    3.  Userfly



    What it does
    Set up tasks for users to complete on your website and then watch recordings of the tests

    What you get for free
    • 10 screen capture recordings per month
    • Recordings stored for 30 days
    • You have to recruit testers, however
    How it's helpful
    Allows you to see if your website is easy to navigate, use, and find information from real users. Gives you an easy way to set up user testing without buying screen capture software or paying a company to
    hold testing for you. Visit Userfly.com >

    4. Polldaddy



    What it does
    Lets you create polls and surveys to ask your website visitors; provides an embeddable user ratings system for you website's blogs, videos, and other content

    What you get for free
    • 200 survey responses per month
    • 10 questions per survey
    • basic reports
    • surveys contain Polldaddy links
    How it's helpful
    You can get valuable user feedback about your website from surveys that you link to or pop-up from your site. Ask about the helpfulness of your content is, the relevance of your information, and ease of your navigation. The ratings system provided allows visitors to tell you how much they like your content by giving it five stars, or one stars--giving you immediate feedback on if you're providing what your users
    want and like. Visit Polldaddy.com >

    They're Free ... so use them!

    Now that you have the tools at hand, you have no excuses not to have a website with a great user experience. How do you plan on using these tools?

    Learn More About Improving Your User Experience

    4 Questions to Improve Your Church Website's Usability - iMinistries Blog
    6 Disciplines For Improving Church Website UX - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayOctOctober3rd2011 4 Questions to Improve Your Church Website's Usability

    Want to improve your church website's user experience (UX) and don't know where to begin? Start with by asking yourself these four questions.

    1. "Is There Too Much Stuff?"

    "It's all about removing the unnecessary."
    - Jonathan Ive, Senior VP of Industrial Design at Apple

    We've already talked about how removing superfluous features and content can make it easier for your visitors to find what they're looking for. Help your users out by making the most-asked-for information front-and-center. You don't want your website to end up looking like the stop sign in the video below.



    2. "Do Users Have To Think?"

    This step, taken from Steve Krug's UX opus, Don't Make Me Think, calls you to help make the decisions users have to make as easy as possible. It only takes seconds of indecision before users become frustrated, so don't press you luck by trying to be cute with "creative" menu titles, for example.

    Think like your user would think when creating your website navigation. Where would Average Joe look for your doctrinal statement? What would Jane Doe name your Contact page?

    3. "Are My Users Happy?"

    “Don’t lose sight of user delight.”
    Mark Pincus, founder of Zynga

    Just because your website is primarily a storehouse of information doesn't mean you can't seek to make your users joyfully satisfied. Just making it easy to find the information they want can make your users pleased, but posting content that's a step above the usual will get them excited and keep them wanting more.

    Why not try ...
    • Posting video announcements instead of your weekly bulletin
    • Adding web-only content from your pastor or church leaders
    • Creating blog posts that ask engaging questions and encourage comments
    • Showing your weekly service online

    4. "Do I Make a Good First Impression?"

    "We’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites."
    - Dr. Brent Coker, University of Melbourne

    In a new University of Melbourne study, Dr. Brent Coker found that users' trust in a website depends heavily on its visual appeal. This appeal starts with your home page (or other landing pages, if you have them). An attractive church website home page is clean, colorful, organized intuitively, and expresses what your church stands for.


    Learn more about UX

    Five Low-Hanging UX Tips - UX Magazine
    6 Disciplines For Improving Church Website UX - iMinistries Blog
    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondaySepSeptember26th2011 6 Disciplines For Improving Church Website UX After years of testing, evaluating, and surveying, the customer experience experts at Forrester Research, Inc. have identified the 40 key practices organizations should follow to reach the customer experience apex. These practices all fall into six key disciplines. Here are the User Experience (UX) disciplines you can perfect to ensure your church website users have a positive experience.

    1. User Understanding

    It is impossible to please your user if you don't know who they are and what they want. Only after knowing more about your visitors can you hope to make them happy. Your church website visitors are most likely a reflection of who visits your physical ministry.
    • In Practice
      If your ministry members are voracious readers, start writing a blog with "inside information" on what your ministry is up to. If they skew more young and tech-savvy, post some videos and integrate your social media feeds to keep them connected.

    2. Measurement

    There are several ways to find out if people are happy with your website. Analytics can show you how long people stay on your website, which pages they like, and which ones they don't care so much about. User surveys and tests can give you insight on your website's strengths and weaknesses. Successful organizations get feedback from their customers and use it to make changes.
    • In Practice
      Set up a simple user test in your church lobby and grab some volunteers on Sunday morning. Give them a few tasks to complete on your website, then record the process. Was it easy or difficult? Did they get frustrated or give up? Fix the issues that several people came across.

    3. Governance

    Organizing your website maintenance responsibilities will help you ensure that your website meets your users' needs. Having your ministry leaders write their section's content keeps away inaccurate information. Giving your church admin. assistant access to Contact Us form submissions assures that questions will get answered quickly.
    • In practice
      Establish your authority over web content. Create a Web Standards Guide and use it to keep your website's content at a high quality level. Hold regular content audits to make sure content is up-to-date and relevant.

    4. Strategy

    Before you start posting pages or writing content, you have to know what you want to achieve. Look at discipline #1, and determine what your users want and how you're going to give it to them. Putting a clear web strategy into place will keep you (and your partners in ministry) from posting anything and everything on your website.
    • In Practice
      Write down your ministry's goals and distinctives. How will your website meet these goals? Formulate your content strategy and only post content that follows it.

    5. Design

    After your web strategy is in place, you'll need to figure out how your website's design can help you reach your goals. Make sure that your church's brand (logo, color scheme, key phrases or ideas) is firmly in place and that the look and feel expresses what you want it to.
    • In practice
      Use banners, ads, images, and quicklinks on your home page to direct users to the pages they are most interested in.

    6. Culture

    In order for these disciplines to become habitual, you'll need everyone to buy into a user-centric attitude. Your web team, volunteers, ministry leaders, and even yourself will only practice these six disciplines if "user first" is your true culture.
    • In practice
      Make these disciplines fun, interactive, and with the user in the forefront of your mind. Have quarterly "Web Summits" where you brainstorm new ideas, re-emphasize your disciplines, hold user testing, and audit content together.



    Learn more about UX

    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    Content Clean-Up: Get Rid of Your Church Website's ROT - iMinistries Blog
    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondaySepSeptember12th2011 Your Church Website's Online Forms: Why Shorter is Better
    I read a lot of blogs and books on how to create great websites, but few have been so immediately impactful to me as Steve Krug's usability tome, Don't Make Me Think. It is often regarded as THE book on making websites easy for users to find what they want. Below is a nugget of truth from this book.
    Your website is almost exclusively a one-way conversation, from you to your website's visitors. Online forms are one way of breaking that pattern and allow you to learn more about who your users are and what they care about--Contact Us forms, newsletter sign-ups, event registrations, donation forms.

    The natural reaction to gaining the small insights forms provide is the desire to maximize the information you gain from site visitors, even asking for more information than you need. The result could be asking for too much, alienating the user, and coming up empty-handed.

    Three downsides to asking for more than you need

    Here's what Don't Make Me Think stated as the three biggest reasons not to ask for more information than you need on your church website's forms.

    1. It tends to keep you from getting real data.

    "As soon as people realize you're asking for more than you need, they feel completely justified in lying to you. I often tell my clients that e-mail addresses are like heroin to marketing people, so addictive that it doesn't strike them as odd that 10% of their subscribers happen to be named 'Barney Rubble.'" - Krug

    2. You get fewer completed forms.

    "The formula is simple: the less data you ask for, the more submissions you'll get. People tend to be in an enormous hurry on the web, and if the form looks even a little bit longer than they expect, many just won't bother." - Krug

    3. It makes you look bad.

    "People who really want your newsletter may just through hoops to get it, but make no mistake, it will diminish their impression of you while they're doing it. On the other hand, if you only ask for the info you need, you've established a relationship with them you can get more data later in subsequent exchanges." - Krug

    Three guidelines for your online forms

    From a user's point-of-view ...

    1. Only make me provide what you need to complete this transaction.

    You only need my name and e-mail address to send me a newsletter. So only ask for that.

    2. Don't ask for a lot of optional information.

    The sight of a lot of empty fields can be overwhelming. The less you ask me to fill in, the more I actually will.

    3. Show me the value of giving you my info.

    Tell me exactly what I'll get by registering. Show me a sample newsletter. Answer your Contact Us inquiries quickly. Explain where your user's donations are going.


    LEARN MORE ABOUT UX

    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAugAugust29th2011 Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full)

    What is a website's Reservoir of Goodwill?

    "I've always found it useful to imagine that every time we enter a website, we start out with a reservoir of goodwill. Each problem we encounter on the site lowers the level of that reservoir."
    - Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
    Your website visitors enter your site wanting something--your service times, your location, to contact you--and each obstacle they encounter decreases their experience satisfaction level.

    Here's an example of a very poor website experience, and how a Reservoir of Goodwill can be depleted.

    I want to visit your church for a service. So I come to your website looking for service times.
    I don't immediately see your service times on your home page. I'm slightly disappointed.
    Now I have to look through your menu for service times. There is no section with that name, so I have to figure out which section it would be in. I click About.
    On your About page, I don't see anything about service times. And the pages within this section only read Staff, History, and Beliefs. Which section is it in? I'm starting to get frustrated.
    I click the Locations link in your menu. This page displays your address and phone number, but I still don't see your service times. My patience is wearing thin.
    While some may have started with performing a search, I leave it as my last resort. "No results" come up when I submit "Service Times" in your search field. I'm almost ready to give up.
    I return to your Locations page, pick up the phone, and dial your number. You've just defeated the purpose of me visiting your website, so when I call to ask your office your service times, I'm going to be grumpy.

    Before your visitor even walks through your physical door, his attitude toward you has already been soured--just from one website visit.

    How to Keep a Full Reservoir of Goodwill

    Here are three easy ways to ensure your Reservoir remains full.

    1. "Keep the main things the main things."

    Create a top 5 list of questions your users to your church website to have answered, then make sure the answers are easy to find. These items should probably be in your top-level menu as their own sections. Adding banners or ads--or just displaying the answers--on your home page can go a long way toward keeping your Reservoir topped-off.

    Your top 5 user questions might look like this:
    • Who are you?
    • Where are you?
    • What time are your services?
    • What do you believe?
    • How can I interact with you?

    2. Write clear content

    Even if your content is easy to find, if it doesn't answer a user's questions, what good is it? Concentrate on making your text readable, simple, and very brief. Too much text on a page and a user might give up before they even try. Or if they do try and end up sifting through several paragraphs of filler just to find the one important sentence, you can see your Reservoir drop in a hurry.

    3. Make constant updates and improvements

    If you say something will be on your website, it should be there--front and center. There is nothing more depressing to a user than to be directed to a website for more information (from a brochure, flyer, or announcement) only to come up empty when getting there. Every event or news item shared within your bulletin or church should be advertised on your website.

    You should also keep an ear open to listeners whose Reservoir has run out while on your website. They should have insights on how you can improve your user experience and ensure your Reservoir stays full for other users. Create a short Contact form for feedback, or hold some quick user tests with a few staff members or family and fix the Reservoir-drainers they come across. (see point #5 on this post)

    LEARN MORE ABOUT USER EXPERIENCE (UX)

    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog
    5 Tips for Making Your Church Website Content More Readable - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAugAugust22nd2011 3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience When trying to improve your church website, it's important to remember why it exists. You didn't spend time and money creating a website for your enjoyment (at least, I hope that wasn't the reason). Your website is all about your users. Without them, there would be no point.

    This is why so much emphasis is put on User Experience (UX). If your users don't have a positive experience when using your website--trying to find information, giving, looking for serving opportunities--why would they ever come back? If your website is a reflection of your ministry, why would they ever visit you in person if their virtual perception of you is poor?

    So, Add More Stuff ... Right? Wrong.

    The initial reaction may be to add more "stuff" to your website in order to please more people. But adding more clutter is more likely to just get in the way of the important things. Here are three ways to improve your user experience ... by removing stuff.

    1. Remove extra content

    Website users don't read as much as they skim. Their attention spans are measured in seconds, not minutes. You should concentrate on trying to present the most sought-after information first. Start out by creating pages that answer these five questions:
    • Who are you?
    • Where are you?
    • What time are your services?
    • What do you believe?
    • How can I interact with you?
    Don't waste the user's time by writing introduction paragraphs on each of your sections. Get to the point. Use as few words as possible to explain everything on your site. Only after these questions are answered should you start adding news, events, blogs, photos, and other content to keep your users coming back.

    2. Remove user uncertainty

    Users want their questions answered, and now, without working for it. Make your menu simple and straightforward.

    As much as the Internet has been mythologized as the "Wild West," there are common practices for a reason. Users have been trained to look for specific word cues that will help them get where they want to go. Instead of calling your Contact page "Start the conversation," call it Contact, because that's what your user will be looking for. 

    Users should never wonder to themselves ...
    • "Where do I go to find out [question]?"
    • "What does that word mean?"
    • "Is this the right page?"

    3. Remove superfluous design

    Removing friction, or distraction, from a user's experience will go along way in making them want to return. Create a home page with simple, clean graphics that link to the content that answers the five user questions above ... but don't go overboard. Use these guidelines to help keep your website from looking like Las Vegas:
    • 3-5 home page banners
    • 2-3 ads in your side column
    • Only 1 of those ads rotates
    • Only use images if they help to understand a page's content
    • 1-2 inline images per page
    • Small social media icons
    Be more Google than Yahoo.


     
     LESS IS MORE ...

    ... MORE IS LESS

    LEARN MORE ABOUT UX

    Five Low-Hanging UX Tips - UX Magazine
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog
    5 Tips for Making Your Church Website Content More Readable - iMinistries Blog

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    See how easy it is to build your church website!
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    MonMondayAugAugust15th2011 5 Ways to Prepare Your Church Website For A New Ministry Year

    As end of summer nears, the inevitability of the launch of a new ministry becomes more of a reality. As your staff prepares for a new sermon series, giving campaign, or future big events, it's important that you ready your church website, and its content, for the renewed attention it is sure to r eceive.

    Here are five church website content tasks you should complete before embarking on a new ministry year.

    1. Check current content for accuracy

    A visitor to your website has a question about your ministry, so they send an e-mail to the address listed on your Contact Us page--info@yourchurch.org. Unfortunately, you recently changed your contact e-mail to questions@yourchurch.org. They instantly receive a bounce-back error message. Frustrated, they dial the phone number listed on your site, only to hear a "no longer in service" message, not knowing you changed your phone number a few weeks prior. They irately hang-up and give up. You've lost that person forever.

    Now you can see why it's so important that you audit your website's content with a fine-tooth comb. An out-dated website can say a lot about how organized and focused you are as a ministry. Here's a list of things to check to get you started.

    • Staff: Did your youth pastor leave? Remove him from your site.
    • Banners and graphics: Finish that series on Luke? Women's Conference over? Take down those old banners and ads.
    • Contact info: Make sure any person who wants to contact you can do so.
    • News and events: Is your newest event page from Easter? Time to make a change.
    • Home page: Freshen up your most-visited page by purging the old content and bringing in new.

    2. Hold a content manager summit

    If you divide up your content creation responsibilities by ministry, holding a big meeting to discuss the upcoming year can be good way to re-emphasize your content strategy. In these summits, you can also go over style guidelines, content do's and don'ts, field questions, and discuss the previous year's successes or failures.

    Having consistent dialogue with your content managers helps them feel empowered and involved in the creation process, and makes you look less like a dictator and more like a partner. When they feel empowered, they're more likely to put more effort into great content and thinking up creative, new ways to better connect with your website visitors.

    3. Create a content schedule

    After your summit, or during if you only have a few content managers, hold separate meetings with each content manager and/or ministry leader to prepare for the upcoming year. In these meetings, you should make a list of upcoming ministry events and the web needs for these events (like online registration, social media promotion, online ads, etc.). This is also a good time to meet with your blog writers and get them thinking about future blog series or entry topics.

    When you've met with all your ministries, you can begin to organize your tasks in calendar form, plug them into your project management tools, or whatever other way you plan ahead. You shouldn't be writing your Men's Conference event description the weekend before it happens, or scrambling to build a last-minute registration form. Make sure you and your content managers plan far enough ahead for website content to maximize its effectiveness.

    4. Set up event or campaign landing pages

    Chances are your church or ministry will have several big events (fall sermon series, fundraising campaigns, conferences, etc.) launching in the fall or winter. To make these events more successful on the web, you should set up landing pages to act as portals to vital information for each event.

    With these events comes promotional materials, like bulletin blurbs, postcards, posters, up-front announcements, and social media blitzes, all pointing people to your landing pages for more information, registration, and/or giving. Here are a few tips to make your paper and web promotions work together:
    • URL shortcuts: Set these up for your landing pages, like yourchurch.org/mensconference, to make them easier to get to.
    • Branding: Come up with a name, theme, logo, and color scheme and use on all promotional materials.
    • Home page: Post banners and ads on your home page that point to your landing pages.

    5. Do some user testing

    How would you ever know if your website is effective if you don't ask the people using it? Although many people think user testing is expensive, difficult, and time consuming, this isn't exactly true. You can hold easy user testing sessions every few months for little or no money. Here's how.

    1. Recruit a few friends or family members, with differing experience with your website. Three to five people is enough.
    2. Assign a few tasks for them to complete, like registering for an event, finding a particular info page, or contacting a ministry leader.
    3. Watch them complete these tasks, giving them no assistance.
    4. Record what you see, either by video or copious notes. What are they saying? What emotions are they going through?
    5. Analyze their actions. How can you avoid the bad and highlight the good?
    6. Change the problems that came up consistently.

    It's that easy. For more information on hosting your own user testing, I recommend reading Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT MAKING A GREAT CHURCH WEBSITE

    5 Things To Do To Get Your Website Ready For Fall - ChurchWebsites.org
    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    Applying 5 Leadership Principles to Your Church Website - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayJulJuly4th2011 What Do 76% of Visitors Want From Your Church Website?
    byBryan Young Tagged User Experience (UX) 0 comments Add comment

    When asked the most important factor in website design, 76% of people said "the website makes it easy for me to find what I want."

    According to research done by Hubspot, website visitors care most about finding information fast and easily--more so than how the website looks or if the experience is memorable. So how should this information influence your church website's design? Here are three ways to make sure your visitors get the information they want.

    Content is King

    Before you start posting content on your church website, it is important to create a content strategy and ask yourself some questions about your visitors.
    • What do they want to know about my church or ministry?
    • What do I want them to know?
    • What would make them want to come back to my website?
    Start a list of pages or types of content visitors will definitely want on your website. These usually consist of your location, your mission and values, the latest news and events, and your contact information. As you develop your list of desired content, keep asking yourself if the content helps answer the questions above. If it doesn't, maybe it shouldn't be on your website.

    Finding Your Content: Think Like a User

    After you've determined what content visitors want, you should concentrate on making that content findable. A helpful exercise is to write out each page on your website on a Post-it note. Determine which pages include the most popular information and make them your top-level items. Try to organize each note under those top-level pages like About, News, Contact, and Location.

    Now put yourself in your visitors' shoes--does this navigation make sense? Is it easy to find information as it's constructed? Ask someone not familiar with your website to find specific information. If they get frustrated or confused, reorganize your menu.

    Here are a few other ways to help your visitors find the information they want:
    • post ads and banners on your site that link to important pages
    • embed links in your pages to connect users to other content on your site
    • do regular content audits to make sure information is relevant and up-to-date

    Visual Design: K.I.S.S.

    Authors don't design the cover before they write a book. In the same way, you shouldn't pour all your energy in a website's design before determining its content. Only 10% of website users say that visual design is most important, but many website builders concentrate solely on making a website "look good." How can we maintain a balance between the two?

    1. Simple is attractive.
    Don't overcrowd your website with tons of ads, banners, links, and graphics. Just like we start to ignore commercials and billboards if we are oversaturated, so do your website visitors. Use white space and clean design to emphasize the information that most important.

    2. Form follows function.
    Graphics and banners are great, but only if they're useful. If they don't provide information or link to important content, you're better off without them.

    3. Familiar is good.
    A lot of how the Internet works is learned by users. Websites generally follow common practices that users pick up on as they visit different sites. You can use this to your advantage. For example, instead of creating a giant "Join us on Facebook" banner, you can post a simple Facebook icon on your pages. Little things like this (and utilizing common navigation principles) help you avoid clutter and keep your design looking good.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC

    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    Cross-Linking: Search Engines and Website Visitors Love It - iMinistries Blog
    Is Your Church Website Visitor-Focused? - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayMarMarch1st2010 Why Add Highlights?
    byBryan Young Tagged User Experience (UX) 0 comments Add comment

    How Highlights improve the look and function of each page on your church website.


    Each page, news item, and event on your iMinistries website has five "slots" to insert highlights. Highlights are other pages, blog entries, news, events, or content that you select as a highlight when you create it. To maximize your ministry website's potential, it is important to fill each page with as many relevant highlights as you can.

    Look

    Although you may have heard that empty space is a good way to break up text on a page, allowing too much space can make your site look empty and unimportant. Each inch of space is valuable real estate--don't waste it by forgetting to add highlights.

    When creating a page and selecting it to be a highlight, add a thumbnail. Thumbnails provide you a chance to be make your site pop by breaking up text with images (people love images!).

    Be creative. Choose a theme for your thumbnails and run with it. Have all your thumbnails feature:
    • People from your ministry
    • A consistent color scheme
    • Christian imagery (a Christmas star, open Bibles, and empty tombs)
    • A similar look-and-feel
    • Or a mixture of all

    Free Trial

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    Function

    Highlights help your users find related information as they explore your website–content they might not otherwise have found. For example, on your About Us page, highlight your Contact Us page so visitors can easily navigate there to send you a comment or question. On an event that is located at your camp, highlight a page with camp directions and information. On a blog entry that hosts your sermon audio, highlight sermon notes for users to follow along.

    Using highlights as links to other content on your ministry website makes it easier to keep your menu clutter-free. Partnering highlights with hyperlinks, resource pages, and widgets keeps you from adding every page into your menu. Your users will thank you for this ease in navigation. Not necessarily in verbal (or e-mailed) praise, but definitely in repeat visits to your site.

    OTHER RESOURCES ON HIGHLIGHTS

    What Is A Highlight? – iMinistries Support Document
    Adding Highlights (Video) – iMinistries Support Video
    What is a Thumbnail? – iMinistries Support Document