Designing for a church and/or ministry is one of the most challenging jobs on the planet.
Trust me. It is.
It’s harder than building products for the fortune 50 (although the pay is a bit better…) and it’s even harder than bagging groceries for inebriated customers who can’t decide between paper or plastic (I’ve done that too…). But, it’s much more fun and rewarding.
It’s also been an amazing challenge, and one of the challenges has been a number of myths that I’ve encountered in the last year that I feel need to be exposed. There are more than just five, but I’ll start with these first.
Here’s my take:
1. People Know What They Want and How They Want It
Wrong. You may think you know your demographic, your visitors, and your “peeps” but you really don’t. Be honest with yourself because even with all those statistical/metric packages you still can’t possibly know with absolute certainty.
Even when I worked in big businesses we, at the end of the day, had to admit that we didn’t know ultimately how the audience would respond to our new products and websites; we’d have to learn. And with an open mind we could, long term, create better user experiences.
There’s just something irrationally-rational (and rationally-irrational) about people and our needs and wants. Often times I’m not sure what I want I just know it’s not “that.” We need to create experiences that don’t just guide but let them explore.
2. Your Visitors Don’t Change
Wrong. We are cultural architects of our spaces and stories on the web. We can enact and encourage change and browsing habits if done wisely and with purpose. Using historical context and all that mumbo-jumbo to determine usage and design is hogwash. We can help change the current status-quo and make it better.
And that’s what ultimately is our desire; we want them to change the way they engage with us and “do” the web on our church and ministry sites. Let’s not just give it a new coat of paint and categorically deny or ignore that the core experience is exactly the same thing as before, right?
This isn’t just a nice web-version of “Pimp my Ride”…. it’s gotta go faster and farther too. If you need some more counsel go talk to Catalyst and Brad Lomenick about that.
3. People Read All That “Stuff”
Absolutely wrong. People, this is my small manifesto for simplicity and strategic/focused targeting of data. People don’t read all that stuff. They don’t, and if they do, it’s because it’s the last thing on the planet available to consume or because they are attempting to fall asleep.
You can probably systematically get rid of 50% (or more probably) of the copy on your websites today. Do us all a favor and just go do it.
4. Originality is Uncompromisable
Wrong. I’ve met a bunch of stuck-up church web designers out there that think each and every property needs that unique touch and flavor. Why? Because our ministry is “different.”
I often find this laughable since the best stuff I’ve seen out there is obviously copied from the marketplace. And, especially since there are far more things that make ministries similar than different. Originality in design can be an incredibly powerful idol; get over it. Spend more time on story, experience, and matching it with your communicators, strategy, vision, and mission.
If you need some inspiration, go talk to Ben Arment and see what he’s doing on a limited budget, limited time, staff, resources, etc. He’s got passion, story (and hey, he’s even “original” within the confines of limitations… which is EPIC).
Who cares if it looks like Apple.com; Apple.com is the bomb and just simply works.
5. It Needs to Cost A Lot
Wrong. It doesn’t. Design for its own sake is going to be costly. Design with purpose (and considering #4) doesn’t have to break the bank. I could spend more time on this but I’m exhausted already. You know what I’m talking about…
Ok, your turn. What other church design myths need to be exposed…?
[Image from Moviemente]