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Seacoast Church Web Site

October 21, 2005 by

This time around we take a look at the web site of the South Carolina multi-site church, Seacoast. Give your suggestions and don’t forget to consider submitting your church’s marketing materials in a peer review.

Samples:

Screenshot:

(seacoast.org)


Notes:
Seacoast Church
Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
Created by Shawn Wood
Seacoast Church is a leader among multi-site churches with 9 distinct locations and one on-site venue, for a total of 10 campuses with 18 different services. They have 7,000-7,500 attenders on the weekend and around 500 small groups that meet during the week in homes. The average age is mid-30s with some campuses leaning heavier to either side of that median age. They describe themselves as a non-traditional church whose goal is to be transparent, real and relevant with excellence, without coming across as a “show”.

They want their web site to be a place where the first-time visitor can get more information and check out the church. They also want the site to be a source of information and resources for the congregation. They also utilize a number of blogs, including a general church blog, campus blogs (Long Point, Irmo, Greenville) and ministry blogs (Small Groups, Children’s Ministry).

Questions:

  • What do you like best about their web site?
  • What do you think of the navigation? Can you find everything easily?
  • This site is especially complicated since it serves a number of different locations. Is it easy to sort out the multi-site component?
  • Are there any ways you would improve the organization or navigation of the site?
  • What do you think of the design?
  • What do you think of the writing?
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

13 Responses to “Seacoast Church Web Site”

  • Shawn Wood
    October 21, 2005

    Kevin – thanks for the peer review! I look forward to seeing what suggestions we get.
    Also – I appreciate the credit of creator, however I must give the props to our members
    Designer/Programmer Karen Thurston and IT/Programmer Trace Pupke – they rock the house!
    Shawn Wood


  • Steve
    October 21, 2005

    I don’t care for the overwhelming color scheme, or the graphic map links on the splash page:
    http://www.seacoast.org/
    If it were me, I would put text links and find a way to rework the frontpage so it was faster loading, and a little more sleek. A big, blocky hunk of color doesn’t always work best, and some white space would do wonders for the splash page by giving it some “air”. I think it needs to breathe.
    The blog is nice, but the links on the right are too small of a font size. The over 40 crowd with be squinting. I don’t care for the blue and gray scheme. I would like to see it softer. (maybe a background something like #E5E5E5 or lighter)
    On this page:
    http://www.seacoast.org/greenville/
    I like the colors and appearance of the menus and annoucements on the left column, but I still don’t care for the header style and color (blue). I would soften the blue…make it less bold, and maybe place an image next to the logo…or something to bring in color. It’s not that the blue is bad, it’s just so heavy on the page. It needs to be smaller, or surrounded by more color, or a different, lighter tone.
    I hope I have said something of benefit. have a great day and keep on hungering after God!


  • Nathan Smith
    October 21, 2005

    My review in a few words: old-fashioned. From what there is, it looks good, but the front-page seems like it’s crammed in the upper-left corner. In this day and age, where 1024×768 is the most common screen resolution, I’d like to see a bit more screen real-estate used.
    Also, if I disable images, the entire index page disappears. This is no way to build a webpage. That is, unless you don’t care about hand-held devices or the blind, in which case go right ahead.
    The sub-pages perform a bit better, but keep in mind that disabled / mobile people won’t even be able to get to them, so it doesn’t matter.
    A peek under the hood (View Source) reveals no DOCTYPE, meaning it defaults back to HTML 4.01. The DWLayoutTable comments show me that this site was laid out by someone who knows a lot about graphics, but little about web. Dreamweaver is no substitute for good client-side coding principles.
    I find it incredibly odd that once I’ve chosen a location, I am unable to return to the index page. That seems very counter-intuitive, to force a redirect based on a cookie. Suppose I’m actually trying to find info about a different location, but I clicked the wrong link. Unless I’m tech-savvy and know how to clear my cookies, your site just became unusable to me.
    Overall, I’d give this site a C. It does have fairly decent graphics, but could use a visit to a web usability consultant, and a complete CSS overhaul. That’s just my soapbox though. I think the Church at large deserves better than what can be hashed out with wizzy-wigs.


  • Alex Seidel
    October 22, 2005

    First off, great effort on this site. Here are some thoughts:
    – If I am an outsider (or seeker), there is nothing real compelling on this page showing me what I can get out of church. I know, I know, church should not be what we get out of it, but to many people questioning the church and faith, that is exactly how they approach it.
    – Words like “Ministries” mean close to nothing to a seeker, so why use it? It’s very insider language.
    – There are links to Newcomer info. Why not put some summary Newcomer info on the homepage? Is the church for us Church types, or is it for the lost and seeking? My bias is to present everything assuming that seekers are visiting this site. Us insiders? We already get it.
    – Why is Rick Warren important to me as an outsider to your church? Who is this guy anyway? Never heard of him.
    – Small groups?? Sounds kinda scary to me. Why would I want o join a small group? How can these be presented more in terms of the needs of those considering your church?
    – Online giving?? Oh great, another church that wants my money. Guess I won’t be going there.
    – Questions about God – Relegated to a link. Seekers are second class citizens, because most of the first info you see on this homepage is aimed toward church insiders.
    My points with all of the above? Our church webs have the potential of being a very public external face to our communities of faith. I believe we have the responsibility to be very focused on outsiders to the faith with our webs. We cannot be perceived as a club only for those in the know.
    Our site gets close to 300 visits a month for “Googlers”. We assume that many of them will not know Christ, and thus are designing our new site accordingly. We are scrubbing it of internal langauge, focusing on felt needs, and making it useful for both insiders, but more importantly outsiders. The jury is still out on how effective our site will be and it will likely still need improvements. But our focus will be those that don’t know Jesus or the church.


  • Justin Broome
    October 23, 2005

    I agree that the opening page needs SERIOUS help. The button for “switch locations” is really hard to find.
    It’s a catch 22, will people get frustrated if they have to keep going back to the “choose a location” page everytime they back step in their browser to the starting page on the website or will people get frustrated that they “can’t” get back to that starting page? I don’t have the answer to that one.
    The layout isn’t so horrible but there are a few things I think you could do that would have a MAJOR impact on the site.
    1) Center the page
    2) Move the left side menu to the right side of the page. The scroll bar is on the right, why do we make people go all the way back to the left to choose a menu item?
    3) An external CSS file makes life easier for everyone.
    4) “enter keyword” on the top right of each page. What’s that? Is it a search button? If so, call it that.
    5) Once you click on a link, the page it opens (say singles 18-35 for example) loses all the left side (which I think should be right side) menu options. That’s horribly frustrating. I can’t really hop from page to page, I have to go back to the main page to look at the menu links. That’s REALLY bad.
    6) “Online giving” comes before “Questions about God” does that mean you want their money before you’ll answer their questions?
    7) Run each page through an HTML validator to look for errors.
    8) Make sure your site is multi browser compatible. (Firefox has serious issues with your menu system.)
    9) Why do I have to click on the “pastors” link, then pick one of 3 guys with tiny pictures to learn about him? If I click on pastors, list the bio for each of the 3 pastors going down the page, don’t make me click like 8 times to read 3 bios. I won’t read them all.
    10) A lot of your fonts are difficult to read. If you use an external css file for the whole site then you can try out different fonts very easily, and very quickly. I would suggest using verdana. It’s easy to read on a computer screen.
    11) Use Java Scripts (for things like menus) that are universal to every page on the site. Doing that allows you to update 1 file instead of every single page. That prevents errors.
    I could keep going, but I think you get my point. This is a great start and I give you a lot of credit for having what you have, but it’s not very intuitive, and it’s a nightmare to navigate. I HIGHLY recommend reading the book “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. It’s about building smart websites.
    You’re close to having something REALLY cool, go the extra mile and you’ll be there.
    Justin


  • Yannick
    October 23, 2005

    It is a good attempt, but I think it could do with a lot of work.
    What do I like?
    The graphics are okay and the navigation/sections seem organised. Also I like that you put the service times right there for everyone to see, especially for those new to your church it’s good to know the times for your service and directions to the church.
    Everything else?
    The homepage (choose your location), I’m not very fond of. In particular if you turn off images in your browser then there is no way to pick a location.
    There is also no DOCTYPE. You should Declare a DOCTYPE. Which brings me to the next thing and that is to build your site using Web Standards (eg. XHTML, CSS) instead of tables and lots of font tags. Might I recommend the following link for more information:
    Developing with Web Standards
    It’s also not very obvious as to how to get back to the first page that allows you to choose which location you would like to go to. It took me awhile to realise it was right there by the your logo in the header. And again if images are turned off the user would be unable to click that link anyway.
    Padding! Yes padding is your friend. A lot of your content hugs the border of it’s content area. Try adding a little more padding to the content area.
    One of the major problems I found with the website is the fact that your navigation (though I said it was nice) is all javascript. If a user has javascript turned off that’s pretty much the end of it right there. Your visitors will not be able to navigate the site because it’s not there. Not at all.
    It’s nice that you have a blog but it would be nice to have it actually on your website instead of linked to somewhere else offsite (eg. Typepad). But that is just my personal opinion. I’m not sure but perhaps typepad has an option that would allow you to host your blog on your own server, like Blogger does.
    I hope this does not come across as being too harsh, but this is really meant to help you to make your site a lot better for both you and your users.
    I wish you guys all the best with your website. I know that you will continue to learn and improve it in the future.
    Peace and God Bless.


  • Nathan Smith
    October 23, 2005

    I second what was said by Justin:
    I HIGHLY recommend reading the book “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. It’s about building smart websites.


  • kevin
    October 24, 2005

    Justin suggests moving the left side menu to the right side of the page. I totally disagree. A left side menu is a pretty standard way to do a menu. There’s no need to make that change.


  • Justin Broome
    October 24, 2005

    “A left side menu is a pretty standard way to do a menu.”
    Just because it’s standard doesn’t mean it’s correct, or the best way of doing things. :) A few examples:
    http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog The main site navigation is still on top, but the “side menus” are all on the right. I think they’re easier to find over there. It’s close to the scroll bar and that’s convenient.
    Amazon.com At first glance they have navigation on the top and left side menu, but when you click on an item, the left side navigation is diminished and the “Add to shopping cart” button is on the right side, near the scroll bar. It’s also the biggest button on the screen, and it’s always easy to find. Granted, Amazon.com is e-commerce, BUT, they invest disgusting amounts of money into tracking how people surf the web, and where best to put things on a web page.
    my.yahoo.com The default “my yahoo” page has all it’s navigation going down the right side of the page, near the scroll bar… it’s darn convenient to only have to move an inch to click on something!
    http://www.google.com Go search for anything on google and look at how the ads pop up on the RIGHT side of the screen, near the scroll bar. It’s easier to click on something that’s close to where your mouse has to be anyway..
    My own personal website I put all my navigation down the right side of the page and it’s the same each and every time.
    It spits in the face of traditional web layout, BUT, it’s perfectly logical and a whole bunch of people are moving in that direction. I truly believe it’s gonna pop, and most navigation will move to the right side of web pages in the near future.


  • Alex Seidel
    October 24, 2005

    I believe what is utterly important in web layout and usability is the conventions people have become used to in navigating web sites. And one such convention is left and top navigation. Usability studies appear inconclusive, but apparently familiarity and practicality win out,
    left-side menus the navigation method of choice
    .
    On another note, we have been conditioned by decades of inverted pyramid style (the format of design found in most newspapers) which leads readers’ eyes from left to right across the page.
    I believe it is in the best interest of users to stick with convention, familiarity and practicality to help them get the most out of the sites we build.


  • Jim
    October 25, 2005

    hey guys- I’m a former Seacoaster who was saved there in 97. all aside- the site looks really ‘busy’. Maybe consider going a cleaner streamlined look like 722. that’s my 2 cents…peace.


  • Jerri Ann
    October 25, 2005

    I am a seacoaster (longpoint campus) and I would love to see actual pictures of the church and it’s members in the community. Seacoast does so much in out city, why not show that. Highlight a small group of the month, put up pictures of the ocean baptisim, or the alpha graduation, Just a thought.


  • Karen Thurston
    October 26, 2005

    Thanks to all of you for taking the time to evaluate our website. I do appreciate the constructive criticism – it is always welcome as we want to continue to improve our site to better serve those that use it!
    I will preface this by saying we have gone from 1 to 10 locations in the past few years and are working very hard to figure out the best way to reflect this on the web. It is one thing to do a really good site. It is another to do it x 10. We know we have a long way to go and are doing the best we can to create a web experience that meets the needs of Seacoasters, giving them tools to help invite friends.
    Just a few comments on some of the re-occurring topics of conversation…
    1) I agree that the intro page (the map) needs work. It is extremely graphic heavy and we hope to re-work that soon. We are also working to phase out the overwhelming dark blue that was part of a previous design and improve the way you can switch back and forth between the sites of our different locations.
    2)It was said that we should use Java Scripts (for things like menus). We do.
    3)Thanks for the opinions on whether the navigation should be on the right side or the left. As Steve Krug says in his great book, “Don’t Make Me Think,” (yes, we have it and have read it) “I’ve been at this for a long time, long enough to know that there is no one ‘right’ way to design web sites.” For now we are choosing to leave the navigation on the left, but may in the future choose to move it if it proves to be more helpful elsewhere.
    4) Currently our Long Point location is the only site that has information on all of our ministries and has been consistently updated. I realize this is a very BIG problem, but for those who selected one of the other locations to critique, the navigation, graphics, etc are out-of-date and are still being converted.
    We have a challenge receiving up-to-date information from each area of ministry at 10 different locations and are currently working to innovatively use RSS feeds. Any suggestions on inexpensive, easy-to-use CMS solutions? How about resources for better menu navigation since we should use Java Script, but should not use Java Script (in case they have it disabled?) Thanks again for your time and expertise. It is easy to criticize a site, but tough to find solutions. We welcome any practical resources or solutions you have to offer!



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