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Two Rivers E-Marketing

January 30, 2006 by

This week we look at the online marketing of a Nashville church.

Samples:

Traditional Service Web Site:

(tworivers.org)

Contemporary Service Web Site:

(eleven01online.com)

E-mail Newsletter:


Notes:
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, Tenn.
Created by Loud Creative Group
Two Rivers has a 1,500-strong traditional service and a newer contemporary service that’s gone from 90 to 600 in a few months. Their main web site is primarily for members and the contemporary site is geared towards seekers and promotes their contemporary service. They’ve also included a sample of their e-mail newsletter. They’ve recently made big strides with their online marketing and were actually submitted by an impressed church goer.

(Note: I included as much of the e-mail newsletter as I could, though I had to cut off the bottom, which included all the required unsubscribe information.)

Questions:

  • Which design sample do you like best? Why?
  • What’s working graphically?
  • What do you think of the two different approaches?
  • Is it easy to find what you’re looking for on both sites? Is everything well organized?
  • How does the text read?
  • What would you improve?
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.
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26 Responses to “Two Rivers E-Marketing”

  • Nate
    January 30, 2006

    The design themselves look great – but not sure how effective all of this will be on the web (especially with HTML styles emails with images and completely flash based sites).
    I fall on the side of ‘worrying’ about everything in flash. It eliminates SO much of the possible interaction with a user. The flash is done well for the most part, im just not sure that a church site is ready to be fully flash like that. There is lots of functionality that I feel is ‘broken’ inside of the flash as well.
    Text reads ok for me – no way to up the size if needed – this could be an issue for some.
    What would I do to improve? I would ditch the flash. It loses its ‘wow’ factor just a few times after going to the site, and even after losing that – it loses all functionality of the browser and interaction with the user.
    HTML email? I would do multipart and shy away from using so much image/layout driven as images are blocked by many email programs (or simply turned off) to protect from spam. It would be interesting to see both text/html emails in that sense.
    Overall, not too impressed (more so disturbed by the bottleneck), but they may have goals/vision that I do not know about.


  • A.B. Dada
    January 30, 2006

    I concur on the Flash-driven site and the image-driven e-mail newsletters. I believe a lot of what Flash has to offer can be performed just fine with HTML, CSS, and “Web 2.0″/AJAX/Whatever-you-want-to-call-it.
    The e-mail newsletter looks pretty nice, but I bet it would look terrible on my end. I’d like to make a recommendation, actually, for all e-mail newsletters we’re viewing — show the proper version, and show a version that appears in gmail or any e-mail reader that blocks images. It would be a great way to comment and critique.
    My congregation will soon be performing more online and over e-mail, and I’m not certain how to combat bland-blindness in both, yet. Flash used to be great, but now it is overused almost as badly as the old BLINK tag. In some situations, though, I definitely can see Flash being an asset, just not in the whole site aspect.
    Good design, though, very catchy.


  • kevin
    January 30, 2006

    A.B. Dada–How do you suggest we show e-mail newsletters for review? What do you mean by ‘show the proper version’? A screen shot seemed like a good way to take a look at it. Is there some other way to do it?


  • Peter Crackenberg
    January 30, 2006

    I noticed that the Eleven01 site seemed to almost hide where and when their service was, whereas on the Two Rivers site their address and an information link was pretty prominant. They have some of that information on the Eleven01 site under “Contact” but I really think this could be better renamed, something with more call to action in it. It’s OK to omit some of that information if you’re marketing this as just a part of a bigger piece, but I really get the sense that they were trying to give Eleven01 its own identity.
    I also really really have to echo Nate’s post above, ditch the flash. What if a blind person wanted to visit this website? Tough luck. What if you wanted to send a link to the directions page in an email? Too bad.
    Most of the content on both these pages is static, so there’s no reason whatsoever that they need to be entirely in flash. You’re all well and good to keep the animations, but for goodness sakes make it work if you can’t see them.


  • Mike Montgomery
    January 30, 2006

    I’m one of those users without Flash on my work computer. I see nothing at those sites, though the contemporary site at least redirects to telling me why and offers a link to download it.


  • Roger
    January 30, 2006

    I have flash installed and I’d rather have regular sites than flash-driven sites. I also get annoyed at most sites that start playing music as soon as I visit them, especially if I visit them more than once.


  • Paul
    January 30, 2006

    I would agree about the flash. It just never really took off like we all expected. Plus, it is very hard to make changes compared to CSS.
    Overall, the look is OK. I would make an exception for the old guy on the contemporary service. He doesn’t look too contemporary to me.
    Traditional site looks very competition oriented. Too many ministries vying for space. I would simplify a bit. Still not as bad as many sites.


  • Rick
    January 30, 2006

    Flash looks great, but if you rely completely on Flash for your presentation, you’re going to lose a significant percentage of your visitors that don’t have it installed, for whatever reason. My recommendation is that if you use Flash, create the site so that it degrades well if the plugin isn’t available.


  • Andy Knight
    January 30, 2006

    I’m an internet professional who spends most of his day on the internet, but for some reason, I don’t have the Flash 8 Player installed. That means I couldn’t get to tworivers.org at all. All I saw was an error message (albeit a very pretty error message) telling me that I have to install the latest flash version in order to visit the site. At the minimum, you should give an alternative XHTML version of the site so that it degrades well (just as Rick and others have said). If I don’t have it installed, I imagine that lots of normal web users don’t either.
    Thankfully, I could see the 11:01 site…and is really is beautiful! This design can be done in just as well CSS/XHTML, minus the moving parts. The site would still be beautiful (and faster and more accessible and less annoying) w/out the Flash. I still have a hard time reading Flash text that is so small. I can’t bump up the text size with my browser. I also can’t copy the address and paste it quickly into Google maps.


  • Sam DeSocio
    January 30, 2006

    Yeah I hate to say ditch the flash, so I wont, I think that even if you wanted to keep the top preview image in flash, the rest should be done with standards. Ditch some of the flash, as content is cool, flash as infrastructure is bad


  • A.B. Dada
    January 30, 2006

    Kevin said –How do you suggest we show e-mail newsletters for review?
    I recommend forwarding the e-mail newsletter to a gmail or hotmail account (or any account which blocks images) and taking a screen shot of it that way.
    This will show you what the e-newsletter looks like to those of us who block images.


  • Garrett
    January 30, 2006

    Unlike other reviewers my main issue with the site is the background music. With only one song to choose from, the repetitiveness can make the page a nightmare for users who frequent your page. Otherwise great job.


  • Roger
    January 30, 2006

    I looked at it again. This time when I went to the Two Rivers site I went straight for the pause button, but I had to wait while the music player slowly appeared to stop the music. I also don’t like having to wait for the animation while I’m changing pages.


  • Michael
    January 30, 2006

    I think everything looks nice. The traditional site has a fresh feel to it, and I think you accomplish the contemporary feel with the other. I’m not crazy about the distorting bar in the flash banners on eleven01.
    I think there’s some real nice work there. Because each is so different, hard to give a critique in detail.
    Of all 3 the newsletter is the weakest. It would be fine for a printed piece, or even a pdf attachement, but if you are going to send this through email consider the header followed by copy and -maybe- an image within the body. Email should always be kept simple.
    I agree wholeheartedly regarding flash. Don’t get rid of it but create an HTML version as well.
    I like that all the ministries are represented on the home page, it tells me there’s something for my whole family and gets me thinking about the neighbor next door that might want to attend something specific to her. The subpages (ie. pastors journal) are a little clunky, I think to much image, not enough text within their little box. And the headings that show before the pastors journal are confusing. The links above those three sections should be clickable as well. I also wouldn’t do the intro flash for every piece. ie. if I want to contact you make it as quick and easy as possible.
    One of the nice things about flash is that it autosize to fit into anyone’s browser, but you’ve not taken advantage of that…something to consider.
    Again, I think it’s good work and represents you well.


  • Jana
    January 31, 2006

    Of what I could see, the aesthetic end is nice. (I couldn’t access tworivers, and I [like most users] won’t download new software to see a site unless I’m pretty doggone motivated to get there.)
    I won’t totally rehash the Flash debate, only add these two points, which I don’t think anyone has mentioned:
    1. Know your audience! If all of the people you’re trying to connect w/ live in a metropolitan area w/ affordable broadband, and if they are all cutting-edge-tech types, then Flash might be fine. But don’t believe the Macromedia hype claiming 96% (or whatever) market penetration of Flash; that’s based on how many people have downloaded it, not how many keep it running all the time. And, even of those who run Flash, there’s still a good number on dial-up, for whom Flash-heavy pages are so slow that they’ll usually just click “back” and go somewhere else.
    2. If we can’t talk you out of Flash, at least use an older version. Getting that “you need a plug-in” message says “hey, we don’t really care that much about reaching you if you don’t have the latest, fastest software” — and that’s NOT seeker-friendly!
    I agree re: the music; make it an opt-in thing, not opt-out.
    Lastly, if you care about reaching people over 40, make your paragraph text just another pixel or two larger!


  • Derek
    January 31, 2006

    Wow, I can’t imagine how much time or money was put into these sites for everyone on here to just sit there and bash it for using flash.
    There are two types of web surfers in this world. Ones who like content driven, quick loading CSS sites and those who like visual driven slower loading flash sites. CSS is the “in” web language of today. There’s no doubting that. But let’s not forget when we all thought flash was going to take over the internet. So let’s not take away all it’s credibility and act like it’s a terrible thing to use. Because who knows in 2 years we could all be saying CSS is a joke and your a nerd for using it.
    Lastly, to the church. A very well done visually driven flash based site. Not everyone is as complacent to download a flash player as everyone on here is. So if it works for you…. GREAT! You don’t need my pat on the back or anyone else’s to run with it.
    Good luck, and God bless.


  • Greg Vennerholm
    February 1, 2006

    The design work I see is wonderful. Nicely concepted, written and executed. Seriously, great work. However, I’m going to have to agree with several others about the Flash work…
    Rule No. 1 in developing sites: Don’t present barriers to viewing your content.
    Can we please re-think using Flash for sites like this… I’m not going to say that it’s not beautiful, *because it is.* But is that the reason for having a site?
    Now, here me out on this: for the youth group site, by all means, knock yourself out. Perfect audience for it.
    Maybe I’m just getting too old (at 37) for this sillyness, but I’d so much rather go to a site that wants to make it easy to communicate with me. The first thing that happened when I clicked on the link (for the main church site) was that I was greeted with a note that *I* had to do something in order to view this site.
    Forget it. Move past the Flash. It’s great for tennis shoe sites, for luxury automotive sites, and a plethora of brand-driven experiences, but it it necessary for this? I’d vote no.


  • Mark
    February 1, 2006

    My beef is with this new generation of buzzwords–any ‘contemporary’ Christian site can’t seem to avoid them:
    -authentic
    -community
    -relevant
    ..and so on.
    These words already seem overused to many of us–there has to be some other words available for use.


  • Casper
    February 1, 2006

    I love the way you guys are so willing to tell someone who’s clearly invested some effort into something to pretty much go back to square one. There’s plenty of things one can do to improve it before they need to go that far.
    – Ok for starters you can build the flash so that it works with the back button.
    – You can also smartly set the server up so that you pass a number of variables to flash to open specific sections automatically, thus allowing page targeting within a single flash front end.
    – Add a context menu button “Copy Link”
    – Add a context menu button “Send this page to a friend”
    – Get those video’s out of quicktime and into your Flash front end. FLV is much easier than quicktime to implement and allows you creative control over the interface, integrates it into your existing page and doesn’t cut you back to 65% of the web market.
    – It could be worth continuing my theme just checking different UI features work. eg. setting the Tab Order of buttons. (Although I like that scroll mouse has been implemented)
    – The animation is great, certainly a leaf out of 2Advanced but it looks good thus is more engaging.
    I’m not entirely sure if they’ve actually considered what slice of the market flash cuts out but they may well have and thought it’s suited to their target market. Not every church has to be everthing to everyone. I am slightly worried that this Website is actually slicker than the church you’ll end up at but if it is good luck to them in persuing that style.
    I just love the out pouring of opinion from a bunch of people with no examples to show for themselves.
    Should we start drawing stereotypes of Macphiles who care about XHTML 1.0 Validation, what it looks like in Opera and if it’s useful for Eskimos more than if the site actually makes a difference to the very few people who actually see them!
    What people should be asking is “do you have contingencies in your marketing plan for communicating with blind people in your community?”
    “does Google know your site exists?”
    “do I need to join a course looking at my interpersonal skills and spend less time on the web reading about CSS?”


  • Nate
    February 2, 2006

    “Not every church has to be everthing to everyone.”
    Though I would agree – I dont think this statement holds any water here. This is a web site, and SHOULD be accessible to all. This really has nothing to do with personal preferences. Im sure the colorblind people didnt plan on being that way, and there is surely nothing they can immediately do about it. Same goes for blind, same goes for others with some sort of handicap.
    The ‘cool’ factor with flash wears off REALLY quick, which is why, I think, that flash never took off like people thought it would. People dont go to sites to be entertained (unless its a game site). They go there to find information, be educated, and do it quickly. (This has been proven in many studies). I think by setting a barrier in front of your content – you are eliminating the whole purpose of your website.
    Most didnt mention reasons because its already been said on here a million times. The accessibility reasons, the cross platform/browser reasons, the search engine optimization reasons, etc. Remember, its the USERS computer – not OURS. We shouldnt be telling them what they should/shouldnt have in order to view OUR site. It should be readily available to all, in my opinion.


  • Greg Vennerholm
    February 2, 2006

    Casper,
    Great points. And remember, this is called “peer review.” The designer of the sites asked for opinions. One thing any creative person should always be prepared for is critique of their work. If they can’t take it, don’t post it. Simple as that.
    I for one was very complimentary of the creative work. The caliber of the design work is quite polished. And if you follow the link to the firm who is credited for the work, they’ve done some very nice work, with an impressive client list.
    That being said, and not knowing the specific demographic of their church, it’s enlightening to say the least that the majority of us (jaded designers and such here) had a little trouble with the bleeding edge requirements. I wonder, how many of the typical congregation members are that up to date? As you stated, I too am a little concerned that the site might be “too hip for the room.”
    Your comments about the technical aspects are dead-on, but again, is it critical in communication with prospective church goers?
    The Flash barrier probably needed a little more strategy behind it’s execution. I would never say “scratch it” and start over… more than one person offered the sound advice to throttle back the Flash requirement to an older version… a great idea, since most fo us had not trouble with the eleven01 site’s use of Flash.
    Also, your comment about search engine visibility simply strengthens the argument against using Flash. To the best of my knowledge, search engine spiders have trouble correctly seeing into and following links from SWFs. Yet another barrier. Consider if your family moves into an area and begins your search for a church, and was “greeted” by a download screen… poor form. That’s as bad as using “splash screens’ of the 90’s. That style went out years ago.
    In fact, if you’re a student of trends at all, you’d have to admit that most the most successful sites around limit their use of Flash to a minimal, eye-candy approach. This limits their liability when it comes to preventing their audience from seeing their content, which in this case, is quite a bit more important than the latest tennis show or snowboard.
    All I’m simply saying is this: Flash is a powerful thing when used with a lot of forethought. It does certainly have its strengths. Likewise, it has its drawbacks, and if the designer of these sites thoroughly considered everything, then more power to him. And I hope the interactive nature of his sites win a few more souls for Christ.
    Ain’t debate fun?!


  • tobys
    February 2, 2006

    am i the only one disturbed by the huge “we proudly brew starbucks every week at eleven01″ banner ad on their site?


  • Ryan Erickson
    March 2, 2006

    I think your sites are designed well and will communicate effectively to your target audiences.
    I cannot believe how much opposition there is to Flash out there. I really don’t know why everyone hates it so much. As a designer, I want my site to look the way I intend it to look, not the way your browser has determined it should look. Call me selfish, but I don’t want the viewer to be able to change the text size. I sized the text the way I did for a reason. If someone is having trouble seeing something on their screen, they are free to adjust their monitor resolution accordingly, without screwing up my design.
    As far as people not having Flash installed, that is really a non-issue. Flash proliferation is HUGE! 97.7% of computers have the Flash plugin installed. That is more than Adobe Acrobat, Java, Windows Media, QuickTime or RealOne. I doubt anyone here is going to suggest ditching the PDF format because they think people won’t be able to open them, yet more computers are able to open Flash files than are able to open PDFs. The idea that Flash hinders your site because people don’t have it installed is ridiculous.
    Another hot issue with Flash based sites is load times. I also see this as more and more of a non-issue. High speed internet connections are increasingly common, especially in urban areas. I am not excusing poor site optimization, but 1 or 2 megabytes really aren’t an issue anymore. These pages took all of 3 or 4 seconds to load on my computer. Hardly a hindrance.
    Flash is a great content delivery tool that allows the designer to ensure his or her work remains true to the original vision. HTML and CSS are fine, but Flash is here to stay and the web development community really needs to get over its irrational fear of using this powerful tool.


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    March 3, 2006

    Hey Ryan, I think you’re missing two key points:
    1) Flexibility. Someone should be able to view your design and read the content easily, whether they’re 8 or 80. That means being flexible to allow the font size to be larger. That’s web design. It’s not static like the printed page. Designers should accomodate site visitors, not the other way around.
    2) Usability. While Flash may be adopted by a large percentage of web users, it’s not the latest version of Flash. One of these sites required the latest version of Flash, and myself and a number of other commenters had to go upgrade before we could even view the site. That’s one of the prime things people are complaining about. Don’t shut a user out completely because they don’t have the latest and greatest upgrade.


  • Gene Mason
    March 3, 2006

    Amen to Kevin. These are really sharp sites, but they do suffer a little I think from the legacy of control that print media folks had–I design sites and appreciate good design, but even I want to adjust the size of type and not be tied to the latest plug-in the view a site. A site that cookied to sense your plug-ins and then fed you an html version if you didn’t have it–now that’s good design.
    To make a site the most accessible and flexible, knowing your audience is coming from all over the map and with all kinds of hardware and software to get to you, a web designer has to be willing to sacrifice a little control over the design, I think, to reach the broadest possible audience. The genius designers, I believe, are the ones who can strike a balance between the originality and branding of their design, and the somewhat fluid nature of the internet.


  • mynameis
    April 25, 2006

    Don’t work with these people.



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