Creating great content for UU Web sites
Suumary of a workshop I presented at General Assembly 2006.
Workshop description: "You don't need a huge budget and technical wizardry to create a great UU Web site. What you really need is great content. Learn how to create rich content to attract newcomers, and to help existing UUs deepen their faith. Get practical, immediately useful ideas and techniques."
Part one: Church of the Larger Fellowship, or: Reaching newcomers
Part two: Philocrites, or: Using feedback loops
Part three: First Unitarian New Bedford, or: How one small church did it
Questions from the participants at GA, with my responses
(This presentation covers content, not design. But if you need a solid, basic, no-frills design for your church Web site, free templates are available for Unitarian Universalist congregations [link].)
Let me just give you a little taste of what we're going to talk about in this workshop, by telling you a story. I arrived at First Unitarian in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in August of 2005. When I arrived, there was fine Web site in place, but traffic was low -- we were seeing less than a thousand visits a month. By applying some straightforward concepts, we doubled the site traffic within a few months, and traffic continues to go up, so that in May, 2006, we had about 2,500 visits to our site. We didn't hire an expensive Web designer. All we did was pay attention to the content we had on our Web site. End of story.
The concepts that I'm going to share with you are not difficult to grasp. This is not rocket science. There is no conceptual difficulty involved in achieving this kind of growth in your Web site traffic. Furthermore, you don't have to be a Web designer; you don't have to be a computer programmer. I believe the key to creating a great Web site that people want to visit is simple: put great content on your Web site. A fancy-schmancy design for your Web site will attract people for about ten seconds, but if that fancy-schmancy design doesn't have any content to back it up, your visitors will not return, not ever again.
Now the question is -- what are the concepts that allow you to create great content for your Web site?...
If you want to cheat, and just get the most important points of this workshop, you don't even have to read the whole presentation -- simply scan the summaries below. Howeveer, I recommend at least skimming the rest of the presentation, since I have included links to the example sites, as well other useful links.
Summaries from the case studies
First case study: Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF)
Key Concept Statement:
Your Web site should have content on it that appeals to newcomers...
...because most newcomers will investigate your UU church via the Web, and because many newcomers use the Web to deepen their knowledge of what it means to be a UU.
To summarize what we can learn from CLF:
- Newcomers are already using your Web site to figure out if they want to come to your Unitarian Universalist congregation. They will use your Web site to find out more about Unitarian Universalism, and they will use your Web site to find out about your specific congregation.
- New members, especially those who found out about you via your Web site, are already using your Web site to deepen their knowledge of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist.
- Good content you can put up on your congregation’s Web site to serve these two populations includes: (a) sermons by your minister(s); (b) newsletter columns by your minister(s) and religious educator(s).
- Finally, listen to what people tell you about how they are using your Web site, and respond to what they say.
Second case study: Philocrites
Key Concept Statements:
Update your Web site regularly.
Use feedback loops to add new material.
To summarize what we can learn from Philocrites:
- Update your Web site at least weekly, if at all possible.
- Pay attention to feedback loops; that is, figure out ways to find out what your readers are interested in, and respond to those interests if it fits in with the overall goals of your site.
Third case study: First Unitarian in New Bedford
Key Concept Statement:
To build rich and deep content on your own Web site with few resources and tiny budget, you don't have to do it all at once -- using feedback loops, add new material and do constant maintenance.
To summarize what we can learn from the New Bedford church:
- Weekly routine maintenance is essential.
- Treat your Web site just like your newsletter -- let staff do the routine work, and update it regularly.
- Find out what people are interested in, and give them more of it.