Thursday, September 18, 2008

Are You Listening?

Yesterday I commented that Thomas Nelson wasn’t listening. The problem, as I saw it, was that though they had plenty of contact information listed on their website, they didn’t have anything that indicated that I could inform them of a problem I found on their site. Let’s not focus on Thomas Nelson. Let’s bring it back to the topic of Church Website Design. When users look at your website, do they receive enough feedback to tell them how to contact the appropriate person?

Churches are often compartmentalized by various ministries. The different ministries may not be aware of what other ministries are doing. Even the pastor may be unaware of what some ministries are doing on a daily basis. Website visitors are often aware of this, so if they send a inquiry they want it to go to the right person the first time rather than having it passed from person to person or deleted. A good place to start is to include contact information for each of the individual ministry leaders. We could also provide a general contact form and then redirect this to the appropriate leader.

How we design the general contact form is important. We should not tell the users it is there for them to ask a question unless we also provide some means for the users to provide us with information. Our design should indicate that we expect communication to flow in both directions. It is easy to assume that we are the ones providing information and all we really need to know from the user is what information they need. A website that allows information to flow in only one direction is like talking to a man with a gag in his mouth. It isn’t very comfortable for the user and it makes it difficult for us to understand the needs of the user.