Hey, folks! Regular readers will remember this feature as part of the Inspiring Parish Bulletins series, but I wanted to re-present Father Ryan Humphries’ tips for folks who are focusing on their website and may have missed out. Enjoy!
When it comes to serving his flock online, Father Ryan Humphries — rector of the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches, LA — doesn’t mess around.
One-fourth of his parish website visitors view the site on a mobile device. “Of them, it’s two-thirds iOS, one-third Android. That’s really tough to design to directly,” he explains, “because the screen sizes and the browsers change device to device. So can layout — portrait or landscape.”
What’s a parish to do? Use responsive web design; cater to all screen sizes at once. “It’s easily in the top three priorities on any one page of the site,” he says.
As he set out to re-design the website, Fr. Ryan researched his options. “There are a few companies that do hosting and use a responsive templating engine that is really beautiful. I pay $16 per month at Squarespace.com and it’s very worth it.”
How does Squarespace allow him to easily serve website visitors regardless of their screen size? “Each picture I upload is actually optimized into seven sizes that can be arbitrarily inserted as the size of the screen changes. Whenever I design a page, I drag the right side of the browser and I can watch as it gets to be laptop size, iPad size, iPad mini size and finally phone size.”
Fr. Ryan told me he believes in the power of a good first impression. Whether someone’s first interaction with the parish is via the bulletin, a personal visit, or the website, that interaction (and subsequent experiences) will inform their impression of your parish.
Besides this ‘qualitative message’, all parish communications should meet real needs. Fr. Ryan calls this quality Real Usability. “Real Usability is when someone is at a barbecue or a crawfish boil and they remember something from a sermon or the bulletin,” he says, “and they know immediately that my website is like IMDB for their parish. They know that they can get out their phone, tap two or three times and be in the right place for their content.”
How does a parish determine HOW to serve real needs with its communications pieces? Fr. Ryan advises not to keep the brainstorming within the parish office or staff. “Office staff and designers live in a bubble that the faithful at large don’t. If the content map is created in a vacuum, then big, obvious holes will start to develop.”
His tips for this process:
- Engage your community
- Ask questions
- Measure responses
- Don’t take offense when your ideas don’t match what’s really needed
Here’s what he discovered: “My people LOVE having the recorded sermons online & podcasted. They LOVE the ebulletin (because they get it before everyone else)! They don’t really care as much about the history online, and had zero interest in the gift shop online. They don’t want an iOS app. They want the school website (SmsTigers.org) to be tightly integrated.” …etc. etc.
I’ll leave you with his conclusion — which applies to any piece of parish communication: “The magic is finding out what those real or perceived needs are, and then finding a faithful, beautiful, engaging and efficient way to meet them.”