Duo has been fortunate to work with the Episcopal Church for several years on a variety of projects relating to the church’s website. During our initial engagement, stakeholders from the church were not satisfied with their website, and they thought a Drupal CMS was a better platform to showcase their online presence than what they previously used.
With that decision made, those same representatives came to Duo and asked us to build their new site. Not only did we help design the site, but our developers helped migrate content from multiple locations to create one unified experience.
Since the site’s launch, we’ve done a variety of updates to the site, but nothing comprehensive. At the beginning of last year, we were roadmapping our minor projects for the year, but our kick-off meeting for that project changed that.
Some key church members attended the meeting, including a representative of the senior leadership, and he had a lot of great ideas. We were surprised to learn about aspects and beliefs of the church that we did not fully comprehend, despite the fact we’d been working with the organization for several years.
It quickly became clear that this project was going to move from routine maintenance to a major overhaul and redesign. Specifically, we were going to help the church rework four key aspects of the site.
Highlight the church’s unique values
During our kick-off conversation, we discussed how most churches and synagogues bring with them specific viewpoints or religious beliefs. What we discovered with the Episcopal Church, though, was this wasn’t really the case. In addition to their religious attitudes, the church aligned itself with a host of societal issues, from social justice to environmental policies. The senior leader we spoke with told a story about a gay man who joined the church because of its views on LGBTQ rights. “A lot of churches say you can come here, but we’re not going to talk about that,” the leader said. “We say, ‘Please, come here, and we’ll talk about it.’ We’ll welcome you for who you are.”
These values caught us by surprise, not only because they went against the common perception of many major religions, but because they were not articulated anywhere on the church’s website. This was a huge differentiator for them, and they were not showcasing it. Our goal quickly became figuring out a way to highlight these values in a way thst distinguished the Episcopal Church from other churches.
The result was a collection of value streams that we created under the title “Life and the Work of the Church.” Each of these pages highlights a different value that is important to the church. The page explains the viewpoint and includes articles and content that relates to three key audiences:
- A user who is new to the church
- A member of the church who is returning to the website
- A high-level church participant or clergy member
We wanted these pages to be informative for each audience. In the process, they turned into an engagement funnel that transitions from more informative information to content that provides key resources.
Provide added flexibility
The Episcopal Church creates a lot of content for its website, from information on new ministries to interesting articles that spotlight important topics to church members. Each piece of content has its own unique needs. We wanted to provide the church with a flexible architecture so they didn’t need to come to us each week with a request for a new page type. Instead, we developed a library of “flex pages” for the church to use as templates for various types of content.
These flex page feature blocks of content that can be shifted and moved around as needed so that each page can inherit its own unique identity. Each page can have its own look while still fitting into the greater framework of the site.
Create excitement with an active voice
This may seem small, but the tone and tense of language on your website matters. Up until this most recent kick-off meeting, the Episcopal Church relied on passive text throughout the website. This was seen as a way to not be in the user’s face or come across as overly aggressive. The problem, though, is the content ended up being pretty quiet and reserved, which did not really mesh with the church’s overall culture. We strongly recommended that we switch the tone to a more active voice; that subtle switch quickly made the site’s content that much more engaging.
Update the website’s visual style
The church recently hired an internal designer who was in the process of updating their print and marketing materials, but the website’s design was outdated. The website was initially built six or seven years ago, and the design hadn’t been updated since. It looked relatively modern, but it wasn’t up to date in terms of brand standards. As a result, every element of the site that we touched, we made sure to include new visual elements that aligned with the church’s style and made it more interesting and engaging.
We are incredibly happy with how the site turned out, and we’ve heard from the church’s representatives that the website surpassed all of their expectations. That’s the type of response we like to hear. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the church moving forward.