Hickory Grove Baptist Church's Web Site
We suggest that you visit the web site for Hickory Grove Baptist Church* and tour around it for a while. Then come back and read the review. Feel free to write us with your comments or criticisms at email@example.com.
*Note: This site has been redesigned since this review was completed in 2002.
Review: It is obvious that Hickory Grove Baptist Church has been blessed with a dedicated member of the congregation who is a knowledgeable computer programmer. This site is inventive and full of resources to support the church’s mission. The entrance into the site offers a visitor the option to choose a simple text based site for those with a slower connection or an animated site for those with a faster connection. This effort in designing two different web sites for visitors deserves commendations. While this effort to create a more text-based alternative can be appreciated; do not worry if your church site does not have two versions. It is not absolutely necessary unless you want to use cutting-edge technologies or very heavy graphics pages. Then, providing a "lite" version of your site, which works for all browser versions and connection speeds, is a welcomed blessing.
The text version of the site uses a simple format with few graphics and the use of color to differentiate between various sections of information. The main page in this version is extremely content heavy, prompting even the webmaster to comment that "some would say [this is] too much information." This can be a problem and temptation for any highly active church – how to display all the pertinent, current news and information and yet not bombard the user with a crowded front page. The solution is a thoughtful and clear navigational structure. A clean look can be achieved by moving pertinent text to easily assessable secondary level pages. Stick to the basics on the home page and guide your visitors to the appropriate information through your navigational scheme.
The flash version of the site has many graphics and animations including a floating American flag and navigation buttons whose text flashes upon "mousing" over. While these uses of Java and Flash display the webmaster’s ability level, they can also be slightly overwhelming, especially for novice web users. Visitors may find the constant movement distracting. These features may deter them from focusing on the navigation or, more importantly, on the content.
Another problem with the Flash site is its lack of an adequate navigational scheme as well. All the navigation originates from the home page. When you go to a secondary page (and these levels often have a completely different look) you must return to the home page – and wait for the graphics to display over and over – to explore other parts of the site. This can be very frustrating if you are trying to move quickly through the site and are unfamiliar with the navigation system on the secondary pages.
No argument can be made, however, about the amount of information that this site offers. It seems clear from the content that this site is designed more for church members than for the first time visitor. Congregational members can find a wealth of resources about the church on this site; the calendar appears to be frequently updated, the section for their Christian school provides important details for parents, and information about the health and wellness center and numerous ministries could assist in their daily living. The site should be praised for the numerous ways it provides technological support to this congregation’s interactions and fellowship activities.
One area where church communication could have been enhanced further by the web site was in providing contact information for the church staff. There is a picture of the building and the Pastor but no photographs of church staff. Members might need such information and new visitors nearly always have questions about the leadership of the church. Designating a page for the Pastor’s biography and information on other church leaders helps to put a face on the church and build the human connection that websites can sometimes diminish.
Hickory Grove has gone above and beyond the call in keeping members informed and connected. It is obvious that a lot of thought and a great deal of time went into producing this site. The webmaster should be congratulated for mastering the varied programming elements that go into making this site so dynamic and visually entertaining. With more attention to navigational design and a little less activity, this site can serve as an excellent example of church web site design.