More on Portal FeverFebruary 15, 2005
I received a couple of interesting comments and questions on my recent post, Portal Fever. Scott Dean encouraged church websites to focus on community - enhancing and extending the natural communities that form in the church and helping people get connected.
This is a significant missing piece of most church websites, including FellowshipChurch.com. There are a number of reasons for this, but the two most significant ones are first, the amount of time and effort needed to develop and support an online community, and second, the hesitation to provide public, unmoderated forums and discussion areas. We are constantly exploring options in this area, but it is something we have yet to solve. If any of you have successful online communities, in or out of the church world, I'd love to hear your story.
Rob Williams asked, "Would you go more into how your decisions to drop components of your website have made your site better? More effective? Has it helped, hurt, or indifferent?"
Let me be clear that removing features is never easy. In fact, one of things to ask yourself before you roll out a new web piece is, "How hard will this be to take away?" We always want to serve Fellowship members well and reward, as much as possible, their loyalty and ongoing use of the site. Each decision has been a difficult one.
In many cases, though, you discover that the specific area of the site is used far less than you imagined, or is used more by other churches than by your own membership. On the web, the greatest indication of this is what kind of feedback do receive when a feature is temporarily unavailable. We've had instances when a feature broke and while rushing to fix it we discovered that absolutely no one was complaining. That's a good time to take a long look. If no one misses it, is it worth the time, effort and resources?
Other cases involve heavily used features that are indeed missed. We try to emphasize that the church as a whole (not just the web team) constantly re-evaluates everything we do to make sure we are not saying Yes to good things so often that we're missing out on the great.
Removing these features has had little noticeable impact on our traffic or other measures of web success. Each decision has, however, freed my team to focus on more mission-critical projects, constantly raising the bar on what is a worthwhile undertaking. Everything you say Yes to is by definition a No to something else. We can see clearly now that reasons such as "cool", "fun", and "other sites do it" are not reason enough.