Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

The Next New Thing

Monday marks a huge milestone for the Fellowship Web Team as we launch a new site - the completely rebuilt! For those of you who don't know, Fellowship Connection is a group of churches who have partnered with Fellowship Church to creatively reach their communities for Christ. Fellowship Connection also offers a number of conferences throughout the year, including the Creative Church Conference each January.

This is our second site redesign since our switch to open source/linux/php/postgres-driven development just four months ago. The team has been pouring everything they have into these sites. Our goal has not been to change just for the sake of change - there has been a purpose behind everything we've tackled.

In the case of the redesign, the emphasis was on:

1. Moving to our new development and hosting platform
2. Providing a reasonable learning project for the team
3. Making the site far more accessible from different browsers, monitor sizes, and connection speeds (some pages went from 50K to 5K)
4. Improving the design and adding a number of requested improvements

The site has been a great success. As expected, the new platform and web host has been rock solid - the site has not experienced a single moment of downtime since launch and we are not aware of a single bug. Traffic has also been improving and people are staying on the site longer.

Screen3 has been a terrific follow-up project. First, the site was in desperate need of a new look. The original look was modeled after, but as the organization evolved, the site design no longer met the function. This site needs to be as clean and simple as possible. It needs to be able to promote a few specific items and events clearly, allowing people to quickly get to information and, in most cases, registration.

I can't wait to release the new look, so I've included a little preview. It is bright and full of pleasant colors with plenty of white space. The menus are short and intuitive and we have space to creatively promote things.

As with the previous redesign, we have made the site extremely fast, standards compliant, and accessible from any modern browser (one of our developers likes to test our sites in Netscape 1.0, if that gives you any indication).  The biggest project has been developing a brand-new conference registration module to handle innumerable scenarios. The new process is just three intuitive steps and includes a number of innovative methodologies.

The bonus eye candy is unbelievably cool. The site has always featured a Find a Church piece that allows you to enter a zip code and see if there is a Connection church in a specific area, particularly useful if you are moving, traveling, or helping out a friend. The new Find a Church utilizes the recently released (and fairly incomplete and inconsistent) Google Maps API. This is very slick; you can click on any church and view its address, phone number, and website address.

Screen2But the unbelievably cool feature is the map automatically scales to find the nearest church. So rather than simply tell the user, "Sorry. No church was found in your area", the map will scale to the point where at least one church is found. In other words, you will always see the closest church to you, no matter the distance. If many churches are found, the display scales appropriately as well. You'll have to see it to fully enjoy the experience.

I couldn't be more proud of Jeph, Brad and Mike and the many late nights and weekends they've put into this. Two new sites that are truly re-thought from the ground-up to solve specific problems. Within a week we'll dive into our third and most significant project - developing a brand-new We have already built much of the content management system for the new site and have a lengthy project list of the many things we want to change and improve, as well as the cool new stuff. We also be gathering user feedback in the near future.

As soon as the new site is live on Monday afternoon, I'll post a link.