Strategically re-assessing your parish, diocesan, or ministry website

Strategically re-assessing your parish, diocesan, or ministry website

This one is for those with an interest in website development and management, especially with regard to Catholic parishes, dioceses, or other ministries and non-profits.

A common principle in website management for businesses and organizations is periodic assessment of the site to ensure that it’s meeting strategic goals (you have strategic goals, right?) and that it is up to date with current web standards (for example, no more blink tags or whether to replace Flash with HTML5/CSS3 animations). It’s also important to make sure that it doesn’t feel too dated, i.e. when grunge goes out of style that your site’s theme leaves grunge behind too.

How often should parishes, dioceses, and ministries re-evaluate their sites? I know there are plenty of parish websites who are still rocking the late ’90s with “under construction” animated GIFs, busy backgrounds, and non-CSS, table-based layouts and it’s obviously past time for them. But what about the site we created three years ago, or today for that matter? When should we begin a strategic re-evaluation of it?

My first thought, based on the current pace of change on the web, is that it should be no longer than every 6 years. If you have a site whose design and basic content date to 2005, you should look at whether it’s time to re-design and/or upgrade. With HTML5, CSS3, and today’s advanced standards-compliant web browsers, now is as good a time as ever.

What about a site built today? I think in six years, the web will have a very different landscape. By then I think mobile platforms—i.e. tablets and phones—will have a very large influence on web design and the web experience. Perhaps mobile apps will be more important as well. Social media is certain to be different. After all, in 2005 Facebook was still limited to college students and MySpace was the big social network. The web moves fast.

So what do you say? How often should a parish, diocese or ministry do a strategic re-evaluation of their website design, content, and goals?


  • I think there may be two answers here.  I would suggest an annual review of the website—review the content, remove dated material, review processes on what gets posted (by whom, when, vis a vis other communications vehicles), determine whether there is other material to add (a parish calendar perhaps, links to other parishes or Catholic resources, etc.). 

    Then there’s the more long-term review.  And this would be the more in-depth review that you are suggesting—is it time for a entire site re-design or upgrade?  This is a five or six year review cycle.  Even then, you are almost guaranteed to need a new platform in that time period. 

    In six years, websites may be more bare-boned and static than they are now, with other vehicles taking over for more timely communication. 

    Given that the site has a good chance of being redone every five or six years, it’s worth creating easily updated sites from the beginning.

  • I think Domenico makes a valid point about the current situation in technology. With regards to what devices or platforms we will be using in 5 or 10 years time, we must take an educated guess at how our current websites will be displayed.

    Being in the web design and development industry we see current web design trends come and go, designers preferring to use CSS tableless designs in development rather than tabled (I think this will stay for some time). Though for the end user of the website I think there will always be design standards that will last through the decades, clear navigation, video content and content sharing via social media.

    Moving from the UK to Mexico was quite a change for me, the UK having a more developed web industry and Internet. Mexico is at the very early stage in Internet development. The Church in the UK has embraced the web to spread the message and as with any media communication channel advancements in technology provide new means to communicate with its followers, I am referring to Twitter, etc.

    I believe that a well designed clean website can last several years, let´s say 4 years before any major changes are needed unless software or hardware changes forces the change. How we will view this website is the key. The piece of technology people update the most is the mobile phone which in the last 20 years has gone from being the size of a house brick to a device that can send and receive images, video chat and email from the size of a pack of playing cards.

    The churches message has not changed through centuries but the way we communicate has. As long as a church website has a clean clear design, the message will be communicated on these platforms until time requires major changes in design. What I am saying is as long as the website functions effectively cosmetic changes are all that is needed, look at the churches that are hundreds of years old and their design still looks good and the message is still heard today.