First, let me say that, despite all my internal criticisms of the Unitarian Universalist Association and our cultural folkways, the use of the Internet is one thing we do pretty well. At least, we did it early and our Internet culture is mature if at times musty.
A month ago, I wondered out loud if there were similarly-sized denominations that did a better job with their websites than the UUA. The difficulty was finding similarly-sized denominations, but more about that later. Some very small denominations do a better job: perhaps because providing resources in a web format is more cost effective than live programming and so they see it as an opportunity investment. Some much larger denominations have lost their way. Historically black denominations tend to produce terribly junky, cluttered, or uninteresting historicist websites. Also, the infamously inaccessible website of the Episcopal Church comes to mind.
But wait: it has changed in the last month. Glory be to God on high! It might actually be useful now. (It seems they’ve been getting feedback. Note: it isn’t nice to force someone’s browser to resize.)
But back to the UUA’s neighborhood:
First, I wanted to see how the pages would deprecate without their style sheets. This is a quick and dirty way of gauging how a website would work (or not) on cell phones, for the visually disabled, and what capacity it might have to alternative distribution. (Technology changes so fast, you know.)
You can try it, too, if you have the Firefox browser. Under “view” select “page style” and choose “no style.” This blog — if I do say so — deprecates nicely, and is quite usable. UUA.org gets a C minus. It’s the tables. The others, except the Reformed Church in America (RCA), fail. (The Mennonite Church USA’s site has been getting progressively more junky since its complete style overhaul years ago.)
None of the denominations I identified on May 29 really were head-and-shoulders above UUA.org. Over all, it does pretty well, but there’s always room to plan for the next improvement.
I followed a link from the RCA site, to one of its ecumenical partners (and cradle mates) and found the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It has about a thousand churches in the US and Canada, and about 275,000 members. OK: that’s quite a bit larger than the UUA, but the site is not so pimped out as to discourage some flattering imitation. You’ll know this denomination becuase of its college, Calvin College, where the President didn’t get the slam-dunk commencement reception he thought he would. You should also know it for its stellar small group resources, at their FaithAlive bookstore.
Anyway, look at the site. Unlike UUA.org, it doesn’t have a newspaper format. The visual organizational scheme attract and direct. What more do you need if you want to know about Synod? Also, the pull-downs are loosely organized, but if you need an A-Z list, it is there under “quick links.” UUA.org could really use that, and note the directory tree pull downs don’t obscure the content. The left-hand navigation menus, which are more general and are probably intended for newcomers aren’t very user-friendly, and assume that visitors are more interest in agencies and planned giving that their souls.
But all-in-all, a very good site and one worth noting.