Reviewing Unitarian Universalist websites

For the last three days, I’ve made quick-and-dirty survey of all Unitarian Universalist congregational websites. Most are acceptable, if improvable. Some very good. But too many are homely, underpowered or just plain ugly. About 18 are down or broken, at least right now. Two or three have let their domains expire. And some congregations have no web presence at all. And what about mobile devices?

As I go through the hundreds of websites — getting an impression of the front pages — I’m sorting some of them into the following categories:

  • The very basic (though not necessarily bad)
  • The shockingly ugly (though perhaps technologically serviceable)
  • Those which use very slightly altered WordPress default templates
  • Lost or non-loading sites

In addition I’ve been taking notes; I’ve found three examples of the new UUA logo already in use, in case anyone was curious. One. Two. Three.

Without embarrassing any particular congregation (but I might praise a couple) I’ll report on what I found later. An actionable step away our too-common culture of shabbiness.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Thanks, Scott, for providing to us this tremendous service. When I arrived last September, the church I serve had a website that was thoroughly out of date. I prevailed upon them to take it down, on the theory that no website was better than a poorly crafted one with a calendar a year out of date. I’ve yet to find anyone with the requisite skills (though mostly time and interest) to get it up to speed.

    Interestingly, I found the opposite problem in another, much larger church I served that boasted of five or six self-appointed website “experts” or “consultants” but with a church website that was visually dismal and thoroughly user-unfriendly. Every attempt to address this at the leadership level prompted an immediate squabble-fest among the “experts,” laden with jargon and niggling considerations about which calendar app, let’s say, was the one and only correct choice. The whole enterprise stalled again and again. I believe by now it has been rectified, perhaps by the simple expedient of appointing one person to run the show.

  2. And empower one person to lead a listening process, so it doesn’t become one person’s eccentric work.

    Wouldn’t it be great if — for example — a working group of three long-timers and three recent attenders (or non-attenders, to be recruited) or more — start with a card sorting exercize? To know what these two basic groups identify what needs to be on the site (and what has priority), and how those parts are organized.

  3. I’d appreciate any comments on our recently revised website. Coordinating updates and lack of integration with our church management system are a nagging weakness. Your input would be helpful.

  4. I notice that there’s no category of totally awesome and snazzy UU congregational websites, which says a lot. And as one who falls into either the very basic or the shockingly ugly, I think it just proves my point that the UUA should really be helping with this issue, much like your example of what the Brits do.

  5. Your site, for the record, falls into neither category!

    But there are some out there which are strikingly plain, but still useful and others which are mind-bogglingly ugly, for which I can’t say much more. My goal is to suggest that some sites are good enough even if they are really simple, and to suggest ways to make the really ugly ones more bearable before replacing them.

    There are couple of really good UU websites, but I thought that I should give them a thorough going over, including a review of the source code, before praising them in public.

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