The Archdiocese of Brisbane’s website has quietly slipped under the radar to unleash a new look and feel just in time for the busy Christmas holiday season.
With a crisper look and vivid palette, it now enjoys easier navigation, a host of new AV resources and a user experience that has clearly been designed with the lay person or unchurched individual in mind.
Web designer Matt Cassidy, who was also responsible for its predecessor, said he was aiming for a modern, clean website which was responsive to mobile devices and could relay its information without the need to read big blocks of text.
“Everything has changed since we built our previous site in 2008,” Cassidy said.
“It’s incredible to think how far the world has come in that short period of time. We’ve all got the internet in our pocket now whereas we didn’t then.
“For example, with our last design scrolling was a real no-no but nowadays, with touch screens, people are used to it and it is not such a problem.
“Plus we also have bigger monitors, which lends itself to the use of much larger photos, yet at the same time the audience have the smaller devices (smartphones) so you’ve got to be able to accommodate both seamlessly without expecting users to type in a different address,” he said.
The process for the rebuild involved much consultation and research.
Cassidy said he spent about 12 months observing the evolution and best practices of websites around the world, both secular and religious, before even setting about the project plan.
He also disseminated an in-depth survey to internal and external stakeholders teasing out the strengths or missing elements of the then current site.
“I ended up drawing pretty heavily upon the survey because we received about 120 responses,” he said.
“It showed our previous site was appreciated, but it was very content based work.
“We re-jigged most of that and then looked at other websites and what technology was available to us to use nowadays.
“One of the main things to come out of the survey was the need for Mass times, and being able to easily find them in a non-parish-centric way, so we integrated it with google maps and geo-location technology. People are now able to help themselves find the nearest and next Mass or services, even if they create a ‘fuzzy’ search or type in place names incorrectly,” he said.
Another theme to emerge from the survey was the thought there was too much information on the previous site.
Although this goes against the grain of any self-respecting web designer, Cassidy accepted the clear indication that users felt it was overloading them.
“As a result we’ve tried to lay the site about a bit more neatly, expanding upon the 4 or 5 different main categories used in the previous one.
“It’s designed so that someone who doesn’t know all of the church terms could navigate it easily and then we added the ‘how can we help’ breakout box to try and anticipate the needs of someone who might be on a specific singular search, such as ‘I need a baptism’.
“Instead of making them look through everything on the site they can now go to that one stop shop.
“We also try and speed things up for the user through the use of those pull quotes and photos, so that the second they land on a page they can quickly think either ‘this is the page for me!’, or ‘no, this isn’t the page I want’.”
One wholly new part of the website which rewards the user spiritually is the “beliefs and works” section.
These audio visual presentations are intended to break open and enliven peoples understanding of the church and their faith.
The ACU’s Professor Maeve Heaney features prominently and compellingly in her talk on “The Historical Jesus” (http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/beliefs-and-works/historical-jesus/).
Archbishop Coleridge also shows he has teaching in his marrow with his “The Early Church” presentation (http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/beliefs-and-works/early-church/).