I was trying to contact some large churches in the Atlanta area to see what they were doing to try to conserve water during the current drought. I used a list from 2005 of “Atlanta’s 25 Largest Places of Worship” (paper copy — not available online).
These are BIG churches. The smallest budget listed was $2.2 million, with the largest being $23.5 million. There is simply no excuse for some of the bad techniques on these sites.
You’ll notice that some churches show up in multiple lists, while about 1/4 of them had no obvious problems. I’ll admit that I didn’t dig very deep into the sites, as I was just trying to find contact info.
On the list, three of them had an intro that I had to choose to skip. That’s always bad practice:
- newbirth.org (it also locked up my browser with its fanciness once I got in)
One church tried to disable my right-click. Not only is that very easy to get around (a simple menu option in Firefox), but it makes the site harder to use. I was looking for contact info, but when I found the e-mail address I wanted, I would have had to type it into gmail instead of copy/paste.
- stphilipscathedral.org (the main menu still works, but there is then no way to ever access sub-items)
- newhopebc.org (pretty much the whole page dies except the footer)
A handful had oversized images on the front of their site — large images that were scaled down using HTML, which results in slow load times and jagged images:
Of the list, only two of them used proper canonicalization (having “site.com” automatically add the www and redirect to “www.site.com”, mostly for search engine purposes). This was especially sad because a lot of them had automatic redirects on the home page to some horrible long URL (“snellvilleumc.org” becomes “http://snellvilleumc.org/templates/cussnellvilleumc/default.asp?id=31612”) and they still didn’t bother to drop in the “www”:
So 23 churches didn’t canonicalize properly. Not a huge deal. Two of them were even worse, though — they don’t load at all without the www!
For the most part, they had pretty bad page titles. Here’s what I suggest, but there were a lot of “Welcome to blah blah church”. The worst was rumc.com, with the title of “Home Page”. Very useful, thanks.
The last one is an interesting case of multiple URLs. I typed in christtheking-atl.org, which took me to cathedralofchristtheking.org. No problem. Then I noticed that all of the e-mail addresses were “@ctking.com”. I wonder why they don’t redirect there? Turns out that ctking.com doesn’t even load! Very strange.
That’s about it. I could have spent longer digging through all of them, but that took long enough as it was. The other sad thing is that I e-mailed all of these churches over 24 hours ago and I’ve only heard back from three of them. This e-mail is a way to get them favorable coverage on a pretty high-traffic blog (Atlanta Water Shortage), yet most haven’t even bothered to reply.
Have heart, small churches! Big budgets don’t always help.