Diocese of Huron Web Strategy
Prepared by: Rev’d Marty Levesque
August 1st, 2010
Web presence is a vital component to the success of any company or organization. As today’s society uses the web to research businesses and organizations before even stepping foot in the door, first impressions are made online more than ever. For churches, the internet has become an increasingly common first moment of contact and the first opportunity of evangelism. The critical power of the first impression means that we must be just as conscious of what a website says about us as we do about the quality of our buildings and services.
Currently, the Diocese of Huron does not have a web strategy to ensure the quality and content of its parish websites. Each parish constructs its own web presence as it deems necessary and many have no presence at all. As a consequence, there is a huge inconsistency in the way the diocese is presented online. Some parish websites are well put together and informative, some are built by well-intentioned clergy or parishioners with little understanding for online conventions, accessibility or cross-browser compatibility, and some look to have been designed well over 10 years ago and are no longer current or fashionable.
The development and implementation of a diocesan web strategy will ensure that every parish has a professional web presence that meet a set of quality, accessibility and messaging standards. This plan will benefit the diocese in the following areas.
Consistent messaging can create an outwardly-facing diocesan culture to help fight against the rise of congregationalism and re-enforce the Anglican culture. Every church in the diocese would have a web page with the same feel and standards of content while still allowing for individuality through customizable layouts and designs.
Response to changing needs
A standardize and centralized content management system will enable rapid creation of internal and external websites as needed. Websites for deaneries, special-initiatives and groups such as the ACW and Huron Church Camp could develop a greater sense of community within all of these structures and foster both internal and external communication for them
Communication and Outreach
Implementing a unified web strategy paves the road for a more centralized communication approach from the dioceses. By creating a web presence strategy, the stage is set for future diocesan communications initiatives such as a possible social media strategy.
While “508 web accessibility” is not law in Canada, it is an American law which has become the industry standard of web site design and development. 508 allows for screen readers and “search bots” to access the information on the screen for web readers for the visually impaired and to maximize analytic information for search engines. A professionally developed and designed site would take these into account and ensure that our websites are as accessible as our front doors.
Professionalism and consistency
Web address and e-mail address for all diocesan employees will create a branding effect and a more professional web presence. Every church web address would end in diohuron.org – e.g. stgeorgeslondon.diohuron.org and every individual upon entering the diocese would be assigned an e-mail address – e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. This also allows for consistent communication throughout the diocese as church house does not need to update e-mail list each time clergy move from parish to parish, or switches services providers.
How and How Much?
The Diocese of Huron web strategy would be implemented by a local IT company in conjunction with a communications representative from the diocese of Huron. A framework for all diocesan sites would be built using a content management system that will allow for the creation of each parish website. Technically this means that one main website would be created for the entire diocese, and each parish would have its own child website created from the same mould. Ideally there will be a number of choices for each site regarding functionality, visual design and layout that will allow each parish to customize their site within the given parameters.
Using a centralized content management system has the potential to decrease costs significantly. The average cost for the design and development of a professional site for an organization is $3000-5000. If each of the 80 parishes in the diocese were to contract for the production of a professional quality website the cost would be approximately $250 000-400 000.
In addition, the average cost of domain names is $15 per year. Hosting services have a vast range is price, but an average plan for the storage capabilities of an average parish is $7 a month (this does not include additional storage requirements for podcast casting or video casting). Therefore each parish with a website and domain name is paying approximately $100 a year on web presence, at the very least.
The use of WordPress multi user sites or a content management system would drop the cost of initial development to 15-25 000 and the average maintenance and upgrade cost to approximately $50/year. An overall reduction of over 80% initially and 50% on an ongoing basis.
If each parish in the diocese were to pool their resources and each parish contribute $100 per year to the diocese web strategy, $8000 per year would be raised. Since the cost to design and develop a multi user site would be approximately 15- 25 000, the Diocese of Huron would sign 2 or 3 year contract with a local IT company, amortizing the cost over a 2 or 3 year period.
This web strategy would continue past the original development stage and parishes would be asked to continue to support the project each and every year as maintenance costs would need be taken into account, the development of new plug ins as they become available and the development of new skins for a fresh appearance are continually developed.
Three quotes would be sought from local companies and a decision would be made as to which company the diocese would use to implement this project.
A central person would be designated as the liaison between the IT company and the individual churches. This would allow for smooth communication between the company and the diocese and not over load the IT company with “80 clients” calling about their individual needs.
A training manual will be developed so that clergy, wardens or laity would be able to simply and effectively “design” their individual parishes’ websites from the choices of skins, color schemes and available plug ins.
Furthermore the centralized person would also be designated to provide deanery training sessions and help facilitate the development of the individual websites on the multi user platform and educate local clergy in the operation of the system.
In conclusion, this web strategy contained within this document is only a skeletal framework for a direction forward into the World Wide Web. It is both efficient and cost effective. It allows the diocese as a whole to raise its digital presence to a professional level that allows for effective communication and evangelism.
To demonstrate the need to implement this web strategy a brief website analyses could be conducted of randomly chosen parishes in each deanery. A complete website analysis of each parish in the diocese is beyond the scope of this and future reports. Therefore it was determined that a sampling would suffice. One website from each deanery will be randomly selected and tested for code errors that may cause it to improperly render on various browsers or indicate future maintenance issues. As well during the testing it will be determined whether the current websites are 508 accessible for those suffering from disabilities. Given the importance we have placed on making our buildings accessible, it is the opinion of the writer of this report that our websites should also be equally accessible.
If this initial report is accepted and the wish of the Bishops to proceed forward then a technical analyses will then be conducted as out lined above.