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The Unitarian website

This is well overdue, and Scott Wells has got there before me a few weeks ago, but I wanted to comment on the new GA website. Scott can comment more on the technical side than me, so please see his comments.


At GA 05 we were shown a website that looked much more impressive. Apparently this was scrapped because it was too expensive to set up and maintain. Sigh. I can understand this decision. There's always a choice about what to spend money on. And I don't think an amazing website is necessarily the most important thing in the world. But it is important. And with all the hype and a long wait I was hoping for something more. The Methodist Church has just got a new website that I've had a glance at. This includes an online labyrinth and a place for discussion of issues.

OK fine, we're smaller than the Methodists. But I have to say that the wesbite of the National Unitarian Fellowship is better than the GA website. The 300 member (ish I think) postal fellowship with a website run by one volunteer has a better website than the official denomination. Sigh.

Here's a few reasons why:

First, the word Unitarian is much more prominent on the NUF website. You have to really search for it on the GA website. Go to the Methodist website, you see the word 'Methodist', go to the NUF website you see the word 'Unitarian' go to the GA website I see lots of little words, and if my eyes are drawn to any word it is the word 'website.' And call me old-fashioned, but I believe in capital letters. What's wrong with capital letters?

What are the words that explain Unitarianism on this website?

– everyone has the right to seek truth and meaning for themselves.
– the fundamental tools for doing this are your own life experience, your reflection upon it, your intuitive understanding and the promptings of your own conscience.
– the best setting for this is a community that welcomes you for who you are, complete with your beliefs, doubts and questions.

I don't find that very inspiring.

The NUF is better:

is a religious movement in which individuals are free to follow their reason - there is no pressure from creed or scripture;
grew out of Christianity and sees Jesus as a man to be followed not a god to be worshipped;
is open to change in the light of new thought and discoveries.

aim to understand, accept and respect each other. We affirm the essential unity of humankind and its interdependence with all life on our planet. We seek a spiritual and moral framework of love, tolerance and justice for our lives.

It's better, but it's not the words I would use. The words on the GA website just don't do it for me, as a 25 year-old. I don't necessarily represent Generation X or Y or the unchurched but I think I have a greater sense of what is missionally appropriate than some, and it's not those words.

Compare the words to these words describing a conference I'm going to next month:

A new and progressive spirituality is emerging across and beyond different religious traditions. It emphasises that God is present in the unfolding cosmos, that nature is sacred, that we are part of the wonder of creation and that human experience and diversity are to be valued. The inspiration drawn from this sense of connectedness, provides the impetus for us to act for social justice and sustainable lifestyles.

Now doesn't that sound sexier? More exciting? More something you'd wanna say 'yes' to? Fine if we can't afford a swish website. But can we not afford the time and energy to think about the words on our website? That doesn't require money or technical know-how. It does require thought and passion. Are we low on that? Wouldn't a 'new' website suggest that we would do that? Sigh.


Unknown said…
What you said.
Stephen said "swish." Tee hee. Another "separated by a common language" scenario.

I test sites first by their underlying structure and the new Unitarian site has a poor structure. How terrible it must look on a mobile phone!

Also, the Unitarian site has no proper title, unless its brand is "a free and enquiring mind . . . ." That should read "Unitarian and Free Christian Churches" or even "The Unitarians."

The NUF site, though rather drab, would look better on a phone, knows what to call itself, and be easier to update. Good call.
Rich said…
Oh dear. Thanks for bringing the new site to my attention, Stephen.

I couldn't even get past the layout from the beginning. If there's something that the Web 2.0 bubble has taught us all about sites it's that simple = good. The new GA site is about as cluttered as one can be.

It might just be at our church, but I get the feeling that no one is happy about the way the "Consistent Image Project" turned out. We might even be turning our backs on it for the restructuring and redesign of our web site.
Anonymous said…
Hi Stephen. Have you by any chance passed these comments on to Essex Hall? I'm hoping you've given some direct feedback as this would be potentially quite helpful... it's not unthinkable that changes might yet be made. Cheers.
Anonymous said…
And they only had to ask and the volunteer would have done it for nowt.

This is a great blog by the way.
Andrewjb said…
The new website looks better than the old one but it still suffers from the old one's main fault - it's too static. Nobody seems to update it. The news pages are moribund.
Anonymous said…
What does it say about us that your comments about the website received more responses than your questions about Jesus?? I agree about the website btw... but I'm more interested in Jesus!!
Anonymous said…
Sorry, I'm such a non computer person - I'm not anonymous - I'm me!!

Mel P

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