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Building Online Community: Usability


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So, you've built this beautiful and functional community website for your church or ministry. The problem is, you're a geek. Yeah, and I'm a geek. We know how to use geeky CMS websites without any intructions, special menus, training or hand holding. The problem is, not everyone in your church is nearly as computer literate as you are...therefore, we have to make this new website usable for the average congregation member.

That's why, on today's episode, we focus on creating some usability in our community based website. We start by talking about why we should even care about or consider the usability issue and emphasize how important it is that you, yourself, use the site to encounter the same issues that other users will.

We then proceed to talk about navigation and user menus, instructions and training and, well, making sure you're site actually works as advertised. We talk about a little bit of user-hand-holding that should happen and chat about user-paths through the website.

But before all this, Rob profiles the idea of an 'expert-setup templating system' for any church ministries by profiling a new podcast setup he did at his church. All on this week's Geeks & God Podcast....

Re: Experts Creating Templates

I like this concept, and I think you're on track with it.

You've talked about this twice now: once about having a designer create a newsletter template, and now about someone creating a Pro Tools template to enable podcasting. I think both cases are very similar to what we're doing by creating dynamic web sites.

My senior pastor has been on the radio for around 20 years. Up until about a year ago, he produced the show himself by going into the sanctuary with a sermon cassette, recording his intros and outtros and dubbing the sermon to another cassette. (In later years, that sanctuary became the youth room, and then the pre-teen room, and now you have to climb a ladder to get to the sound booth.) These tapes were then driven to the radio station by a congregation member who works there.

We moved everything to digital last winter. Processed sermons are now stored on an internal web server as mp3 files, and he can download and review them in iTunes from his desktop, making notes about where he wants to cut in and out for each day's broadcast. Then he records his intros and outtros in Audacity. Someone else takes these pieces and the original sermon audio, finishes the processing by following some predetermined steps, and posts them to a server where the radio station can download them via the Internet. This was all done with free software and existing hardware that was already at the church. Our next step is to upgrade hardware and switch from Audacity to Cubase and build a template in there to make the editing and processing that much easier and smoother to complete.

Not only do these changes mean huge quality improvements, but they adhere to this leadership principle: delegate everything except the things that only you can do. (I think that's from John Maxwell, and I'm sure I misquoted it!)

IMHO, our senior pastor's time can be better spent on more important things than dubbing tapes. Our sound guys that know recording are too busy to process the radio show. But if these tasks are delegated to someone who has the time and willingness to do this and the ability to follow some simple instructions, everyone wins.

It really just makes sense if you stop and think about it.


Right On Track...

Great example Micah!
This is exactly what we're talking about! Templating things allows 'less skilled' (but not less valuable) people in on the process. This concept will be come more and more important as technology advances, I think.

Thanks for sharing!

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host