Wednesday morning was a long awaited day for many in the United Methodist Communications (UMCom) offices. February 12th was the roll out date for a newly revamped and designed UMC.org.
The life of a website is tough today’s marketplace. Competing with the many start up businesses and ecommerce sites that pride themselves on a user experience, the changes in how people use the web and expect to use it become change daily in the world of the Internet. Websites become especially tough to keep fresh and up to date when they happen to contain a hundred thousand pages or more of content. UMC.org as a web entity has seen many iterations and technology upgrades since the domain name was registered in 1995, and transitioning from on old design and content management system can be fraught with difficulties.
With this backdrop United Methodist Communications has been planning and developing a redesign of the UMC.org website for over a year now. Web sites are always a work in progress, but as John Wesley might suggest, while “we move on towards perfection” we do not usually start there.
This iteration of UMC.org has some familiar functionalities from the prior designs. The Find-a-church search engine and database is integrated throughout the site. This helps people interested in finding a UM church in their area find one quickly. “Ask a Question” is a portal page that will direct any question that you can imagine about the United Methodist Church to the InfoServ desks and UMCom’s crack staff who can find the answer for you. Navigation has been simplified in the new design, aligning some of the more popular features with easier to find locations.
This is the first iteration of UMC.org that recognizes that more and more people are accessing the Internet via their phones and tablets, and their “mobile responsive” design adapts the site to whatever screen size one is using fairly well, although there are always compromises in the design which don’t always translate to all phones. This is also the first version of UMC.org which is no longer drawing only on their own content, but is aggregating United Methodist news, commentary, and media from other sites across the net. Reflecting the increasing global nature of the church, UMC.org also makes provisions for displaying the site in one of five different languages — English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Korean.
As is expected, a roll-out of this size doesn’t come without glitches. As one browses through the site there are still the occasional dead links, missing pictures, and other normal indicators which suggest this is a work in progress. However all in all, this represents a large next step for the denominational website, and represents hundreds of hours of effort from the UMCom staff.