THE Church of England has a new official website. Launched this week, the mobile-friendly site shifts the emphasis from words to images, in acknowledgement of the changes in web design in the seven years since the last site was created. A total of 32 new videos and 250 photos run through the site, and more are on their way.
Seven years is a long time online. (The Church Times has had two redesigns during this period.) In contrast, seven months is a very short time for the rebuilding of a site of this size: this is how long it has taken the five-strong digital team at Church House, Westminster, to create the new site, working alongside Reading Room, a commercial digital agency. The work has been funded through the Renewal and Reform programme.
A key driver for the new site was research into the reasons that people go to the C of E website. Visitor patterns were analysed, and 1800 people, Christians and non-Christians, were questioned.
The results suggested that the majority of visitors came seeking to explore the Christian faith or, if already Christians, to grow in it. The developers, as a consequence, have worked with Church House Publishing to give prominence to worship, making a daily service more readily available, including a prayer for the day. For a section called “Our faith”, expositions of the Christian faith have been commissioned from authors who have worked on Pilgrim, the C of E’s discipleship programme.
Encouraging videos from Anglicans of all traditions are peppered through these sections, as well as two other sections, labelled “Faith in action”, showing the C of E’s reach, and “Life events”, with updated information about baptism, confirmation, weddings, funerals, and vocations. The videos reflect the diversity the C of E aspires to, and they have been designed so that they can be embedded in parish websites.
Users are invited to interact with the site. Many pages include the invitation: “Bring some joy to your inbox.” Those who respond can be sent texts and information, and possibly even an invitation to a church nearby.
One of the most significant changes is that, whereas the old site contained approximately 75,000 separate documents and pages, accumulated online since 2000, the new site has perhaps one tenth of that number. Adrian Harris, who has supervised the rebuild, this week gave assurances that nothing significant would be lost. An archive of past General Synod documents is being added in the coming months. Most of what featured on the old site’s home page is now in the “About” section, located via an improved search engine.
This week’s launch is part of a three-year programme to reform the C of E’s official web presence. Work on the sites for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York should be completed by January. There is soon to be a relaunch of A Church Near You, the popular church-finding website.