I grew up in South Carolina, where a lot of old houses had beautiful front porches.  Those front porches were visiting places where people could visit and get to know others.  It is a place of hospitality.  I look at our website as a kind of front porch.

Back this fall we introduced this new website.  But like any project, it doesn’t happen overnight.  There are a lot of steps that went into this.

Our work started with a local company called Visage Collaborative.  They are a gifted group of people here in San Antonio that have worked very diligently with us in thinking through the many details that go into a putting together a website.

Who? –
In one of our first conversations, they wanted to know who our audience was for this website.  Since we think a website is a place for hospitality, we went into the process thinking about this question – if I knew nothing about Zion, what sorts of things would I want to know? Some church websites are aimed at “insiders,” people already at the church. But we see this as a way to tell what God is doing through Zion to those that don’t know who we are.

We want people who come to to know that this is God’s church and that they are welcome here.

At the same time, we realize that those already connected with Zion will use this website. We figure that will happen when people look for things like the church calendar, newsletters online, or want to make an online contribution. We started this blog as a way to get information out to the congregation. We will also continue to use our Facebook page, Constant Contact, and other ways we already communicate.

Visual –
We also realized that we live in a very visual culture. It was very important that we have good pictures that helped to tell our story. In our old website, we had a lot of good text that helped to tell the story, but with this one we’ve been trying to use more pictures to help tell the story.

So we looked at all the recent pictures people gave us and we had at the church. We wanted to make sure it was a good representation of the congregation – young, middle-aged, old, male, female, etc… Our goal was to have a good variety of people represented.

Easy to Navigate –
Many websites have homepages that are easy to navigate. Two of the world’s most popular websites, Google and Apple, are examples of this. Being massive corporations, they have many layers to their websites, but if you look at their homepages, they are very simple. Other websites try to have lots of content on their homepages. We chose to be simpler on our homepage.

We also thought about three ways we could help users navigate the website. The labels we used were “Who We Are,” “What We Do,” and “Get Involved.” Each category is related to each other but have some differences. In addition, we added a section on our website called “In Need of Help?” that tells people about our excellent Stephen Ministers, offers prayer, and gives a listing of local agencies we partner with.

Technical stuff –
There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes into websites. Lots. It’s not as simple as sitting down to your computer and typing up a document on a word processor. We spent hours working on some important technical details around our Internet and email providers. For instance, we had a problem over the last year with our email addresses with some Internet companies. We worked hard in resolving that and have fixed it.

So – that’s a brief glimpse into what we did to get to where we are!