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Creating the denominational website that users want — and deserve

With input from 1,245 people, the redesign of pcusa.org chugs along

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Kathi Kaiser is co-founder of Centralis Partners, which is helping redesign the denomination’s website.

LOUISVILLE — Visiting https://www.pcusa.org, the main website of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is for many users akin to shopping at a grocery store where food and other products are displayed by who made them, not by type.

“Imagine a grocery store organized by Proctor and Gamble products, by Pepsi and Nestlé products. You would have to know who made what to find where they are,” said Jeffrey Lawrence, director of Media and Publishing for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, who’s leading a team shepherding the redesign of the website. “As silly as that sounds, that’s the way the PC(USA) websites are now organized. You have to know which agency does what work. A better plan is to arrange by topics.”

With guidance and in-depth research provided by the project’s consultant, Centralis Partners, a user experience research and design firm based in the Chicago area, as well as the PC(USA)’s Research Services, the websites, including https://presbyterianmission.org, are being rebuilt from the ground up. The finished unified product, which will still be found at pcusa.org, is expected to be ready in time for the 225th General Assembly (2022).

The Presbyterian Mission Agency, Office of the General Assembly and Administrative Services Group will be included in the redesigned website. Other PC(USA) entities, including the Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program and Presbyterian Foundation, will retain their current websites.

Centralis Partners “has helped us to see the website through users’ eyes,” Lawrence said. A diverse pool of 1,245 website users, including pastors and ruling elders, mid council leaders and rank-and-file Presbyterians, were interviewed and participated in multi-stage online testing.

To encourage browsing, the new site will feature one navigation system found in the same place on every page. It’ll be installed with a stronger search engine than the current version and will have mirror sites in both Spanish and Korean.

“It has been several years since the Office of the General Assembly website was last updated and we are long past due for an upgrade,” said Rick Jones, the OGA’s communications director.  “We now have a clearer picture of what our users are looking for when they come to our sites and we are excited about the opportunity to provide the information they need in a new format.”

“This is going to be a lengthy process,” Jones added, “and we have our work cut out for us.”

Although subject to change, here’s the proposed organization for the revamped website:

The National Organization section will have eight buttons: Governance, Congregational Leaders, Research & Statistics, National Funding & Investment, Legal Resources, Events, News & Media, and Directories & Contact Information.

Under How We Serve are these tabs: Local Leaders, PC(USA) Programs & Initiatives, Mission Focus Areas, Mission Stories, and Volunteer.

Worship has four buttons: Daily Readings, Special Days & Observances, Youth Worship, and Worship Service Materials.

What We Believe includes three tabs: Tenets & Practices, Social Issues, and What Makes Us Unique.

The final section is for making donations.

Kathi Kaiser, Centralis Partners’ partner and co-founder, said the proposed organization is the product of months of research with website users, including Korean- and Spanish-speaking people.

“We heard loud and clear that users don’t know details about what organization is responsible for which content and activities,” Kaiser said. “They are thinking of the content first, not who produces it. The content will help inform them who does what. They can focus on the ‘what,’ the nature of the content, as opposed to the ‘who,’ who produces it.”

Jeffrey Lawrence is director of media and publishing for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Lawrence said the website redesign team will use the coming weeks to meet with ministry areas about their needs and desires for the redesigned website.

“It’ll be kind of an organic process,” Lawrence said. “There won’t be a lot of preconceived ideas at first.”

“After a meeting or two we can better define the questions coming up and how to be more consistent throughout,” Lawrence said. “We will fine tune it as we go along, and what [ministry areas’] expressed needs are will have an impact on the development of the site.”


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